Guess the Good Guy

We are constantly told, it is true, that there ought to be an equal opportunity for all the children in the United States; therefore, it is said, Federal aid ought to be given to backward states. But what shall we say about this business of “equal opportunity?” I will tell you what I say about it; I am entirely opposed to it. One thing is perfectly clear — if all the children in the United States have equal opportunity, no child will have an opportunity that is worth very much. If parents cannot have the great incentives of providing high and special educational advantages for their own children, then we shall in this country a drab and soul-killing uniformity, and there will be scarcely any opportunity for anyone to get out of the miserable rut.

The thing is really quite clear. Every lover of human freedom ought to oppose with all his might the giving of Federal aid to the schools of this country; for Federal aid in the long run inevitably means Federal control, and Federal control means control by a centralized and irresponsible bureaucracy, and control by such a bureaucracy means the death of everything that might make this country great.

Against this soul-killing collectivism in education, the Christian school, like the private school, stands as an emphatic protest. In doing so, it is no real enemy of the public schools. On the contrary, the only way in which a state-controlled school can be kept even relatively healthy is through the absolutely free possibility of competition by private schools and church schools; if it once becomes monopolistic, it is the most effective engine of tyranny and intellectual stagnation that has yet been devised.

That is one reason why I favor the Christian school. I favor it in the interests of American liberty. But the other reason is vastly more important. I favor it, in the second place, because it is necessary to the propagation of the Christian Faith. Thoughtful people, even many who are not Christians, have become impressed with the shortcomings of our secularized schools. We have provided technical education, which may make the youth of our country better able to make use of the advances of natural science; but natural science, with its command over the physical world, is not all that there is in human life. There are also the moral interests of mankind; and without cultivation of these moral interests a technically trained man is only given more power to do harm. By this purely secular, non-moral and non-religious, training we produce not a real human being but a horrible Frankenstein, and we are beginning to shrink back from the product of our own hands.

…It is this profound Christian permeation of every human activity, no matter how secular the world may regard it as being, which is brought about by the Christian school and the Christian school alone. I do not want to be guilty of exaggerations at this point. A Christian boy or girl can learn mathematics, for example, from a teacher who is not a Christian; and truth is truth however learned. But while truth is truth however learned, the bearings of truth, the meaning of truth, the purpose of truth, even in the sphere of mathematics, seem entirely different to the Christian from that which they seem to the non-Christian; and that is why a truly Christian education is possible only when Christian conviction underlies not a part, but all, of the curriculum of the school. True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life — those are great central convictions that underlie the Christian school.

…I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on the street corners and at the ends of the earth, but neglects the children of the covenant by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism.

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184 Responses to Guess the Good Guy

  1. RubeRad says:

    I think somebody will guess this very easily, but why not make it a guessing game anyways?

  2. RubeRad says:

    By this purely secular, non-moral and non-religious, training we produce not a real human being but a horrible Frankenstein

    Here is a John Adams quote I also saw recently: “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, And the other how to live.”

  3. RubeRad says:

    Federal control means control by a centralized and irresponsible bureaucracy

    Here is another example of this outdated use of the word “irresponsible”.

  4. lee n. field says:

    Guess the good guy.

    I’m going to guess J. G. Machen. He had (what would in these days be considered) a libertarian streak.

  5. Zrim says:

    Good public school advocates are actually localists as well as advocates of religious schools for the same reasons cited in the quote (i.e. a state school needs the competition of the religious school). But as one of them, I always find it curious how anyone can really say that Christian schools are “…necessary to the propagation of the Christian Faith.” Really? I wonder what the biblical argument for that is. All I ever see in the Bible as institutions necessary to propagate faith are family and church. My theory is that such a statement might reveal not just an over-realization of education but the basic confusion of catechism and curriculum. Historically, I also wonder how the early church ever survived without Christian schools if this were true. And if Christian schools were so necessary to propagate and nurture faith what of the CRC which is Christian school krazy?

    Anyway, it sounds Machenish. I’d say CVT, but it’s too sane for that and when it came to education CVT was, well, not very rational.

  6. RubeRad says:

    Winner, winner, chicken dinner — J. G. Machen it is! Elsewhere in the address, Machen gives a brilliant rejection of teaching God’s Law in public schools, because teaching law “with optimism” is antithetical to the gospel mission of Christianity. Similarly he is brilliant in describing why he is against reading the Bible in public schools.

    I’m curious, though, what the ‘house thinks about Machen’s unargued (but stated) assumption that morality must be taught in schools, rather in family and church?

  7. "Michael Mann" says:

    Rube, I guess you are referring to the following part:
    “We have provided technical education, which may make the youth of our country better able to make use of the advances of natural science; but natural science, with its command over the physical world, is not all that there is in human life. There are also the moral interests of mankind; and without cultivation of these moral interests a technically trained man is only given more power to do harm. By this purely secular, non-moral and non-religious, training we produce not a real human being but a horrible Frankenstein, and we are beginning to shrink back from the product of our own hands.”

    Man is inherently moral. If one could strip all sense of morality from a man he would no longer be a man. So it would be unfitting, unnatural and degrading to teach such a being in a vacuum of morals. And, when you violate basic laws of nature, you come up with Frankensteins or the Tolkien’s creatures of Mordor. To put a point on it, imagine studying genetic engineering with no ethical component (yeah, it’s probably happening). Or, as an example of just violating nature, imagine teaching a child solely by shocks precisely administered to deter all bad behaviors without any verbal instruction or nurture. It would be unnatural, and produce something horrible.

  8. Zrim says:

    Rube, perhaps I missed it, but where does he state or imply that morality must be taught in schools rather than the home or church? But taking your words as an accurate portrayal of his, I guess I don’t understand the notion. My short answer is that the home makes, the church redeems and the school educates human beings.

    My extended answer is that it seems to me that the chief goal of education is shaping minds and that it is only incidentally affective. In contrast, the chief function of the home is making human beings and only incidentally affective. IOW, mostly schools teach the three Rs and only sometimes involves moral supplementation of what the home instills (supplementing is not instructing or instilling); the home mostly instills virtue and worldview and only sometimes supplements involves intellectual supplementation (e.g. helping kids with homework); the church, in conjunction with the family, instills both faith and morality. The way you’ve construed it, it makes it sound like morality belongs to the school but not the home and chuch, which I don’t understand.

    I spoke too soon on the CRC, whose latest “Banner” as a little piece on supporting public education. Of course, it’s laced with transformationalist reasoning, but public school advocate beggars can’t be choosers and I’ll take what I can get:

  9. RubeRad says:

    We’re missing each other a bit; what I mean is that Machen is insisting that morality must be taught in schools; he is not content to leave the teaching of morality to home and church (or for secular children, just home). His Frankenstein quote up there assumes a student who is denied a moral education completely, even at home. But that doesn’t happen; by common grace parents love their children and teach them right from wrong. The tragic exceptions to that rule, I think Machen would agree, are not any schools responsibility to fix.

  10. RubeRad says:

    Man is inherently moral. If one could strip all sense of morality from a man he would no longer be a man. So it would be unfitting, unnatural and degrading to teach such a being in a vacuum of morals.

    There’s a big difference between a “vacuum of morals” (passive) and “stripping all sense of morality from a man” (active). I’d say it is more realistic to speak of an assumption of morals.

    Bioethics is an important and active field nowadays, but that’s only because studies like genetic engineering have a potential effect on people. There is no “math ethics” or “physics ethics” or “chemistry ethics”, beyond a common (natural law) understanding of don’t steal the work of others, don’t lie about your data, etc.

    But it’s also important to note that ethics is a completely separate field/subject; it would be taught in its own separate class, and I see no problem with that. Besides, we’re not talking about university education, we’re talking about K-12 education that is “mandatory” for “all” via public schools or their private equivalents.

  11. "Michael Mann" says:

    Rube, the belief that ethics is properly a separate class is a belief of the modern technical man, the one to whom learning is the amassing of techniques and job skills. I think that is, in part, what Machen is decrying.

    FWIW, I don’t really see Machen saying that the public school itself needs to supply morals, but he is talking about what I might call an atmosphere of education. Somehow the moral nature of man must be addressed and, front door (the classroom itself) or back door (carried to the classroom from home or church), must be integrated into studies.

    Rather than thinking of a list of classes, think of the nature of man and how a learning environment responsive to the nature is fostered and I think you will have the gist of what Machen is saying. It’s more big-picture biblical anthropology than it is a suggestion on a list of classes.

  12. "Michael Mann" says:

    Now, if I may confess in the outhouse, I will admit I send my daughter off to learn *techniques* of algebra, biology, etc., and I don’t expect the school do any more than that. If she then came home to a moral vaccuum, she would be educationally impoverished. My hope is that she will church, family, and school combine to create a whole Christian human and not the Frankenstein that Machen fears. But there is reason to fear for those who are truly depending upon public shools to provide an education in the fullest sense of what it means to be an educated person.

  13. Zrim says:

    It is easy to see where the Frankenstein suggestion might be compelling, but honestly I think it’s overdone. If there is a home of any kind, and typically there is, then a moral fashioning is happening for better or ill because it is in the order of nature, it is inevitable. Most public school teachers/administrators I’ve ever known seem to understand that soul craft is not only inevitable but really isn’t their task at all but that of the home. And they depend on homes to do their affective job well so that they can do their intellectual task well. Anyone who has spent anytime in a classroom knows precisely what I am talking about.

    True enough, American public education has what could be considered a real transformationalist legacy from its inception. But I find it intersting, at least from my experience, that many public school educators have long since figured out the folly of that. Meanwhile, religious educators hang on to the folly and speak as if the school is an equal with the home (and church) in the project of soul craft. But how could that really be when one hour at home does more to shape a human being than eight at school?

  14. Echo_ohcE says:

    I haven’t read all the comments. All I can say is that Machen is only human, and that he is totally wrong, completely wrong in almost everything he says in this quote.

    Christian schools are not necessary to the propagation of the Christian faith. That’s utter nonsense. If it were true, then you would have seen the Apostles forming Christian schools as soon as the Day of Pentecost occurred. Instead, you see them baptizing people and preaching.

    Meanwhile, the book of Acts also upholds a pagan education. In Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, he lauds Moses for being trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s household, trained by Egyptians in their wisdom. And by wisdom, it undoubtedly also means their religion, not just math and science and the writing of hieroglyphics. In fact, you can fairly easily demonstrate that Moses was familiar with Egyptian sacred writings, because in parts of Moses’ writings, he uses Egyptian words that we know aren’t actually Hebrew. And the story of his birth and trip in a basket in the Nile river is a very close parallel to the myth of Osiris (according to Plutarch – see Wikipedia’s page on Osiris or go read Plutarch’s telling of the story yourself). The story in Exodus is chalk full of Egyptian words. For some reason, Moses is trying to make his story look like the story of Osiris. My own opinion on the matter is complicated. But the interpretation in this case is less important than the fact, and the fact is, Moses was trained as an Egyptian, and that’s lauded by Stephen in his speech in Acts 7.

    Not only that, but good grief, Machen has not carefully separated religion from politics. Is there really only one political position regarding schools that can/should be called “Christian”? Must a Christian have a particular stance on how the government works, liberty and how its defined, or how schools are run? Ugh! You can TOTALLY see Van Til’s influence here.

    Nobody’s perfect, least of all me.

  15. "Michael Mann" says:

    Yeah, it’s probably overdone. Machen may have overestimated the power of bureaucracy and underestimated the resiliency of our moral natures. Was the conflict of bureucratic power vs. personal freedom a theme of literature in the early 1900’s?

  16. Pooka says:

    I agree with his insistence that we teach morality in public. Morality is public. It has everything to do with neighbor. If the teaching of morality is limited to family and church, then you have pockets of morality that have built up as individualistic camps. Sure there will be intersection, but it is not a fully covered populace. Schools are the public institution for forming minds whether we like it or not.

    Make the moral expectations know to all. Whether the morals are followed is another thing entirely, but at least the declaration has been made and everyone knows where they stand.

    So… It keeps honest people honest. It provides all that framework for relating. And I think it may be this norm goes at least some way towards battering down the individualistic tendencies of men.

  17. "Michael Mann" says:

    Ah, I just figured out your name. Well done. I’m thinking of using the name “a man a plan a canal Panama.”

  18. RubeRad says:

    one hour at home does more to shape a human being than eight at school?

    Most public-school haters seem to operate under the assumption that all hours are created equal, and there’s no way home hours can compete with a larger number of school hours.

  19. RubeRad says:

    Hey buddy, welcome back!

    That’s interesting regarding the positive biblical assessment of Moses’ Egyptian education. I have made similar points elsewhere regarding Daniel’s Babylonian education; if the homeschool nazis were right, then Dan 1:8 would read more like “Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank, or with his pagan-presuppositioned Chaldean language and literature” (v4), and the rest of Dan 1 would be a very different story!

  20. RubeRad says:

    I think it’s more complicated than that. We W2Kers would also tend to champion the commonness of morality (which is to say, its suitability for public use). But if you read the rest of the article, Machen seems to insist that teaching of morality is only safe for Christian schools, where they can give the full picture of the fall, sin, law, and gospel. For public schools, he is against a rosy portrayal of God’s Law (“with optimism”) because that is anti-gospel.

  21. RubeRad says:

    BTW, Z and Echo have both made the point that if Christian schools were so critically necessary to the propagation of the Christian faith, then the Apostles would have been setting up Christian schools. I think the counter-response to that would be, well in those days, they didn’t need/have Christian Schools, because they had Christian Homeschools.

  22. "Michael Mann" says:

    For the most part, speaking of first century “schools,” be they home or otherwise is an anachronism. I’m guessing there were few who got formal education, and that education did not much look like Lincoln Elementary School. So I’m not sure anyone gets helped by that argument.

  23. Echo_ohcE says:

    And by the way, the Bible never says that people have the right to be free, and that if we aren’t, then revolution/rebellion is justified. No, it says, slaves obey your masters, and give unto Caesar that which…is yours?…no, that which rightfully is Caesar’s, even if it’s only because Caesar has used his authority as king to claim what is actually yours.

    I say this because being in favor of “liberty” is supposed to be another reason to be in favor of Christian schools. But I say that the Bible doesn’t demand that we be in favor of liberty in the political sense. In fact, just the opposite. I’m glad we have liberty here, but the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that I have a right to that liberty, and that if I don’t have it I should (or even may) overthrow the government.

  24. Echo_ohcE says:

    Thanks. My blood boils over this sort of thing. HAD to comment.

  25. Zrim says:

    MM is right.

    But fast forward a bit from the primative to the early church and see W.A. Strong’s point that even when it came to the few who had the luxury of formal education the option was still more pagan than Christian.

  26. RubeRad says:

    Yes I agree this is somewhat anachronistic, but with the scarcity of formal education, the nearest analogue of the early church we have would be near-universal homeschool. Although without even reading/writing for most families, that would be almost nothing.

    Maybe the most charitable construction that can be put on Machen’s view is, now that we have a society in which education has been institutionalized outside of the home, we need Christian options as well as public/secular options.

    But even that is I think well answered by the many points about home catechism, and the history of the church not rejecting pagan education.

  27. RubeRad says:

    Next thing you know, you’ll be saying the American Revolution wasn’t justified (and sanctified!) and that Calvinist/Puritan preachers shouldn’t have been advocating it from the pulpit. Treason!

    But again, see Daniel. There is no evidence he resented or resisted Chaldean education in general, but only eating from the king’s table, which would have been participation in idolatry.

  28. Echo_ohcE says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that how I worship (according to the Word, not according to how I want) is legal, and I’m glad that I have something like a say in how the government is run, and I think this is generally good, or at least as good as perhaps it can get in a fallen world…

    But suppose you were a Christian living in Saudi Arabia, having to worship God in secret. Is it biblical to form an army and prepare to overthrow the government? No, absolutely not, otherwise the Apostles would have done so. Isn’t this one of the biggest problems the Jews had with Jesus? (How come you aren’t raising up an army to defeat the Romans if you’re the Messiah?!)

    And YET, that’s how our country was founded. And let’s be honest, it was Presbyterians and Congregationalists who didn’t want to submit to England’s bishops who rebelled against their king. Their slogan was “Don’t Tread On Me.” Thank God that wasn’t Jesus’ slogan! Again and again the Bible calls us to endure suffering. Rather than “Don’t Tread On Me,” the Bible says, “Endure being tread upon, knowing that in this God is glorified, and that your reward is in heaven.”

    People like to say that our nation was founded as a Christian nation, but that’s just not an accurate statement. It wasn’t founded upon Christian ideals at all. If they truly followed Christian Scripture, there’d BE no United States of America.

    Good grief it’s often wise to post anonymously on blogs! 🙂

  29. RubeRad says:

    Yes it’s an interesting question; if the American Revolution was not legitimate, at what point did the American Government attain legitimacy? Conversely, if the American Revolution was legitimate, on what basis was the Southern Rebellion illegitimate (note the subjective prejudice expressed by the positive/negative terms Revolution/Rebellion)

  30. Echo_ohcE says:

    But if you say that it’s not now legitimate, then the next logical step is to say that it’s legitimate to overthrow it because the current government is illegitimate. That’s what got us into trouble in the first place.

    While it may not have been the Christian thing to do (overthrow the British and establish the US), that doesn’t mean it’s an illegitimate government. Rome had no right to take over Palestine, yet Jesus still says to render unto Caesar, and even submitted himself to the judgment of the civil magistrate in his crucifixion, looking to God to keep a record and to avenge in his own good time.

  31. Echo_ohcE says:

    I guess what I’m saying is, no matter how people come to power, that doesn’t change the fact that they do indeed have power, whether rightfully or not. “Rightfully” is a funny word anyway.

    Is there any such thing as a government that didn’t overthrow the previous one?

  32. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, is your view of church, home, and school, the view of what you think it *should* be? Surely it’s not the view of how things *are*. Like it or not, kids are getting taught ethics in public school.

    I’ve always liked C. S. Lewis’ quote, tho

    “And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

  33. Zrim says:

    Paul, I’m not saying that ethics aren’t involved in a public school education. I’m saying that schools don’t craft souls or make people. They simply educate minds, which isn’t the same thing. The home crafts souls and makes people. To think that schools can do what the home alone does is to over-realize education.

  34. Paul M. says:

    You mean, you’re saying that the schools *shouldn’t* do that, for it seems clear to me that they *are* doing that, at least with a significant portion of the population, right? Just making sure I’m understanding.

  35. Zrim says:

    I’m saying schools (religious or public) shouldn’t try to do what they simply can’t do. If you’re saying that public schools are trying to do that I simply disagree. If experience counts then from mine the public school sector, by and large, demonstrates a better understanding that the home is where people are made. Granted, there are plenty of isolated instances where they try to do what they can’t but I don’t think that’s the rule. And from my experience in religious circles there tends very much to be an assumption that the school really is something of an extension of the home. So, if anybody is trying to do through education what is reserved for the home it tends to be the religious.

  36. Paul M. says:

    “I’m saying schools (religious or public) shouldn’t try to do what they simply can’t do.”


    “If you’re saying that public schools are trying to do that I simply disagree.”

    I couldn’t disagree more, both from personal experience (I have one in regular PS, though I’m looking for alternatives, like a charter) and from various sociological analysis of what in fact occurs in the classrooms. I think it is the rule, not the exception.

  37. Paul M. says:

    Moreover, it depends on how wide we define “school.” For colleges and universities definitely push an agenda in virtually every class.

  38. RubeRad says:

    Hmmm. I did 9 years at Johns Hopkins and Rutgers, and I can’t think of any class that I took that was pushing an agenda. And not just math & computer science, but physics, chemistry, german, history of astronomy, philosophy of science, psychology of music, materials science of art, …

    OK, maybe history of astronomy was pushing a heliocentric model…

  39. Paul M. says:

    Rube, yes, but the question is whether you could spot it. In any event, I take the existence of agenda pushing to be so ubiquitous and obvious as to not even bother to debate it. See “The Secular Revolution” ed. Christian Smith on this, and here Smith does what he does best: sociological analyses, not theology. 🙂

  40. Paul M. says:

    I think some 2Kers *need* the public square to be Switzerland rather than Beirut, for then it might look like their sitting out a war or at least aiding and abetting the enemy. I think this is an interesting phenomena and is ripe for further investigation.

    In any event, here’s the kind of stuff teachers are fed
    John J. Dunphy, in his essay, “The Humanist” (1983), wrote, “The battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: A religion of humanity — utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to carry humanist values into wherever they teach. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new — the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.”

    Of course, the Smith book I mentioned has numerous articles on education by sociologists, for it’s clear to them that there was and is a concerted effort to “secularize” and liberalize the youth via the public schools and higher education. Moreover, this isn’t some “Christian” book, but there’s secular and liberal sociologists who are simply admitting that this is a meme that operates in the minds of a majority of teachers at all levels of education.

    Here’s average teachers discussing what they need to do in their elementary schools:

    And of course, another average school spending time teaching the three R’s

    Now, I’m not even rendering a judgment about this, saying whether atheism or liberalism or whatever is false or immoral, I’m simply reporting the facts of what happens in the vast majority of schools across the country.

  41. "Michael Mann" says:

    I think we’re putting our heads in the sand if we don’t acknowledge that some teachers and schools do have an agenda.
    My first daughter came home one day from her second grade class to tell us that she had spent half the day making signs and then marching into other classrooms with them. The teacher was essentially conditioning them to be environmental activists. That was when I pulled her out of public schools except for when she took some classes at the community college during high school.
    In addition to the green ethos, the public schools tend toward egalitarianism and big government as our friend. That’s my sense, anyway.
    My observation of one Christian school is that it tended to present the United States as God’s Country and its religious history was slanted towards American revivalism. Then our home school no doubt had its own errors.
    There’s no perfect education and no dogmatically “right” choice.

  42. Zrim says:

    Paul, this may ruffle, but when folks cite the kinds of things you do to show how the public school sector is “obviously pushing an agenda” I can’t help but be struck by how, well, wimpy and paranoid modern believers seem when it comes to this topic. I mean, consider WA Strong’s account of the early church and how thoroughly pagan the halls of education were and how there isn’t a hint of this kind of howling about “statist conditioning” and “indoctrinating” and even brain washing. Or I think of Daniel being educated by the Babylonians and not one whiny word from his dad about “pagan catechizing.” Put us moderns, born and bred and buttered on rights and the conflation of mind with soul over-realizing of education, into these contexts and they’d be three-sheets-to-the-wind.

    But the dirty little secret about education is that it can be done well with any non/religious backdrop. Reformed kids can go to secular or Catholic or Baptist schools and as long as that school does education well none of that really matters; what matters is how well it educates. Even “radical” 2kers can send their kids to transformationalist schools. At least, I would if our situation demanded it. I get it, our children are an extension of ourselves and so what we do with them educationally matters. But do we really want to engender an over-sensitivity and paranoia about what schools are doing?

  43. todd says:

    While only the good teachers hide their political and religious preferences, usually the old school teachers, what surveys continue to find is that no matter the political beliefs of teachers, children usually believe what their parents believe. Elementary schools often run mock elections before a presidential election, and though teachers tend to run on the liberal side of things, if the parents are conservative the children vote for the conservative candidate, regardless of what a certain teacher may have said. Those that fear public school bias tend to underestimate the importance of parents and the natural tendency of younger children to trust parents over any teacher.

  44. Zrim says:

    Todd, unless the mock election is in high school, when kids are trying to stick it to their parents and craft mock states in ways that have no real-world impact but still drive mom and dad nuts. Like Alex P. Keaton.

    But I also tend to think that the undue worry owes to not only to under-realizing the home and over-realizing the role of school but also the over-realizing of politics in general.

  45. todd says:


    Yes, and my experience in the schools is that teachers are much more careful about talking religion than politics. There is much more to fear with parent complaints/lawsuits when teachers appear to be proselytizing verses praising a certain president or public policy.

  46. RubeRad says:

    Rube, yes, but the question is whether you could spot it.

    Well, apparently I couldn’t spot it then, and now with 20 years of hindsight and and a shiny new Reformed worldview, I still can’t spot it. If you can show me how I’ve been suckered by hidden agenda, I’d love to undoozle my bamboozle.

    As for the socialist teacher link above, I would not say those are “average teachers”. If you listen carefully, although the text is alarming, the subtext is one of “frustration” (both teachers said that), which comes from trying to push their socialism within a system that confines them within “narrow” guidelines, i.e. they are the exception, not the rule, and their administration, peers, supervision, etc. are pushing them to just teach the curriculum they were hired to teach.

    As for the children chanting, obviously they’re preparing for a presidential visit. Do you expect them not to engage in a little caesar-worship? You expect them to turn to the Tea-party songbook?

  47. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, ah, yes, the “you’re wimpy” comeback. Coupled with the ad hominem and well-poisoning about how “paranoid” one is, and the anachronistic historical arguments from silence, what is one to do?!

    In any case, I know you put the black streaks under your eyes and got all ready for combat, but you seem to be missing the point of my argument, and you’ve moved the goal post.

    I MAKE NO EVALUATIVE STATEMENT. I simply pointed out *the fact that* teachers do push worldviews and agendas. Even Todd’s point is rather unresponsive, since no argument was made as to how *effective* the agenda pushing is, just *that* there was agenda pushing.

    So, this may ruffle, but you wasted some of the time the Lord gave you non-responsively responding to my remarks. I would LOVE to get an actual argument that agenda pushing does not *in fact* occur.

    Let me remind you of what I said and what you said:

    Paul: “You mean, you’re saying that the schools *shouldn’t* do that, for it seems clear to me that they *are* doing that . . .”

    Zrim: “If you’re saying that public schools are trying to do that I simply disagree.”

    And, AS SHOULD BE CLEAR, it was THAT statement I was taking issue with. I wasn’t crying about it, complaining, or building a bomb shelter, I was stating that it is a FACT that public schools do what you say they shouldn’t do.

    So, nothing you said “ruffled my feathers” since what you said was totally irrelevant to my comments, and was another instance of you needing to change goal posts to “win” a discussion against the enemy (hey, I thought you 2Kers were all about loving your enemies). No, what “ruffles my feathers” is when you get on your high horse and think you’re “refuting” arguments that NO ONE HAS MADE, and you do it with arrogance and name calling (paranoid, wimpy, etc.)

    Is it a rule here that you have to drop acid before you read someone’s comments and respond? Sheesh.

  48. Paul M. says:

    Yeah, Rube, I gave you some references from the findings of scholars, you could check that out if you’d like. I also am not sure how reliable 20 yrs of hindsight for something as mundane as the usually subtle pushing of metaphysical and epistemological and ethical viewpoints is? Did you not take the psychology of memory in the litany of classes you ran off?
    In any case, since the only defeater to my arguments have been “in my experience that didn’t happen,” when that’s statistically irrelevant and ignores the scholarly treatments and counterexamples I have cited, I’ll just play on your guys’ level: “In my experience, it has happened, and it happens every year and in ever class.” So, nee ner nee ner nee ner.

  49. Paul M. says:

    Also, you guys have only reasoned from your experience in American PS. But there’s a big old world out there. Do we need to look at Russian and Chinese schools? Rwandan schools? How about Venezuelan? Can I start quoting from world travler Dr. Anthony Daniels of England aka Theodaore Dalrymple (atheist and prison psychiatrist who agrees with me)? Careful, don’t let me prick your bubbles.

  50. todd says:


    I teach public school k-12 in a very liberal state, and no one is denying agenda pushing, Christian schools do the same in different areas, but when it is extreme parents should do something. When my local school showed the Al Gore global warming movie to my 6th grader, I wrote a letter to the school expressing my concern with teaching unproven and apocalyptic “science” and from that one letter they stopped showing the movie. You’d be amazed at how much sway parents have in their local schools. But agendas are not conspiratorial as some would believe, as if there is an agreed upon effort high up to make Christian children doubt their faith. Too many believers in the school system, even in very high positions, to get away with that. It is pretty much teacher to teacher, and even so, I have not found any one teacher’s agenda very effective. That was my only point.

  51. Zrim says:

    Paul, shouldn’t you be out on a ledge somewhere? Or cut the pill in half next time. But here’s a clue: I’m not trying to win a debate. I’m simply putting forth my thoughts on a matter. I understand you disagree, but my only point was that all the clucking about agendas sure seems (uh, let’s see if I can be less pointed) quite insecure.

  52. todd says:


    You seem to only want to disagree in order to win debates. Fine, Chinese public schools have more agenda pushing than American schools. Wow – great point – you won.

  53. Paul M. says:

    Personal experience in a couple of public schools vs. the facts, round 2

    “Experts” have determined that what’s wrong with our education system is that kids aren’t taught enough about sex:

    “Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a [United Nations conference] panel on combating homophobia and transphobia. Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools. . . . She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.

    Comprehensive sex education is “the only way to combat heterosexism and gender conformity,” Schneider proclaimed, “and we must make these issues a part of every middle and high-school student’s agenda.” . . .

    A panel sponsored in part by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) advocated for “comprehensive sex education” not only as a tool to combat “gender oppression,” but also as the key to achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals.”

    Round 3, here’s from college professor Victor Reppert:

    “However, I have seen plenty of philosophy teachers with explicit anti-religious agendas who push their non-belief on students. They make it a mission to destroy the faith of their students.

    Round 3

    Famed humanities and social sciences prof, Richard Rorty, who taught at Virginia, Princeton, and Stanford, among other places, argued that secular university professors are “to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.” He followed this up with a warning to Christian parents: “we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”

    Round 4

    Teachers in PS. Rube’s friend Josh Brisby will tell you guys a thing or two about a thing or two, so will my mom. Both teach in the public schools, both relate agenda-pushing stories to me.

    Round 5

    I am not one-sided, I can easily cite from *Christian* PS teachers who have pushed Christian agendas in the classroom. I’ll save you guys the quotes and links unless you want them.

    Shall I keep going? I can.

  54. Paul M. says:

    Todd, are you keeping up wit the discussion? Try to before commenting, please.

    You wrote, “and no one is denying agenda pushing”

    Um . . .

    Zrim wrote, “If you’re saying that public schools are trying to do that I simply disagree.”

    Right, so you agree with me and not Zrim.

  55. Paul M. says:

    Todd, read my comments please. I never said anything EVALUATIVE about agenda pushing. I never said it was “conspiratorial.” I simply argued, pace Zrim, that it is A FACT. Please, read comments before posting. Please.

  56. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, get it right. You painted me as arguing something that I wasn’t. You never addressed my claims, you simply spun your own narrative that I was being “wimpy” and “paranoid”, when that was NEVER my point. Again, for your convenience:

    Let me remind you of what I said and what you said:

    Paul: “You mean, you’re saying that the schools *shouldn’t* do that, for it seems clear to me that they *are* doing that . . .”

    Zrim: “If you’re saying that public schools are trying to do that I simply disagree.”

    And, AS SHOULD BE CLEAR, it was THAT statement I was taking issue with. I wasn’t crying about it, complaining, or building a bomb shelter, I was stating that it is a FACT that public schools do what you say they shouldn’t do.

    And I use all caps since you're having such a hard time grasping the simple nature of my comments.

    Lastly, this is a debate whether you like it or not. I clearly cited my position above and your contradictory position on the matter. I don't "disagree just to debate or win" contra Todd, however, this is a debate and I did win. That, again, isn't evaluative, it's simply factual. It is A FACT that public schools push agendas. They do this shamelessly and ubiquitously. Wake up to the real world. By my lights, nothing about 2K requires your head to be in the clouds.

  57. Paul M. says:

    Um, Todd, I was simply asking clarifying questions. Zrim then disagreed with me first. When he wants to disagree that’s fine, noble, rational, and civil, but when I do it it’s “just to win debates?” C’mon, dude. Did you say you were a teacher? Hopefully you don’t teach reading.

    Oh, and my point wasn’t that “Chinese schools have more agenda pushing than American schools.” It was THAT public, state ran schools all over the world, no matter where, push agendas. Zrim can’t have this happen given his extreme 2K views of what he thinks the common realm is like.

  58. todd says:

    First, commenting on an issue in a discussion doesn’t mean you personally hold to everything we may critique. You may want to ask first. The subject was agendas in the schools, not only Paul M’s view of agenda, as important as that is. Even when someone is civil you to you, you display only arrogance and condescension for others – not worth the time

  59. Paul M. says:

    Todd, not following. Again, it would be helpful if you actually read.

    • I began by mostly agreeing with Zrim and then I asked him a (what I thought was obvious) clarifying question.

    • It took him a while, but he then said that agenda pushing doesn’t happen. Rube also reasoned anecdotally and pretended this didn’t really happen at all.

    • I said I disagreed with this, and then cited some reports.

    • Zrim then called me wimpy and said I was being paranoid, totally missing my point.

    • You came in and sarcastically said, “Gee, good point,” and intimated that I was claiming there was a “conspiracy” or something negative, like I was “fearful.”

    I then became frustrated at the goal post shifting and the evaluative and pejorative remarks about my motives, and now I’m the bad guy?

    Hey Zrim, look at Todd over react and stomp away, wanna call him a “wimp” too?

  60. Paul M. says:

    Todd, I find your reactions amazing. Notice how I was civilly asking Zrim questions. I then disagreed with him and cited some evidence to the contrary. he called me a “wimp” and a “paranoid”, this seems to display arrogance and condescension for others. Why didn’t you jump on Zrim? Because he’s your bud? Here’s a hint: hypocritical condescension from those on high horses who protect their friends from the ire they give others is not worth the time. Todd, checked a mirror lately?

  61. RubeRad says:

    Did you not take the psychology of memory?

    Haha, as it happens, I did, and forgot! I guess in that case neither the agenda nor the context stuck…

    Nobody is denying (except possibly Z?) that there are agendas being pushed. I’m just honestly asking you to help me evaluate my experience, to determine whether you or I get to be rule or exception. As you note, neither of us can use our own experiences to establish what is rule. Neither can we use other people’s experiences. Everybody’s got a story about some crackpot they know. Everybody knows some exceptions. That doesn’t make them the rule.

    If you can point out what were the likely agendas of my professors, maybe it will jog my memory. But if not, then we move on to try to decide whether my experience (or your experience) is exceptional or rulish. I think it’s entirely possible that there is a gulf between technical, and subjective fields, and there’s just not much room for agenda-pushing in technical areas, and my education was entirely within technical arenas, which explains why my experience did not include agendas.

    I remember once in college an address to the engineering school by Tom Clancy. He said he liked talking to audiences full of engineers, they’re usually mostly Republicans, because being engineers they’re more in touch with reality. Leaving out the Republican bit, maybe technical education is so busy with text, there isn’t any room for subtext — or subtext has no place to hide, and is easily recognized and dismissed?

  62. todd says:


    Who stomped away? If you address me with a normal amount of repect (not even much respect – and it doesn’t even have to be sincere) I will respond. Didn’t anyone ever teach you basic respect? Believe it or not, people are sometimes more important than points you are arguing.

    But I will try again. Zrim never said there was no agenda-pushing in public schools. (This is where Paul inserts a snarky comment about reading). Zrim wrote “Most public school teachers/administrators I’ve ever known seem to understand that soul craft is not only inevitable but really isn’t their task at all but that of the home.” And then, “If experience counts then from mine the public school sector, by and large, demonstrates a better understanding that the home is where people are made. Granted, there are plenty of isolated instances where they try to do what they can’t but I don’t think that’s the rule.”

    First, he is using personal experience, which you go on to use also at times. Second, he qualified his comments with “most” and “by and large,” so the debate is not over existence of agenda but degree. Second, I didn’t claim you yourself believe in a conspiracy, I wrote “as some would believe.” If you automatically assume I mean you, you should have asked first, because I wasn’t thinking of you when making this point.

    Regardless, I think the issue is our definition of agenda. My sense is that Zrim, Rube and I are defining the word as a purposeful desire to persuade students to a certain idological point of view even though this is not officially allowed. You seem to be defining it, if I am reading you correctly, as a necessity, or subconscience reality that happens in public schools when unbelievers teach, whether they are thinking through their philosophical committments or not.

    Now, please try to restrain yourself in your response.

  63. todd says:

    writing fast – excuse the spelling

  64. Paul M. says:

    Rube (classic remark on the memory class!), okay, if no one’s denying that public schools and school teachers push agendas, then I’m not arguing with anyone. If Z is, then I’m arguing with him about the *fact* that it happens, not whether it’s the end of the world or that I’m too wimpy to combat it (I rather enjoy spending time with my son discussing the poor argument either his teachers have given him or his friends, so no one’s running to the hills in fear of the horribly bad arguments PS teachers muster).

    Anyway, I would agree with you that these things would happen less in math or logic classes. However, it’s still there (and as far as your experiences, we’d have to sit down and take more time, maybe over beer or something next time I’m out there or you’re out here :-)). It’d definitely be there more in the philosophy *of* those things. But even in many of those classes it’s there. Here’s some examples. My friend’s at Stanford right now. He’s doing work in symbolic systems, which is heavily focused on math, logic, and CS classes. In math he gets intuitionist arguments on a regular basis, same with logic too. As you know, this is an anti-realist view of those subjects, and is not without its metaphysical consequences, as Christianity seems to demand a realist view of those subjects. It also ties into the nature of truth, etc. In fact, Stanford is committed to the anti-realist route that they’ve now stocked their math, logic, and phil. science depts. with mostly anti-realists in those subjects. Now, in his CS classes, there’s a ton of references about computers and the human mind. They go to seminars and have famous lecturers and conventions there at which the students are shown how similar computers are to human brains, such that the human brain is merely a computer, making the mind or ‘soul’ a wil-o’-the-wisp. They do a lot with AI there, and CS students take neuroscience classes to round out the overarching theme.

    Now, certainly all of that is done with a certain austerity and pretension that it’s just an objective, just the facts, m’am, approach. Moreover, include massive amounts of homework, and there’s not a lot of time to ruminate on these ideas. But it’s clear that specific agendas were pushed, a certain viewpoint of the world that carries a whole host of metaphsyical, epistemological, and ethical questions and assumptions with it. These people will probably go into some mundane job and not spend much time reflecting on it. They’ll be like the regular Joe’s I meet at gas stations, bars, stores, etc. They will just state matter of factly, and unaware of the other issues involved, that “humans are simply information processing units.” So, they caught a certain viewpoint, though they couldn’t put it in a sophisticated form and probably haven’t reflected on it until called to. It is just “obvious.”

  65. Paul M. says:

    Todd, okay, good, so Zrim believes that this happens a lot “plenty” of isolated occurrences tallies up, and then he calls me wimpy and paranoid for pointing out what he himself said he agreed with? Odd, that is.

    Anyway, it’s not clear what Zrim is claiming, for he also said, “They simply educate minds, which isn’t the same thing.” To which I responded, “you mean they *should* simply do this, not that they don’t, in fact, do other things?” Why didn’t he just say, “yes, right, they should, but they don’t always.”

    He then said, “If you’re saying that public schools are trying to do this, I disagree,” but then you quote him going on to contradict himself.

    I then went on and *argued* for the fact that is was more rule than exception. This, in turn, invoked the response by Zrim that I was a wimp and paranoid. What???? Where did that come from???? Then, when i get snarky back, you come in and play holier than thou with me and don’t say a word to Zrim. Care to comment on the inconsistency?

    Perhaps I’ll just avoid your ire by calling you a paranoid wimp when i disagree with you, for apparently you consider that civil.

    So, yeah, I took offense at your narrow and one-sided moralizing. Perhaps you should put yourself in my shoes:

    I was civil all the way.

    I was then called wimpy and paranoid and painted to be making a point I wasn’t making.

    I then responded in kind, and I was told to behave while those in the in-group weren’t. You can’t see how that would be frustrating? Really?

  66. Paul M. says:

    Oh, and Rube, Christianity is a rational religion, but I’ve never known a math teacher who didn’t teach and support the teaching of . . . irrational numbers! See, told you.

  67. Zrim says:

    Paul, perhaps a function of a sustained self-importance you seem to think I was calling you names personally, which is what seems to have you so exercised. But what I said was, “…this may ruffle, but when folks cite the kinds of things you do to show how the public school sector is ‘obviously pushing an agenda’ I can’t help but be struck by how, well, wimpy and paranoid modern believers seem when it comes to this topic.” My intention was not to degrade you personally. Believe it or not, the larger point, the one less about you personally, was to simply say that when I hear folks speak this way I sense quite a bit of angst which I think is pretty misplaced and given to paranoia. This isn’t to deny agendas. I know I’m not very bright, but I also like to think I’m not naïve or Pollyanna enough to think there aren’t agendas.

    I get it, there are secularists just as fundamentalist as any religionist. But from where I sit, in the day-to-day operations of public school, you know, where it really matters as opposed to the pontificating ivory towers, most teachers are really just trying more or less to get Johnnie and Suzie to learn their three Rs. Most really couldn’t care any less about highfalutin agendas of whatever stripe and actually find all of it more distracting than helpful to their craft. Are there exceptional and sensational horror stories? Yes. But shouldn’t common sense about exceptions and rules be enough to help everyone get a grip? So, you can keep going and cite all sorts of tasty morsels about secularist wing nuttery wanting to make Christian faith obsolete, but I’ll still say the same thing. Same for anyone who thinks there is some sort of hidden religious agenda in the public schools and pulls all sorts of quotes and stats to prove it (those folks exist, too, you know, and they’re just the flipside of the same skewed paranoid coin).

    But I get, it feels good to go apebleep over these things. I guess I think it’s better to look good than feel good.

  68. todd says:


    Looking back at Zrim’s wimpy point, I do think you took that a bit personally, but if you thought he was calling you a wimp I can see that your gander was up. As to moralizing, I only moralize because I am a better Christian than you. I won’t put a smiley face here because I despise those. Anyway, what about my point of different views of what comprises an agenda?

  69. Paul M. says:

    Todd, I think you took some of my stuff too personally too. So now what? 🙂 Anyway, it seems clear he said I was being wimpy and paranoid. His response was to say, “I didn’t mean to degrade you.” I can’t see how he didn’t lump me in with the wimpy and paranoid.

    On the agenda point: I’ll take both definitions, and I’d say the pushing of both are more common that Zrim seems to allow for.

    Part of this may have to do with “having the eyes to see.” I think philosopher types are especially adept at seeing the subtle push of non-Christian worldview agendas. As for the other one, even Zrim sees “plenty” of isolated occurrences.

  70. todd says:

    Paul – disrespect is wrong, but using an emoticon is unforgivable. And again, my first point was not necessarily degree, but effectiveness.

  71. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, I see. It wasn’t meant to be degrading or personal. Gottcha. How’s about:

    Zrim, this may ruffle, but when I see people downplay the level of agenda pushing, making the kinds of claims you make, I can’t help but think how dumb and stupid they are. They seem to confuse their inability to spot, and their ignorance and benightedness of, positions antithetical to Christianity, or at least a certain political or philosophical position having nothing to do with the three R’s, with the actual existence of those things being pushed. These people are so dumb they make Pile Gomer look like Einstein”

    Now, that wasn’t in any way directed at you, and to think so only shows that they’re self-centered.

  72. Zrim says:

    Paul, it seems like you’re trying to get a shoe to fit that I never intended and in the process suggesting you may in fact have some paranoia going on: I say my intention wasn’t to degrade you personally but you insist that it clearly was my intent. Uncle. But can you somewhat agree that a good chunk of the modern Christian world can sound whiny and paranoid, looking for devils under every doily?

  73. Zrim says:

    Paul, here is how a sane and sanguine person responds:

    Well, I understand you take considerable, even pointed exception to my downplaying of agendas. I’m not wild about the insinuation of being dumb and stupid because of it, but I don’t think you mean to degrade me personally; rather, I think you have some strongly held views and good reasons for them. You might do well to make that distinction explicit lest anyone think you are making a degrading comment. I once made a similar point in the other direction and this fellow understandably took it to mean I meant to degrade his intelligence and character. Even after trying to smooth it over and make my point better and with more respect he unfortunately insisted on the less charitable reading for whatever reasons.

    And, see, no caps or exclamation points mixed with question marks or horrid little emoticons.

  74. Paul M. says:

    Yes, but you seem to think disrespect is in the eye of the beholder.

    As far as effectiveness, I didn’t comment on that either way. However, you are right in the surveys you cite, but there’s more to it than that. I can cite, though I’m too lazy right now to get the info, secularists who note those same statistics and bemoan the fact that they haver the kids for so much longer than their parents do and yet can’t seem to win the hearts and minds. So, they take the statistics as a call that more needs to be done. They’re not pushing agendas enough, or doing it effectively, so they need to seek new avenues. There’s some indication that this works, for current statistics show that while younger kids seem to keep the values of their parents, college age kids go through a rebellious age and are leaving Christianity in larger numbers. Now, some statistics point out that many of these return to their “roots” after they “settle” down, so it gets complicated. Also, sociologists note that the *trend* in the country is to the left. So, though it’s slow going, the “left” seems to be making progress in winning hearts and minds, and surely much of this has to do with the repeated and ubiquitous setting forth leftist ideology. Lastly, this seems to make sense of your guys’ older experience compared to my current one, at least at the present. For I *am* a college student, and the ridiculous and off-topic pushing of agendas, both liberal and anti-Christian, is utterly ridiculous. I don’t say anything, and am not a trouble maker, but the fact that the other students just drink the kool-aide and seem to take it in unquestioningly shows me how pervasive radical leftist and hostile anti-Christianity is for these kids. And this is *West Michigan*, leading me to surmise that it must be as bad or worse in other places. Moreover, given the popularity of books by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc, it seems incredible to deny the effectiveness. In one English class, Dawkins’ book was read for the material from which to write essays off. In my English class, we had to watch AlGore’s Inconvenient Truth (taking up two whole classes of *teaching* time), and then write a research paper on a green technology that could help Michigan. Thus I considered the validity of green philosophy to be shoved down my throat, for I couldn’t take a negative stance. And why is the freethinker atheist club more populated than the Christian club at my school??? Things weren’t this way 15, 20 years ago. As one study reports, “9. Campus affiliates of the Secular Student Alliance have multiplied from 80 in 2007 to 100 in 2008 and 174 by September 2009, providing the atheist movement new training grounds for future leaders.” Or, note the religious identity study, “non-religious” was the only demographic that grew.

    Another report is that atheists have tripled since 1960, making them one of the fastest growing minority groups,

    Another study shows via mathematical models how atheism is rising exponentially

    Another study by Cornell shows that 9 countries are on the path to complete atheistm

    Effective? I dunno. Zrim will just call me paranoid, maybe even wimpy. However, as the book I cited by Christian Smith shows, the above is the outcome of a concerted effort on the part of secularists, and this war was and is fought in the public schools. Again, see The Secular Revolution ed. Christian Smith.

  75. Paul M. says:

    I have a comment awaiting moderation since there’s too many links, probably. So perhaps Zrim could release it?

  76. Paul M. says:

    Well, good sir, that was an excellent response. But I was fine with your smoothing it over, my point in harping on it was to show the initial degrading character of it and point out that Todd wasn’t calling you on the carpet, which seemed inconsistent.

    In any case, did you know that you can remove the ability to have properly situated punctuation marks translated as emoticons? It’s your blog, go in and make the necessary changes if you dislike them so. That’s what I did at my blog.

    Oh, and if you release my post from moderation you’ll note I calmly and rationally responded with several objective studies done by unbelievers, one wonders how in the world you’ll respond. If agenda pushing doesn’t account for it, what does in your mind, magic?

  77. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, you’ll never hear me denying that a good chunk of the modern Christian world can sound whiny and paranoid, such as Daryl Hart sounds when he whines and complains about rap music. Or perhaps your constant whining about eeeeeevangelicals and Christian plumbers. Whining is as whining does, and those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    And again, your intention was to degrade me, and mine wasn’t to degrade you or Todd. If your say-so works, doesn’t mine?

  78. Zrim says:

    Paul, your last comment has been released.

    Again, you seem to be suggesting on my part a denial of agenda pushing. Do you read as thoroughly as you accuse me of not doing? I clearly concede that there is plenty of agenda pushing. That wasn’t my point. My point was certain reactions to agenda pushing. I used blunt language to descibe the reactions I have ever witnessed.

  79. Zrim says:

    But, Paul, this is the Outhouse. The concept is that voices like ours don’t represent “a good chunk of the modern Christian world” but is in fact a minority outlook.

    So I guess what you mean is that when the prevailing evangelical household blusters about its rights like any other special interest group or the need/right to have space carved out in the common sphere unhindered by icky non-Christian influences so their kids can grow up happy, healthy and whole they sound less whiny to you than they do to me.

  80. Paul M. says:


    Again, you seem to be suggesting on my part a denial of agenda pushing. Do you read as thoroughly as you accuse me of not doing? I clearly concede that there is plenty of agenda pushing. That wasn’t my point. My point was certain reactions to agenda pushing. I used blunt language to descibe the reactions I have ever witnessed.

    You seem to perpetuate this myth and confusion. I’ll try again:

    I only debated the *fact* that agenda pushing happens. If you never disagreed with me, why did you use the words, “I disagree?” I never once made *evaluative* remarks about agenda pushing, so why would you respond to me as if I had? That’s my point about your reading abilities.

    So just like you gave me advice in how to respond, let me give you my one:

    “Paul, you are right that schools’s shouldn’t push agendas, and you’re also right that they do. However, there are certain reactions to agendas that I think don’t help the appearance of Christians in the world. These reactions look wimpy and paranoid.” Blah, blah, blah.

    Who knows, at that point, I’d probably’ve said, “Yes, I quite agree, Zrim.” Then we could have went on our merry ways.” Instead, you took a stance of opposition to my posts, writing that “you disagree” (with *what* one wonders?), and asking us to follow you down a rabbit trail no one was headed down.”

    However, now that you bring it up, how would you “react” to the studies I cite? I thought 2Kers were all about the Great Commission. Those trends toward atheism don’t create atmospheres amenable to gospel preaching. I agree with Machen when he wrote,

    “And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.”

    This is my main interest in worldviews and apologetics and philosophy. For making the path clear for preachers to preach the gospel to their cultures. Believe it or not, when the culture no longer gives the claims of Christianity any respect, it’s makes for a helluva time to preach the gospel to dying sinners. God works through *ordinary* means, and so appeal to unique Acts-like situations or Darryl Hartian magic won’t cut it. If the statistics I cite are indicative of where the culture is heading, are you saying that doesn’t concern you?

  81. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, no, both sound whiny to me. I’m more of a put up or shut up kinda guy. You want your views represented more? Well, don’t take this too hard, learn how to actually *argue* for them. Some philosophical training could help you out more than you know, but for some reason you’re at war with that too.

  82. RubeRad says:

    As to moralizing, I only moralize because I am a better Christian than you.

    That’s awesome. Since you have expressed a distaste for emoticons, I will respect your sensitivities and respond with ROFLMAO.

    I now want a T-shirt that says “I’m not a moralist, I’m just better than you.”

  83. RubeRad says:

    Don’t even get me started on imaginary numbers!

  84. RubeRad says:

    if no one’s denying that public schools and school teachers push agendas, then I’m not arguing with anyone.

    I don’t think anyone is denying the existence of schools and teachers that push agendas, but rather the extent, which heads toward the question Z would prefer to answer, (which is not the question you are asking) whether it is worth getting worked up about.

    I can believe the typical agendas you mention, but I didn’t experience them. Whether that is due to my education being 20 years ago, or not involved with AI, or Hopkins not being stocked with anti-realists, or simply not being educated in Ivory Towers (Johns Hopkins is all red brick because Hopkins famously didn’t want his money wasted on fancy buildings, and Rutgers is a state school), I don’t know.

  85. Paul M. says:

    “I don’t think anyone is denying the existence of schools and teachers that push agendas, but rather the extent,”

    Not any more,. Z admitted that it happens “a lot.” He said, “I clearly concede that there is plenty of agenda pushing.”

    “which heads toward the question Z would prefer to answer, (which is not the question you are asking) whether it is worth getting worked up about.”

    I view this as simplistic, I’d take a case-by-case approach. Some instances are worth getting worked up about; others, not so much.

    I gave several statistics, which seem worthy of getting half-way worked up over. Seems to me that the overtly stated goal of several movers and shakers and policy makers to get rid of the religious beliefs of the youth via in part through the medium of the public schools and universities, is having some effect/.

    “I can believe the typical agendas you mention, but I didn’t experience them. Whether that is due to my education being 20 years ago, or not involved with AI, or Hopkins not being stocked with anti-realists, or simply not being educated in Ivory Towers (Johns Hopkins is all red brick because Hopkins famously didn’t want his money wasted on fancy buildings, and Rutgers is a state school), I don’t know.”

    I don’t know either. Of course, 20 years ago, realism was more prevalent, so maybe you just naturally accepted it.

    I find it incredible that you claim there was no agenda or worldview taught in your phil. science class. I’m wondering how familiar with the subject you are. Were you maybe hungover those days? 🙂

    Lastly, regarding your physics classes, i find your claims odd too. In mine, I was overtly and subtly taught a mechanistic view of the way the world works as the final and ultimate explanation. This undermines the older view that final causality was the fundamental and most important. It removes the idea of irreducible purpose in nature. Edward Feser documents this in his bookAquinas. Points out the effects of the loss of a teleological mindset has had for not only science and philosophy, but religious thinking too. I caught this in my class, I doubt many of the students did. They just either took it in without thinking, or tuned out.

  86. RubeRad says:

    I find it incredible that you claim there was no agenda or worldview taught in your phil. science class.

    You are likely right. I remember very little about that class, except that we read Kuhn. There was much more. I vaguely remember the name Popper.

    regarding your physics classes, i find your claims odd too.

    It was only first-year mechanics & E/M. The hundreds of students in the lecture hall were bewildered. I was getting 30-40% on my tests, and everybody hated me because I was ruining the curve for them. If the professor had diverged to meta-physics instead of trying to teach to the tests, there would likely have been a riot.

  87. Paul M. says:

    Yeah, Kuhn’s an anti-realist.

    The prof doesn’t need to resort to any overt metaphysics to undermine teleology, that’s something done very easily in the modern enlightenment conception of science as studying a mechanistic world. Read the Feser book for more detail. Maybe read this, it’s free

    I’m no sold-out Thomist, so I disagree with Feser at places.

  88. Zrim says:

    Paul, no, I’m simply not as moved as you are about the “direction of the culture.” I am not convinced that the human condition improves or worsens as history either retreats or progresses. And I take exception to the idea that the success of the gospel depends on prior cultural respect and affirmation. I really don’t see how that idea is at all biblically supported; all I ever see in the Bible is how the two kingdoms are fundamentally at odds. In fact, it is my view that the gospel is more successful the less we look for prior cultural affirmation. I understand how the Reformed philosophers think otherwise, but I have yet to be satisfied that you all really contend with the Apostle in 1 Cor 1:

    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. For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    That just doesn’t sound like a man who privileges philosophy the way you do. That sounds like a theology of the cross that has little need to neatly and tidily set things up with philosophy or any other worldly system.

    And, no, I’m not looking to have “my views represented more.” They are already well represented. But I can see why the philosophically inclined would want this so badly, and why the especially aggressive sort get so bent out of shape when the confessionalist kind don’t crave the same things they do. I have to say, and I know this will rankle, but your whole outlook, Paul, smacks of worldly craveness and an unbecoming need to be recognized by the powers and wisdom of this age. Sorry if that stings, but if you want to keep pushing the way you do it only helps make my point all the more.

  89. Paul says:

    Right, like I said, I stand with Machen here.

    Of course, I never said the culture must “respect” or “affirm” the gospel. No one here said there wasn’t a fundamental antithesis (but I appreciate you pointing out these Kuyperian premise). You don’t ever bother to understand contrasting points.

    Look, why not put your money where your mouth is. I’ll set up a forum for you to give the gospel to a militant atheist. Let’s see how you fare with your belief that uttering words that have no meaning to the hearer. Yeah, God can work miracles, like he did in NT times, but that was an extraordinary time. Those charismata are not operative, and the Spirit works through *ordinary* means.

    Let’s get a peak at Zrim’s fantasy land:

    Z: Oh, so you’re an atheist? You ought to repent and believe, for the judgment is coming.

    A: What? Are you kidding? First, what they heck are you talking about? “Repent?” For what, exactly? I’m a non-cognitivist about ethics. Second, what judgment?”

    Z: Non-stepped-in-what? Oh, anyway, the Judgment of Jesus.

    A: Oh, you don’t believe in that silly nonsense, do you? Jesus, if he existed, was just one failed eschatological prophet like so many before him. His reported miracles are myths like so many other dying and rising gods. And we have no clue what he did or said, the gospels were written many decades after his life, and then they were corrupted after that. You simply have no clue what the beliefs of these people were or what they really said.

    Z: Yes, but you must believe. Your objections are foolish, God is wise and his foolishness is wiser than the so-called wisdom of man.

    A: Yeah, if you say so, buddy. I just gave you *reasons* why I don;t believe that nonsense, and all you can do is repeat that gibberish? Anyway, how do you know the things you speak of? Probably “take it on faith,” huh? Well, good for you. I wish I could have that. But you see, I see no reason to believe in your fairly tales, so for me faith wuld be believing something you know aint so. Also, science has shown that there is no such thing as a soul. Also, what does it even mean to speak of God as a person? I have no idea what a person could be who is not extended in space. And, is your God timeless? What does that even mean? Besides the coherence of your view, look around, buddy. Look at the little children starving. I simply can’t believe that *if* your God existed, he’d allow that. It’s just obvious to me that your God doesn’t exist.

    Z: There you go, using that human reason and filosafey. God’s ways appears foolish, but he said it and that settles it. So repent and believe.

    A: Ooooookay guy. Have a good one.

  90. Jed Paschall says:

    Zrim & Paul,

    I realize jumping in on this is a bit of a hazard, but what the heck. Couple of observations:

    1. My sympathies with public ed. notwithstanding, the fact is, even though most instructors are decent and intent on simply educating the kids, agendas do creep in with enough of the minority that a student is bound to run into it before graduating high school. Public ed. can be a great training ground for covenant children with respect to polemics, and polemics are as much in order with those outside the faith as those within. The net effect of kids having answers to the issues that will likely arise while they’re in school can help build faith, and confidence in the truth of Reformed Christianity against all claims to the contrary. This isn’t unbiblical even, as the biblical faith was (OT & NT) always defining itself polemically against the prevailing religions and philosophies of the day. This is why I take a “middle of the road” approach to apologetics and philosophy, they have real function in the church and in the life of faith, but we also can’t let these run amok and upend the centrality of the spirituality of the church which confessional 2kers rightly uphold as the heartbeat of the life of the church.

    2. I realize that there is some hesitancy within confessional circles to open warm up to the benefits of philosophy and apologetics, and this isn’t without understandable rationale from a historical standpoint. But, I do think that apologetic/philosophically oriented guys in the Reformed camp have not always done so well taking some of the biblical warrants for 2k and SOTC arguments placed forward by 2k confessionalists. Maybe there is an impulse in philosophy for coherence, however, Scripture doesn’t always have the same impulses (not saying it isn’t coherent), allowing some room for the tensions that are sure to arise among dual citizens on their earthly pilgrimage. I think (as a 2ker) that philosophy as a this-world discipline is as good as any other lawful discipline, but I also think that some would do better in delineating where biblical authority stops, and how their logical arguments and systems, however beneficial they may be aren’t binding.

    Paul, this (2) isn’t a knock on you either man, I really have benefited from our interactions, and I am glad we have come to a more amenable way of ironing out disagreements. Knowing you, I don’t think your intention is to blast 2k/confessionalism, as much as you think it could brush up on its own philosophical justifications.

    All this to say, I really do hope, and maybe this is a longshot, that confessionalists, and Reformed apologists and philosophers can gain better consensus on where they agree, so that at the very least we can disagree better. At best, I would hope to see a world where one could be staunchly 2k, and well versed in apologetics and philosophy, such a person could do much good.

  91. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, I get the point of your apologetic dialogue (echoes of VanTil), but, if one really affirms your dialogue whole-heartedly, what becomes of preaching? I’m thinking of preaching as a philosophically naive (not a pejorative term) proclamation (not a nuanced argument) of the counsel of God from the scriptures. How do you theoretically make room for this? Or must all preachers be philosophers?

  92. "Michael Mann" says:

    …because, tell you what, if I hear worldview preaching coming from the pulpit, I’m throwing a milk stool.

  93. Zrim says:

    Jed, all fair enough. As I have suggested to Paul in the past, I think it’s possible to add to the categorization of Reformed doctrinalists, pietists and culturalists the categories of liturgicals (or confessionalists) and philosophers (or logicians). At the same time, I think some of these domains simply have a much harder time harmonizing with each other, e.g. the liturgicals and the pietists-culturalists and very often the philosophers. The doctrinalists and the liturgicals seem to have the easiest time harmonizing (one wishes Hodge the doctrinalist and Nevin the liturgical would’ve been able to harmonize better). And when you add the sort of aggression one sees in certain representatives of those domains it doesn’t help matters.

  94. Paul M. says:


    It’s a myth perpetrated by Zrim and others that Christian philosophers are all cold and rigorous and mechanical about everything. But this is not so, especially among Reformed. Take me, a layman philosopher. Don’t I have the word “mystery” in my blog? 🙂 Take Van Til, wasn’t he one of the ones who pushed and defended paradox in Christian theology, same with John Frame? And let’s not miss James Anderson’s Paradox in Christian Theology

    In my review of the book The Christian Delusion, I responded to one of the authors there with 2K type arguments, noting the awkwardness of the Christian’s position in the already/not yet. I have also been on the radio twice here in Michigan with atheists and heretical liberals and have defended and used 2K arguments about Christ and Culture. I had the atheist agreeing with me over the liberals. I also was on a Christian radio program, Ordinary Means, and Zrim said he had no problems with my presentation of the 2K position, so I don’t think there’s anything keeping the philosophically minded person from getting or defending or doing well with 2K categories, or, categories contemporary 2K people are enamored with.

    However, to take one example, the 2K side is in desperate need of philosophers. For example, they want to put forward an ethical position known as “natural law,” but up to today, that project has been a *philosophical* disaster. All we know is *that* there is something called “natural law.” Okay, and how is that helpful? How does it answer any of the traditional ethical questions *all* ethical systems must address? And since it is an ethical system, it must address them. Now, the most popular NL theory is that of Aquinas, but we have been assured by some 2Kers that they don’t mean by ‘natural law’ what Aquinas meant. This is probably a mistake on their end, as that is probably what the scholastic Reformers meant by the term, but nevertheless, 2Kers need a trained ethicist, or at least a trained philosopher, to address this issue. It sounds like you agree with this, and I think what you say is right. The problem is that apologetic/philosophy orientated guys are turned off by the loud 2K voices on the internet who say things like: “we don’t need apologetics and philosophy, that’s the wisdom of this world,” and “apologetics denies the perseverance of the saints,” and etc.

    Lastly, I think you read my paper on Free Will, and you’ll note there that I said we shouldn’t confuse models of compatibilism for revealed dogma. In fact, I and every responsible Reformed philosopher that I know of, has made the point that many philosophical positions are undetermined by the Biblical witness. It’s been the responsible philosophers who have been telling good-intentioned internet philosophers that they’re trying to say too much with their favored philosophical systems, when in fact a number of philosophical perspectives are compatible with the Biblical worldview. However, I am unsure what you mean when you speak of philosophy as “this worldly” and of “logical arguments” as “not binding.” As to the first, Christian claims about the world do presuppose and imply some philosophical matters. In fact, Christianity must be tied to some philosophical statements that cannot be eradicated from it forever. Here’s one very simple example of what I mean: materialism is false. Another is the epistemological implications that follow from our finiteness and our dependency of the Creator. This will *always* be true of us, and so these philosophical implications will *always be true* too. Now, no doubt these are very broad and general, and when we get more specific there may be philosophical models that can be debated or that are equally consistent with these facts, so my claims shouldn’t be taken as saying that a complete, detailed, and comprehensive worldview or philosophy is entailed by Christianity such that we have what I’ve dubbed ‘worldview maximalism.’

    For homework, here’s a paper by Paul Helm 🙂

  95. Paul M. says:


    I have a comment in moderation. I guess you guys only allow one link per post.

    I see what you’re saying, but you always take with one hand what you give with the other. What else should I think when you and Hart want 24/7 catechism and I raise my hand and ask, “Could we get just a little apologetics training for our members too?” only to be scoffed at, told I deny the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world, told I have to have everything neat, tidy, and with no loose ends, and then told that my suggestion denies perseverance of the saints? So you’ll pardon me for thinking your open hand is an empty gesture. Look at me, I have actually publicly defended 2K doctrine, have you ever one, ever, in your life, ever, defended Christiah philosophy or apologetics? No, both you and Hart have suggested, “There’s no such thing as a Christian or biblical philosophy,” and that “If the confession doesn’t mention epistemology. why think it matters?”

    Lastly, apart from the need of a certain sort of aggression at times (if the Bible mentions a spiritual war and an antithesis that exists between the children of light and children of darkness, then some times a certain kind of aggression is called for), why is the aggression you see so much worse than the lies and misrepresentations I see coming from you? I’ll explain: you constantly paint me as someone who must have every i dotted and ever t crossed and has no room for mystery and paradox and ambiguity, someone who can’t be satisfied with not knowing for certain. You do this repeatedly. I have told you I don’t know how many times that this is not so. My blog demonstrates it. My recent essay on free will demonstrates it, my public and vocal defense of paradox in Christian theology demonstrates it. In fact, I have defended and proclaimed and bathed in mystery, ambiguity, and paradox more than you have. To me, you play lip service to it, I take it serious and actually apply it to theological and apologetical conversation, sometimes with non-Reformed who have PhDs. I see none of this from you. So I wish you’d stop with the misrepresentations, but at least stop until you actually do more than simply *talk* about how you’re into mystery. Because if you don’t, you’re like the guy who only wears a Marines t-shirt and talks a big game while others are actually fighting and have earned devil dog status.

  96. Paul M. says:

    Hi Michael,

    I know this is long, but I tried to answer your question in terms of a broader context.

    Well, Zrim met the atheist on the plane, is Zrim a preacher? No. So if the convo goes well, maybe Zrim will invite the guy to church, and he’ll go. Or, maybe Zrim simply removed the intelectual road blocks the guy had and when he goes to church with his mom for Mother’s day, his heart is more open to actually listening to the gospel (previously he would simply tune out in church and not even listen), and the Spirit works with the word to draw him to Christ.

    Anyway, preaching is (mostly) as you say it is. I wouldn’t want to say that it is *essential* to preaching that it be philosophically naive, because there have been some sermons delivered by ordained presbyterian or Reformed pastors that haven’t been naive in those ways. If naivety was necessary to preaching, then those guys couldn’t have been preaching, which they were, hence, etc.

    In any event, I’m thinking of apologetics in the context I used it with Zrim in the same way Machen understood it on the quote I cited. Again, does anyone really disagree with Machen here:

    “And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.”

    But apologetics and philosophy has other tasks too, and to do a good job of explaining this would actually require a fair amount of prior work to explain the nature of knowledge and how we know what we know, etc., but I’ll skip that and be brief and hope this isn’t too obscure. Okay, so to make it easy of not crass: someone knows something if he believes it, and it is true, and he is warranted. But, warrant comes in degrees, and only enough of it turns a true belief into knowledge. Let’s just make it easy and say for arguments sake that if you have ≤54º of warrant for some belief B, then you know B. Anything less than 54º doesn’t count as knowledge, though, and this is important, the belief could still have what is called “positive epistemic status.”

    Okay, so now consider a Christian, Sally. Sally is a member of the OPC and is in college. Suppose Sally is truly redeemed. But Sally is getting hammered at college, her faith is getting rocked. She always just believed in Christianity because that was how she was raised, all she ever knew. She never heard objections before. But now in college she takes the philosophy class because she thinks it will fill a humanities requirement for her, and is somewhat interested in the class. And, it fits her schedule best. In the class she hears very strong objections to Christianity. She can’t answer them. She finds out that she has no answer to the questions. She says, “Well I just believe in spite of the evidence and arguments to the contrary that I cannot answer.” She digs in her heels. The professor says, “You’re free to do that if you want, but you should know that you have no reason to believe any of this is true. In fact, why don’t you believe in Santa Clause anymore? And, why have humans given up belief in Zeus, dragons, and fairies? Why think your belief is any different? You don’t believe in the 1,000 or so other gods people worship, why isn’t your God in the same boat? You’re just believing in a myth. And, I guess if it helps you through school, or out of a depression, or whatever, then it’s good for you. But let’s not pretend that you believe it because it is true, or that you know that it is true.”

    Okay, so all of this guy’s arguments (which I didn’t list, I kinda moved to the conclusion) are called “defeaters.” A defeater can lessen the degree of warrant a person has in their belief. Let’s say that prior to the class Sally had <54º of warrant, so she knew that Christianity was true. Let's say one argument in particular, the argument from evil, is what moves Sally's down to, say 45º warrant (she probably has less given the above, but we're just being really fast here). So Sally doesn't know Christianity is true anymore. She's now having doubts, and this is a terrible time for her soul. We know this happens to people's faith who are not as lucky as Zrim to believe in spite of evidence to the contrary and not even worry about it simply dismissing it all as "obviously worldy wisdom." We know it happens, even our Confessions say it does in ch. 14

    "This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened"

    So what happens to Sally. While, she meets Aaron the apologist. Aaron answers all of the teachers objections. Now, his arguments don't yield 100% mathematical certainty, but they do confer some warrant. Let's say that Aaron's arguments produce a total of 15º warrant on Sally. So, Sally's now up to 60º warrant, back up to the level of knowledge. Through the means of apologetic arguments, Sally's faith strengthened, her dark night of the soul was over. She had a renewed confidence. She always believed in Christianity, and never doubted it growing up, but the apologist was now able to confirm what Sally had always believed, showing that there were also good reasons to believe what she did, publicly accessible reasons. In some cases, Aaron showed that the professor was not even critiquing Christianity at all, but a version of his own making, so some of the objections didn't actually even land. Sally was reinvigorated as she listened to her beloved pastor preach the word. She was thankful to God too for bringing her through this. He promised that the faith would get the victory, and was glad for what she went through and the work she did to wrestle with these questions. She knew God worked often through ordinary means, not magic. Heck, by the end of the year, 3 of Sally's classmates in her philosophy class were going to church with her.

    So this is another example of the role of apologetics and philosophy. Actually, one could write a book on this, clearly laying out the points I make and would want to make, in greater detail and with the care and precision that can't usually be had in a combox. This is my take. Zrim is against this (despite what he says when he wants to save face, for if he wasn't, there's nothing for him to disagree with me about. But he always does. He has never one ever conceded anything like the above, or that any defense or advancement of the task and job of philosophy has been right. So I can only go off what Zrim does in practice). 2Kers need to drop the hostility and the antagonism they have, for whatever reason, toward Christian philosophers and apologists, at least those who do those things from within a confession or properly exegetical stance.

  97. Paul M. says:

    Here’s the dirty little secret: you do hear worldview preaching from the pulpit! Now, maybe not Zrim’s definition of ‘worldview’ but that always was just a straw man invented to win east debates with Kuyperians or Van Tillians or whoever.

  98. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, I can’t fully respond now, but, to just pick out one piece, you asked if anyone disagrees with your Machen quote. He said, in part, “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.” Yes, I do disagree with that. I think the intellectual realm is seldom where the real action is. I think relationships and formative life experiences are greater obstacles than intellectual qualms. The key data for that opinion was gathered in the context of church life. Academia is fun but somewhat artificial.

  99. Paul M. says:


    “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.” Yes, I do disagree with that. I think the intellectual realm is seldom where the real action is. I think relationships and formative life experiences are greater obstacles than intellectual qualms.

    He’s not talking about academia. He also didn’t say “intellectual qualms.” He said “false ideas,” If you note what he says after your quote of him, I don’t see how “formative life experiences and relationships” doesn’t fit into that. Indeed, if you explain this more precisely, I bet I could show you how it does.

    However, even if we scaled back Machen’s claims and said that SOME of the greatest obstacles to the gospel are false ideas, there’s a place for what I and others do.

    So given the broader context of the question you asked and my answer, even if I grant you your point, it seems pedantic. (And, I get the sneaking suspicion that you asked a rhetorical question: You meant to say, “If you’re right, then there’s no place for preaching, but there is a place for preaching, so you can’t be right. So there’s *nothing* you could say that could answer my question because it wasn’t a question. So wait for my response to tell you why you’re wrong everywhere.”)

    In any case, I hope this doesn’t happen, but all this fun academic criticism of apologetics and philosophy will mean nothing. For if Zrim’s daughters go to college and come back home and say, “Dad, I don’t believe anymore. Christianity is false, it’s built on lines, and there’s no way someone who is informed with the public and objective facts could believe it,” Zrim will, like so many dads I know, come running to the apologist. Just heard a story the other day a friends of mine, a prof at WMU, told me about a Reformed pastor who thought catechizing his kids was all he needed to do. They grew up in a Christian culture, never questioning their faith or hearing it questioned. His oldest went to college and became an atheist in two years. His dad had no clue how to address the questions. Regurgitating the catechism did nothing, for the catechism is a list of assertions, not reasons or arguments. Those assertions were in question, so it would be intellectually dishonest to simply repeat them and not address the reasons given for why they weren’t true. So this pastor called my friend in tears and asked the philosophy prof to help. This happens time and time and time and time again. Kids go to college and drop their faith. So this little intellectual exercise of trying to show how apologetics and philosophy is worthless is fun, but I live in the real world. I get emails from time to time from parents or friends of people who are on the road to apostasy. They want me to have email discussion with their friends or family members. I’ve also met numerous professed apostates here in Michigan, turned off by the Religion and religious culture of their parents. The objections every single one has given me are always at first intellectual. I am engaged in email convos with them too. After removing the intellectual doubts, we then get into more subjective concerns, like maybe the ones you list, but it’s almost always intellectual right up front. I find it incredible that you think the majority of people out there say, “Oh, I believe every word of the Bible, it’s all true, Jesus is the only way, man is a sinner, and Jesus actually lived and rose from the dead, and he’s coming back to judge the wicked, but I still don’t want to go to church and trust in him because of my life experiences.” That’s ridiculous.

    Really, why do I always get push back from 2K people about apologetics and philosophy? What have I actually *said* that’s objectionable? Not, what have you inserted into my mouth about what you mistakenly think philosophy and apologetics is, but what have I actually said? I will never understand the 2K hostility towards apologetics and philosophy. Oh well. Anyway, now you have two long posts to respond to! 🙂

  100. Zrim says:

    Paul, for my part it’s the esteeming of philosophy and apologetics over churchly means to nurture faith that bothers. You might think you know to whom I’d go running when my own kids come home and express unbelief. But it’s not the apologist I’d reach for but the elder. Sorry, though it may feed your ego to conceive of hapless Christian fathers scurrying to you in desperation, your sob stories do not compel me. And it’s not that 2k thinks that philosophy and apologetics “are worthless.” Talk about overstating matters. The problem is the privileging of philosophy and logic. That really seems to be the crux of our differences. The revivalist esteems inward experience in the face of unbelief and the philosopher logic. But for the confessionalist it is those articles of faith that the church has confessed that are operative.

    And I really wonder just what function you think catechism has beyond some sort of mere ceremonial use. And I seriously wonder what you do when all the logic in the world doesn’t overcome unbelief. Or are we to believe that all the kids without exception who come crying to you are made well again? But even a confessionalist doesn’t think catechism overcomes unbelief. Sometimes people simply don’t believe and no amount of logic or confession will change it.

  101. Paul says:

    Zrim, when and where do I “esteem philosophy and apologetics over churchly means to nurture faith?” I’m not even sure I know what that means. Do we mean word, sacrament, worship, prayer? But where does ramming the confession down throats 24/7 fit into that? I’m lost.

    If you run to your elder to *answer* or rebut the *arguments* against the faith, then you’ve ran to the apologist. Where in the world do you get the idea that an elder isn’t an apologist. Indeed, *by definition* you just admitted you’d run to the apologist. Now, better hope the elder is up to the task. Also, you can, like I said, dig your heels in this purley intellectual ground, but when reality hits, it’ll be a different story.

    Oh, there you go again lying about me, as if this is about my “ego.” Where’s Todd with his sanctimonious condemnations when you need him!

    And, yeah, it’s that apologetics and philosophy are “worthless.” Wanna prove me wrong? For starters, why not post a post on the “worth” of apologetics and philosophy for the church and the Christian community, and try to do it without taking shots.

    What in the world are you talking about “the crux of our disagreement?” You say it’s over the “privileging” of apologetics and philosophy? What does that mean and how have I done it (sources, quotes, please). It seems you’ve simply manufactured out of thin air some nasty little monster to battle, like a good Machen’s Warrior Child. If there are no enemies, why, we’ll invent them!

    I also don’t think “logic overcomes belief.” Actually, logic is contentless, and so couldn’t overcome anything. I, with the orthodox and scholastic Reformers before me, think the *use* of logic is a *means* God uses to both defeat unbelief and make clear theological doctrine at certain points. This was the consensus of the Reformed tradition when it spoke of the role of philosophy for the faith.

    And, yes, sometimes people just don’t believe no matter what. The crux of our disagreement is that I think we should try to answer their sincere challenges and not just hypercalvinistically toss them aside and say, with Darryl Hart, “If the Lord wills they return, then they will.” Yeah, of course, that’s an uninteresting truism; but the real issue is *how* God does this, and the Reformed have confessed that he primarily works through ordinary means and not magic.

    So, gauntlet’s been thrown down, care to substantiate your charges? Boy, I’ve asked that you actually argue and provide evidence for your claims, whatever will Zrim do!?

  102. RubeRad says:

    Or are we to believe that all the kids without exception who come crying to you are made well again? But even a confessionalist doesn’t think catechism overcomes unbelief. Sometimes people simply don’t believe and no amount of logic or confession will change it.

    Z, I have to agree with Paul that you go too far. You would have us think that no kids without exception are helped by apologetics or philosophy. Maybe it is not all that often that A&P overcome unbelief. But sometimes A&P does help to overcome unbelief. And more importantly, A&P can very often protect belief, even confessional belief. I just don’t see how that’s a controversial issue at all.

  103. Paul M. says:

    And let me add to the above . . . Zrim, when you go to the elder, which is what you should do, either he is the apologist or, if he can’t answer the question, he runs to the apologist. I know, having been the recipient of problem 50 such emails. So, either way the apologist is turned to.

    Also, Zrim lives in the clouds. In many cases, the children do not want to talk to anyone but their mom or dad. Often, kids don’t even doubt but when out at McDonalds they bring up challenges they heard at school. I try to run through the objections with my son, teach him how to think with the brain God gave him. What would Zrim do, run to the Elder 10 times a month with each and every one of your kids questions that he heard from so and so? He doesn’t even doubt, but he just wants to know how best to explain to his friend how his faith doesn’t fall by the objection. Or, like a good Greek, he just wants to *know*, which is good, because knowledge is intrinsically good. Believe it or not, Zrim, some people actually like to know answers to questions—and there’s thousands of questions about this or that aspect of the faith—not everyone is an anti-intellectual. So it seems Zrim’s position really doesn’t take into account all the varieties the real world throws at you. If he had his way, the members of the church would be told: Believe this, don’t question it, don’t listen to challenges, don’t think about it, don;t wonder whether the Reformed faith is true in light of the many sophisticated objections, don’t read non-Reformed authors and their objections, this way you don’t have to think about it.”

    It seems Zrim has a philosophy after all: “Ignorance is bliss.”

  104. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, a quick three points:
    1) Your definition of “ideas” is so broad as to swallow up everything. I take “ideas” to indicate a fundamentally intellectual concern, and I think you need to address it in that way.
    2) As a former philosopy major who enjoyed my degree, I don’t have an animus against it. Simply, I had to work through the “problem” of explaining why apologetics is so very important but preaching is quite efficacious when it is not apologetics.
    3) You said ” ‘Oh, I believe every word of the Bible, it’s all true, Jesus is the only way, man is a sinner, and Jesus actually lived and rose from the dead, and he’s coming back to judge the wicked, but I still don’t want to go to church and trust in him because of my life experiences.’ That’s ridiculous.” Well, it you get deeply involved in church life for a couple decades you might revisit this. More often than not, intellectual qualms and arguments are the pretext, but when you scratch a little bit, its about pleasing the spouse, not wanting to give up a boyfriend or social circle, etc. There are also people – and these tend to be blue collar – that say the gosple is all true but they are just too wicked or they just don’t want to give up sin. People aren’t big brains on legs. There is the occasional person whose intellect truly dominates but that’s maybe one in a thousand.

  105. Zrim says:

    Yeow, Rube. No, I would not have anyone think that nobody without exception is helped by apologetics or philosophy. What I am critical of is that apologetics and philosophy always and without exception helps everyone who doubts. Good grief, having myself been raised in unbelief I think I understand the value of apologetics. All I am saying is that apologetics isn’t everything. I think you (and Paul) get that, but the way Paul speaks sure makes me doubt it.

    But what is needed before one can come to the table, which is to say have full fellowship? Is it an erudite philosophical defense of one’s belief or a simple and credible profession of faith? It’s the latter. And how has the church traditionally gotten someone there? By regular catechizing. Paul makes it sound like that’s not enough. Indeed, regular catechism somehow turns into “cramming the confession down one’s throat 24/7.” I have to say, his take on how a traditionalist nurtures faith sure sounds an awful lot like the way unbelievers caricature (even mock) believers for how they indoctrinate and pass down religious belief to younger generations: if you can’t take apart and construct your faith like a pro against the harshest critics then you have no business possessing it.

  106. Paul M. says:

    1) What’t my definition of “ideas?” All I said is that it wasn’t identical to “intellectual qualms.”

    2) I’m struggling to wonder why you asked what you did, for nothing I said could be taken to rule or or demean preaching.

    3) I’ve been “involved” in “church life” for more than a couple of decades.

    In any event, good, so you remove the pretext, the deflector that is put up to avoid the more subjective concerns. That’s a value and benefit of apologetics. Remove the mask, get to the heart of the problem, which is a hatred of God and not enough hatred of sin. So, again, nothing here conflicts with anything I’ve said. Also, I know there are *some* people who may say they believe it all, but that’s the extreme minority.

    And I never suggested that people are “brains on legs.” Why or why do you and Zrim persist on misrepresenting me?

    Lastly, I am actively involved in these kinds of discussions more than you and Zrim put together. I talk to those blue color people more than both of you. For God has seen fit to have my circle enlarged, and I talk to people with doubts not only in America, but from other countries too.

    The intellectual objection, as you note, is almost ALWAYS what is put forth first. Don’t get past that, good luck getting to the other stuff. It’s a deflection, a ruse—though for many it is more than that—and one job of the apologist is to remove the mask, making the work of those who address the soul in pastoral ways more easy.

    Nothing you said conflicted or contradicted anything I said. Odd that you wouldn’t see that. You said you were a philosophy major?

  107. Paul M. says:

    Yeow, Zrim,

    “What I am critical of is that apologetics and philosophy always and without exception helps everyone who doubts.”

    Who, WHO?, is arguing that? No one. And you can cite no quote that implies it either.

    In your second paragraph you make more claims about what I believe and what my position is, again, without quoting me.

    Ironic that Todd would say I disagree just to win arguments. At least I don’t make up positions for people so as to manufacture an “enemy” that I can fight and make daddy Machen proud of how good a warrior I am. Hoorah!

  108. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, with regard to your 1:48 comment, I’m afraid I see where this is headed. I’ve seen you and Zrim go on for pages about who misrepresented whom, who changed the definitions, who had an adequate education, who is being disingenuous, etc., but I just can’t do it. Too bad, I was hopeful for something better. If this happens to you with multiple people, you may want to consider if you are part of the reason why it happens. But I’m just throwing that out there – it’s a strange world sometimes and lots of improbable things like that could be true.

  109. Paul says:


    I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re referring to. I was looking for something better to. You know, like when you disagree with someone you actually put forth points that contradict or our contrary to what they said. If you say things that are logically consistent with what they said, but then claim that you’re disagreeing with them, you are either misunderstanding them or are confused about the nature of logical consistency. Also, I am often part of the reason it happens; frequently, people hate being forced to be logical, or state their objections precisely, and so they stomp off. Lastly, can see nothing in my comment that would cause you to take offense and stomp off. Perhaps you should consider whether you’re cut out for online discussions. Perhaps this is why you go “anonymous?” Who knows, “it’s a strange world sometimes and lots of improbable things like that could be true.”

  110. Paul says:

    Or, to give Michael what he was hoping for:

    Yes, Michael, you’re right. I am wrong. I will swear off apologetics and philosophy for I am demeaning preaching and not understanding the objections of the little people, people who are just to stupid to think properly, and have no edumacation, so just think with their emotions like animals. Heck, we shouldn’t even bother to teach them. In fact, I dunno why God gave us minds at all.

  111. Jed Paschall says:


    A couple of brief thoughts here:

    1) Yes, I agree that 2k needs some intense work on the philosophical end. Here’s some questions I have of the enterprise:
    A) Does 2k necessarily entail arguments for NL and natural theology (NT), or are the two independent concepts?
    B) If 2k and NL are bound up together, why; or if they can be decoupled, why?
    C) If 2k and NL can or should be decoupled, what does 2k look like?
    D) Is there sufficient biblical warrant to affirm NL/NT arguments, if so to what extent are such arguments affirmed in Scripture?
    E) If NL/NT is affirmed in Scripture, what by necessary consequence applies in ethics and philosophy outside of the scope of Scripture.
    F) To what extent is NL/NT binding upon the public sphere, and to what extent (if any) does the state have to uphold NL as a fundamental underpinning of its legal system?

    I and every responsible Reformed philosopher that I know of, has made the point that many philosophical positions are undetermined by the Biblical witness. It’s been the responsible philosophers who have been telling good-intentioned internet philosophers that they’re trying to say too much with their favored philosophical systems, when in fact a number of philosophical perspectives are compatible with the Biblical worldview.

    Agreed, but the discourse on the internet can give false impressions (on both sides) regarding the actual positions held at a more scholarly level. This obscures the argument at the ground and its a real problem with respect to charity and clarity on the extent of either sides argument.

    As to the first, Christian claims about the world do presuppose and imply some philosophical matters.

    I don’t have a problem with this at face value, the issue is where the philosophical and biblical lines are to be reasonably demarcated. I am contending that at some point just because someone argues for philosophically/logically warranted beliefs doesn’t mean that these beliefs are always warranted or mandated by Scripture. I think you do a good job of articulating this ‘separation of powers’ so to speak so that the ideas, language and parlance of philosophy doesn’t unduly encroach upon the parlance of sound Biblical exegesis. However, I’ve been in enough 2k dust-ups to know that these lines aren’t consistently upheld. The gut reaction on the part of my 2k interlocutors has been to dismiss philosophy and apologetics buffs carte blanche. This isn’t justified, but it is how things have played out too many times as I have observed these discussions.

  112. RubeRad says:

    Jed, I appreciate the sentiment (blessed are you, peacemaker!), and I would like to observe (and maybe even participate in!) the discussion you outline, but I think that a comment thread that has already topped 100 is not the right place to start.
    Maybe you could paste this as a post on your blog, or Paul write a post with his thoughts on your questions?

  113. Jed Paschall says:

    Michael and Zrim,

    First, I really do appreciate the work you both have put in on getting the word out on 2k and fighting the good fight against those who grossly misrepresent 2k thought (Zrim especially). Nothing I am saying here should detract from that fact. I also realize that Paul and I have had our fair share of scorched-earth grenade fests in the past, but it really wasn’t productive. I get the 2k aversion to apologetics and philosophy and their usefulness in the life of the Christian, given the fact that 2kers often has to fend off absurd accusations by some in that camp. But, from my own experience, I think there was a good deal of misunderstanding between Paul and I, and I frankly misinterpreted his motives. Thankfully we have found a more reasonable way to dialogue, and I have found some of his critiques of 2k helpful in pointing out blind spots and deficiencies in the system, and even where I disagree with Paul, the issues raised do need credible answers. I think that Paul has done a much better job of charitably pointing out what he deems to be faulty arguments. I don’t take this as anything more than what bad grammar would represent to an English buff, and we should always be trying to communicate more clearly anyway.

    I don’t get the sense that Paul is against SOTC notions or even some 2k formulations, nor do I think he is trying to foist philosophy over confessions or Scripture. He is quite proficient at philosophy so that is obviously going to be what he emphasizes in these sort of discussions. I think it would honestly be more productive to at least acknowledge the importance that apologetics (properly used) can play in the witness of Christians, especially who are inclined to apologetics. The fact, some 2k-ers reaction to apologetics and philosophy has been a gross over-reaction that has actually hurt the credibility of our system that frankly has much to offer to the church at large. From an academic standpoint, 2k is in its infancy, and its development into a full orbed system, which means we should expect and hope that 2k thinking will develop to be able to better address some of the philosophical and ethical issues that it raises. If 2kers fail in this task, it will remain a minority position, and I don’t that’s good stewardship with such a good concept.

    So, what I am saying is that Paul’s rhetoric shouldn’t be automatically dismissed, and I don’t think Paul is advocating ‘cramming’ apologetics down anyone’s throat, or even trying to supplant more traditional means of educating covenant children such as catechism, and Word and Sacrament. So FWIW, I do think it is time to set this feud aside, and move on to better justifications for 2k than the same old debates that frankly go nowhere and are a drain on time that could be better spent.

  114. Jed Paschall says:

    Rube, thanks for the feedback, I’ll have something covering these issues up over at my blog by tomorrow.

  115. "Michael Mann" says:

    Jed, I also appreciate the peacemaking motive. Unfortunately you read me through Paul. I was a philosophy major. I’ve worked through about 10 of Van Til’s works, have read 600 pages of Plantinga, and even Dooyeweerd’s New Critique of Theoretical Thought. That’s just representative. So it doesn’t compare to Paul, I guess, but I did that reading after work and after the family has been taken care of, so its hard to make out a case that I’m anti-philosophy or anti-apologetics. But, see, I disagreed with Paul on something or suggested a limit to philosophy, so I’m anti-intellectual or whatever.

    I typically enjoy back and forth with people that disagree with me. But, Jed, look at Paul’s 2:47 contribution. It’s simply sophomoric. If you want to show us how it’s done, go for it.

  116. Pingback: On the Future of Two Kingdom Theology « Jed Paschall's Blog

  117. Jed Paschall says:


    My peacemaking efforts stand. Paul’s history on 2k blogs is something that I realize all are aware of, and I am not here to defend everything he has said or says here. But, I think the bad blood is counterproductive, and some of Paul’s analysis is resonable and should be treated as such.

    I am not here to argue credentials, or who has studied what, since I am an OT guy to begin with. I do appreciate the analysis you give and I could care less if you push Paul or anyone else on an issue of disagreement. But, there is a strain of mild-moderate intolerance of philosophical issues among some 2kers, I know because I held some similar intolerances. However, more reading and learning has led me to believe two things: 1) the 2k position has fundamental merit; and 2) the 2k position needs to give a better account for the philosophical questions it raises, because we are challenging some deeply entrenched ideas among a Reformed crowd that isn’t philosophically ignorant to begin with. Arguing against or seeking to modify prevailing paradigms requires us to reasonably answer all reasonable questions and objections that come up. If we don’t do better, we will be condemning ourselves to self-imposed exile.

  118. "Michael Mann" says:

    Jed, I realize we read these blogs at different levels of attention, and I don’t presume that you make a special effort to read everything Michael Mann says. But, a couple notes on the above:
    – I agreed with Paul over the apparent disagreement of Zrim that there are agendas in public schools.
    – I suggested working through an apologetic “problem:” how to explain the necessity of apologetics if the mere proclamation of the word is sufficient on Sunday mornings.
    So, I don’t think I have knee-jerked against Paul and I don’t think I’ve suggested retreading one more 2K argument that’s been done a thousand times. The second is something I have had to work through. I asked Paul how he has resolved that “problem.” (Problem = an apparent tension that may or may not be an ultimate roadblock.)

  119. "Michael Mann" says:

    Sorry – I’m sneaking this in between various events coming at me. I would add a PS: the “problem” I have suggested working through is is one that I began working through years before I had heard of 2K.

  120. Jed Paschall says:


    I will be offline for a bit, so I will get to a more reasoned response later, but the last thing I want to get into is arbitrating an argument between you and Paul. The main point is thT 2kers need to do better with dealing with philosophical issues the position raises. I would hope we could agree there.

  121. todd says:

    I really have not paid much attention to the apologetics verses 2k debates on this blog, for I tend to read blogs sporadically, but out of curiosity, why would there be friction between apologetics and 2k? I always looked at them as two separate entities. Can someone explain what basically the friction is about? And Paul, we duked it out a bit, it’s over, can we move on?

  122. Zrim says:

    Jed, again, all points that are well taken. But personally, I’m not as convinced as you about Paul’s intentions. Frankly, I take a more dim interpretation and find his presence especially obnoxious, overly aggressive and self-important. And I don’t think his abilities make up for a multitude of sins.

    I’ve no problem with the assertion that 2k has to grapple with philosophical issues. What I don’t understand is why every single 2ker has to do it and why every single one is expected to speak the language of the logician-philosopher or why if one doesn’t measure up to the self-imposed standard of Paul Manata his whole outlook is fubar. Take this very thread which has to do with education; at Paul’s initiation it turns into another 2k inquisition. I’ve always done my own level best to engage Paul honestly over the years, but it is never enough and always ends up insulting. I don’t think he’s shaken off all the thuggery of his past and has morphed it into what seems like a acceptable venue. But I’m not moved or impressed. Christian bullies are still bullies.

  123. Zrim says:

    Todd, I don’t think it’s a 2k v. apologetics thing. It’s a Paul v. those-that-don’t-speak-Paul’s-favorite-language-and-need-to-be-straightened-out thing.

  124. "Michael Mann" says:

    There isn’t any inherent friction between apologetics and 2K, Todd. Most of apologetics through the centuries are quite compatible with 2k.
    Certain extensions of certain apologetic approaches have at least the appearance of being less comfortable with the idea of the “common kingdom” of the 2k perspective. I’m personally trying to work through the issue of VanTil & 2k. I know he is sharply critical of traditional apologetics, and the traditional method includes the idea of natural reason, which has a prominent place in the 2k common kingdom. Thus VanTil is more fond of Kuyper’s method than he is with Warfield’s; he criticizes Warfield’s position that “natural man…can give an essentially correct interpretation at least of natural revelation.” (from A Christian Theory of Knowledge). Also, in broad strokes, the VanTilian approach seems quite compatible with the “every square inch for Christ” leanings of the anti-2k position.
    I haven’t seen an academic treatment of this issue. If anyone has some opinions, I’d like to hear them.

  125. John Yeazel says:

    I have been eavesdropping on this interesting conflict. For a logician Paul does not come off as a Dr. Spock type- he is much more passionate, angry and patronizing than your stereotyped logician. He is much more like Captain Kirk than Dr. Spock.

    Why don’t you all come over to the Lutheran side and say that Reason (when abused and not used under the authority of revelation) is a whore. Although it has been shown by some Calvinists that Luther often abused philosophical speculation and ideas as badly as any Calvinist.

    I find it difficult to find any kind of solid answers in philosophical inquiry- the Lutherans and Calvinists separated over philosophical issues related to Christology. They have never been able to resolve those issues in 500 years. Didn’t Hodge and Nevin separate over philosophical ideas related to liturgical and sacramental issues?

    Da Bears!!! What can I say, I am from Chicago.

  126. Jed Paschall says:

    Some concluding thoughts here, because I am not going to arbitrate all of your individual beefs with Paul. If he wants to see to that stuff, he can make that call.

    The intent behind my little minority report had nothing to do Paul’s rhetoric to begin with, it had to do with the content of his arguments. My eyebrows have plenty of singes from my tussles with Paul, but separate the man from the message, and let his points stand up for a second. I don’t think we can waive them off like we have in the past. On top of this, and this isn’t a justification for everything that Paul has said, but from my observation (and hearty participation), 2kers have been at war with over-realized worldviewiers, theonomists, evangelicals, YRR and you name it, so we write off Paul based on his sometimes vaunted rhetoric. If I were sitting in his shoes, trying to make the case that philosophy and apologetics aren’t really as important to the life of the church as previously thought (often in a very defensive and/or dismissive manner) to someone who has taken the time to understand these matters, it isn’t going to engender fruitful discussion.

    Using those real-world analogies we like to refer to so often, this would be like telling an engineer that his whole understanding of mechanics is really irrelevant to the proper function of the car we are trying to sell him. So, he can dispense with the questions and sign on the dotted line since we cleared that. The fact is, it is important for those of us who are championing 2k to answer all comers with the best skill we can muster, and if we can’t answer adequately, have the humility to dig for an answer and get back to the inquirer.

    The fact of the matter, whatever the baggage is with respect to Paul, we have to get better at stating positive cases for 2k. DGH’s affirmations and denials in the most recent pillow fight with the theonomists over at GB was a good example. It wasn’t off the cuff, it reasonably answered the questions (regardless of the inquirers opinions) and opened further channels for meaningful debate. That is what I am talking about. If 2k is a sound system than it will stand up to all reasonable analysis, and while it is sometimes harder to sift through the agitators, we have to tighten our responses. The fact is, any of us 2kers who have put our names out there have put our character on the line, often having it (or worse) questioned because of these ideas. Some won’t budge, and I may not have had all of that pesky optimism beat out of me yet, but I do think we owe it to those who would be open to 2k if it weren’t for some of the heated opposition and a lack of answers on our part to answer some important questions.

  127. Jed Paschall says:


    Not all Lutherans are so pessimistic about the uses of reason, at least not in the sense that you say here otherwise why debate at all if reason is so permiscuous? I have spent some time in LCMS churches and have family active in the ELCA, and as I have come to understand, it seems to me that that nasty whorish tramp aka ‘Reason” is conservative Lutherans way of admitting that they have been whipped by the dialectical theologians of the 20th century, the liberals of the 19th century, and the whole enlightenment program of the 18th century, and they retreated, and conservatives have been left cleaning up the mess for the last 60+ years while confessionalism has been almost totally decimated or driven deeper into quietism or hybridized into evangelicalism, and now only slowly gaining steam once again.

  128. John Yeazel says:


    I have tried to give Paul a hearing- I read his 79 page introductory paper on free will and moral responsibility and Robert Kane’s A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will. There were no solid answers given to this mystery of the Christian faith, just parameters and fences to guide your thinking on the issue. The only thing I got out of the time spent on reading them was the increased conviction that libertarian free will has more intellectual problems associated with it then the various forms of determinism. Otherwise the issue is about as clear as mud to me and it seems like more of an inquiring into the hidden will and authority of God that no one will ever understand or has the ability to understand, ie., more of an addiction that people waste a lot of time on. Much of the inquiry seems like is a showy and see how much smarter I am than you type of intellectualism.

    I have also tried to ask some “stupid” questions to Paul at Goodreads and given the I don’t have time, condecension and patronizing treatment that really turned me off. I don’t know how you continue to dialog with him Jed- I have seen him blast into you too.

    I am not against apologetics and philosophical inquiry when used in a less patronizing and angry manner. I see more value in the evidentialist approach to apologetics, like Craig Parton, John Warwick Montgomery and B.B. Warfield use, not the more philosophical type of apologetics that most of the Reformed philosophers and logicians are into. Perhaps I am stupid- I have never been able to make much sense of them, they have just added confusion to my mind, not clarity.

  129. todd says:


    What important questions do you have in mind?

  130. John Yeazel says:

    “Da Bears” response was pointed at Paul who used that against me once and was implying that I was a total ignoramous. How do you like them apples?

  131. Paul M. says:


    It’s not a 2K vs. apologetics thing; it’s an apologetics vs. Zrim and Darryl Hart pretending their radical beliefs on all matters count as 2K thing. And note in Zrim’s answer he cannot provide quotes from me. He accuses without evidence

    At Hart’s blog he pushed for more catechizing of church members. I didn’t disagree but, harmlessly I thought, said we should do more apologetics training than we do too. Hart said, and I quote, “But Paul, that denies perseverance of the saints.” Zrim joined in, criticizing my statement too.

    The issue is that at many times Zrim gets a little too ambitious and says things that conflict with apologetics. He says he doesn’t have a problem with apologetics, so I assume he’ll at times scale back his rhetoric if they carry unsavory implications. He never does. Instead, he claims I’m being a “logician,” and says my talk of logical implication is a phrase Paul never used, and seems to deny that God’s foolishness is wiser than logical worldly wisdom. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Zrim makes statements that fit faith against reason, God against logic.

    I had a post at my now defunct blog where I quoted a 100% anti-apologetic statement by Zrim. Rube Rad even commented at my blog, telling Zrim he was wrong. Zrim also translated the famed apologetics text, 1 Pet. 3:15, as not telling us to give *reasoned* defenses of our beliefs, but just “sharing our hope in an afterlife,” basically, *asserting* why Christians are hopeful, i.e., doing descriptive work. Zrim also says that apologetics is the job only of elders, and that on my view I deny the gospel and make it every member ministry. I cited 7 separate exegetical commentaries on 1 Peter 3:15, all scholarly commentaries, respect Petrine commentaries, and Zrim’s response was to lambast exegesis. he said he’s not an exegete and owns no exegetical commentaries, and I’m trying to bully a laymen.

    Moreover, certain apologetic arguments depends crucially on certain philosophical points, but Zrim and Hart have said time and time again that this is “worldviewism” and that the Bible says *nothing* about or to epistemology and metaphysics. I was called names (bully logician) when I said that certain biblical claims about God and the world not only presuppose but imply substantive metaphysical and epistemological thesis. To this I was told that they cannot since those things are :of the world” and will “fade away” in heaven. They even said math will fade away. I have no idea what that means. I asked if 1 person was standing next to a tree in the new earth, and another person came next to him, would we not have 2 persons? No response. But later, when I made a similar point, Darryl Hart said, “Yeah, if you add in different bases, you get different sums.”!!!!

    Anyway, it’s a history of all push and no give. Even when I say sensible things like I did above. Why couldn’t Zrim agree? I never said the things he says my position is, he must implant that. So, with a 100% push back, and a negative response to any and every claim I have ever made about apologetics no matter what, I can only conclude, by Zrim’s actions, that he’s anti-apologetics. At best, he thinks it is only the job of the elders to be apologists. This just shows me he doesn’t know enough about the challenges to the faith to know that 99% of our elders are just not equipped to handle the challenges, but also that he has some ambitious goals for elders and seems to think they have more than 24 hours in a day.

  132. Paul M. says:

    Michael, I gave the more non-sophomoric responses above, which I didn’t get reactions with other than to pick out one sentence from the Machen quote and say you disagreed with it. So, you ignored the more substantive posts but pretended I offered nothing but scorched-earth rhetoric, when my more lengthy responses to your comments were calm and measured.

  133. Paul M. says:

    Thanks for this Zrim, I hope todd an other note this. Zrim writes,

    “But personally, I’m not as convinced as you about Paul’s intentions. Frankly, I take a more dim interpretation and find his presence especially obnoxious, overly aggressive and self-important. And I don’t think his abilities make up for a multitude of sins.”

    Which is why my arguments are never dealt with because Zrim is convinced I have some nefarious hidden agenda that I never make public and that he cannot back up with quotes but it just must be that my intentions are different than I say. Who cares if I publicly defend theological mystery in rigorous ways, that’s a ruse! Really, I loathe mystery, and want none of it in the faith! Zrim, you have an insane blik going on buddy.

  134. Paul M. says:

    Oh, but now that I know the way you really feel about me, I will do my best to never come to your blog again.

  135. Paul M. says:

    Boy, look at the hostility from John too. It is ironic, though, that he condemns me for my treatment of others and my behavior when he takes mean and personal shots against me.

    No matter what anyone says about my rhetoric, I don’t think I have ever got as personal and as mean-spirited as Zrim and John have got.

    Also, on the free will paper, I stated up front that I wasn’t giving solid answers to each and ever question. Funny, this is! I am accused of wanting to give solid answers for everything and leaving no room for debate or disagreement by Zrim, but then John comes in and accuses me of not providing a handbook that scratches every intellectual itch. Moreover, I also gave *reasons* why we couldn’t have solid “that settles it” answers, but I did give several models one could appropriate that did give more solid answers, and pointed where to go to get further info. the paper was an *introduction* after all.

    Anyway, for supposedly loving 2Kers who are alll about Matt 5 and loving their enemy and turning the other cheek (verses they claim are anti-theonomic), we’re not getting any of that here!

  136. Paul M. says:

    Thanks Jed for stickin’ up for me.

    And, yes, I have always admitted and even joked about my harsh language. Some excuses:

    (1) Sometimes I feel I’ve received some snark first, but since I’ve never held back I always tried to come back with more than I was given (even with gifts too). So I get a little smack talk, I come back with an even more outrageous comment. Kinda like to win a smack talk war. But then, either the person didn’t think he was being rude, or he takes offense at how hard I pushed, and then it gets nasty from there.

    (2) Raised by a smack-talking Italian father. I never had a day growing up where we didn’t “bust balls” or cut the other person down, or pile on after we’ve won an argument. And that’s how it was when we’d go back to Chicago. Grandparents, uncles, everyone, would sit around and “bust balls.” I am a ball buster, always have been. Same with my brother. We both worked together for a while and one day there was a new guy we hired and we were busting his chops out in the parking lot. He said, “Man, I thought my family were good ball busters, but you guys are black belts.” So, doing that is kind of second nature. In my family, if I said some of the rude things I say online, I’d get “oohs” and “ahs” and claps. And none of us ever take it seriously. It’s just what we did, with everything. Playing video games or sports with my dad, almost every second he was busting my balls, until I grew up and starting doing it back to him.

    (3) Frustration: On numerous times I have offered what I took to be serious argument and did not cast them in any rhetorical language. I would just get blown off, repeatedly. More than that, many times 2Kers (like Zrim) have told me my points deny the gospel. Of course, I take that seriously. When people did things like that I would ask for *arguments* back, often not getting them. But then I was told that I believed that “regeneration raises the I.Q.” (Darryl Hart), which I obviously don’t believe. This was frustrating and it seemed like they were acting like the punk kids in grade school who would keep talking smack and taunting until I punched them in the mouth. So I did the online equivalent. (Case in point, guys, go back and read the above from the *beginning*. I was not rude or anything but was asking simply questions. It turns out that there was no need to get into any of this, but Zrim inserted his premises into my motives and started attacking a position I was not defending or putting forth, and using words like “wimpy” and “paranoid”. So, this was yet another time when my statements were ignored or twisted and then I received the punky response. So I pushed back. And, per (1), I push back harder than pushed.)

    So, these are some reasons for the rhetoric.

  137. todd says:


    That helps, but what do you mean when you say 99% of elders are not equipped? Are you meaning that there are a minority of unbelievers out there who have reasoned philosophical objections to Christianity, and they (elders) are not equipped to answer them, or that they are not eqipped to share the faith with *anyone* without such training?

  138. Jed Paschall says:


    I put some of them up on my blog after Ruben’s prompting.

  139. todd says:

    Jed, you write – “This is why, to little success, I have argued with 2k detractors that more work needs to be done in terms of how God administers and enforces his ‘two books’. There needs to be clearer articulation of what that means with respect to how much NL, if any we can reasonably respect to be present in modern government.”

    The problem as I see it is the idea that either the Bible or NL provides a means by which civil laws are administered. For one, while the Bible and NL (conscience) both inform the unbeliever right versus wrong, neither (assuming non-theonomy) informs us how a governement should punish crime. So much depends on the situation, which I think is what Calvin argued when he rejected theonomy. For example, if I were elected president of Uganda tomorrow, if I would outlaw polygamy based either on Scripture or NL, I would have a national riot on my hands. Now in the U.S.A. I could ensure those laws remained on the books. Someone might respond, well, in Uganda couldn’t you have as a long-term goal the enforcement against polygamy, and then you would be incrementally enforcing God’s law, either through the Bible or NL? Well, that assumes I would be alive long enough to make such a change, and assumes the culture would move to the place it wouldn’t cause murder and mayhem in the streets, but still one ends up not enforcing based on NL as much as based on the wisdom of the times and place. I guess one could argue such wisdom is found in NL also, expanding a bit how NL is usually understood.

  140. Jed Paschall says:

    Last thing I’ll say here and then I’ll bow out of this discussion – The problem is that bad blood on both sides of the fence, not the issues at hand is drowning out meaningful argument. I would hope that this doesn’t go on like it has for the last couple of years, and I know it can. The arguments here are personal, and devolve into zero-sum games that really fizzle before any meaningful debate (common sense or logical) can happen. In the interests of charity I think there needs to be some give, and I’ll leave it at that.

  141. todd says:

    While I have also hurled a few personal bombs at Paul as language escalates, my Jewish background resembles Paul’s Italian background so it is not really hurt feelings or bad blood, but simply not holding back what we think at the moment, which tends to be par for both Jews and Italians. If our families got together for dinner it could make for a great reality show.

  142. Paul M. says:



    That helps, but what do you mean when you say 99% of elders are not equipped? Are you meaning that there are a minority of unbelievers out there who have reasoned philosophical objections to Christianity, and they (elders) are not equipped to answer them, or that they are not eqipped to share the faith with *anyone* without such training?

    First, it’s not meant to be a slam. Elders are busy, they have a lot on their plate. It’s not practical to expect them to keep up with contemporary objections. Some might keep up with a couple objections, usually religious ones, like RCC attacks on justification, or Arminian criticisms. The especially savvy ones might read Dawkins’ book, but this is the minority.

    But yeah, I have in mind not only philosophical objections to the faith, but textual critical objections, historical objections, and, increasingly growing OT objections about the nature of OT Israel. These stem from textual and archeological objections. A friend of mine getting a PhD from Harvard in OT studies, and who graduated from WSC, has told me about some of the movements going on here, and they’re not pretty, He said he was not trained to deal with anything like this at sem. Seminaries like WSC, for example, have a basic apologetics course where usually older objectors to the faith are looked at, i.e., Hume, Kant, etc. One wonders if this is because they’re so easy to dismantle now. Moreover, no Reformed seminary I am aware of requires a logic course, yet students and pastors talk about what fallacies are and about this or that being illogical.

    So, most seminary graduates are unprepared to deal with contemporary challenges to the faith. I am not critiquing this, they have tons of stuff to learn, like preaching the word, which is on many levels more important than learning apologetics. But from my knowledge, I do and have known A LOT of sem students, and sem professors, they are just unprepared. Now, if this is the case for seminary trained elders, what of laymen elders? Guys who work at the local insurance company and do elder work in their off time? They’re just not prepared. Maybe you have to be in the field of apologetics to know just how much they don’t know.

    I have also known several elders. I’ve been a member of 4 different Reformed churches (not because I hop around, but because of moving and stuff like that). I also know many just through email correspondence. They are typically very far behind in terms of contemporary arguments. For example, take universalism. That really came into the limelight with Bell’s book, but listening to elders discuss the topic showed me how much they didn’t know about the contemporary arguments used by universalists. I’m thinking here of Horton’s critique of Bell. He made some claims about universalism that were false, or that universalists easily address. He showed no awareness with the current state of the debate, but basically brushed them off as theological liberals. If Horton was unaware of the best and strongest arguments, how much more then the average pastor and elder?

    This is just samples thrown out of what I see on a repeated basis. I’m not trying to be mean, and I respect elders and their job. I just think it’s naive to think that because someone gets ordained as an elder, all of a sudden he could respond to the apologetic objections out there. This is why I think it was naive for Zrim to think that his elder would just have the answers to his kids’ doubts right at the tip of his tongue.

    As for the Italian/Jew thing, yes, it’s hard to hold back. Being a hot head was actually a considered a virtue. I’d put a emoticon, but I know how you feel about them.

  143. Zrim says:

    This is why I think it was naive for Zrim to think that his elder would just have the answers to his kids’ doubts right at the tip of his tongue.

    I guess I’m still hankering for worms today. But this is not what I said (heavens, for a guy so bloody concerned with getting the other guy right). I did not say that an elder would have the answers to doubts right at the tip of his tongue. What I said was that if my children came home with serious doubts I would reach for my elder before the apologist. And this is because I really do believe that those whom Christ has ordained through his church as overseers are spiritually endowed in ways others are not, even the uneducated. I understand and think you make fine points about how elders can always be better versed; despite your campaign to portray otherwise, I’ve nothing against special apologetic training for elders. But my point is that Christ has ordained his church and his undershepherds. And while you may bemoan the lack of philosphical preparedness on the parts of elders, etc., I bemoan what I think is an unbecoming lack of confidence in Christ’s officers to do that which they have been ordained. I seriously wonder what you think the take away is about the fact that the apostles were common and largely uneducated men? Could it be that God really does work through the meek and weakness and those who in the eyes of the world are scorned? Maybe you think that is some sort of thinly veiled “toothless fundamentalism”? But I think God really does work through the ordinary and common and what immediately looks like utter weakness. Think preached Word and administered sacrament.

  144. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, I use “tip of the tongue” rhetoric like you use “wimpy” and “paranoid” rhetoric. You should put a sidebar here saying that you are the only one allowed to use rhetoric. But my basic point stands. In any case, I did respond to that post and showed that you drew a false dichotomy, since you just asserted you think the elder *is* an apologist.

    Anyway, the matter really isn’t one of philosophy. I made several points about history, textual criticism, etc.

    Here’s what I’d really like though, and wonder why I can’t get it: the way you paint me is a way I have always denied. I can easily document otherwise than your portrayal. But you continue to use rhetoric about how I want everyone to speak like me, or that I want to elevate philosophy in inappropriate ways. You refuse to stop, so I take a page out of Zrim’s playbook and use similar rhetoric with him, hoping he’d get the point. He hasn’t.

    Really, I have no idea your beef. From where I’m standing here’s the problem:

    You have made several overreaching statements that seem to undercut the tole of apologetics and philosophy.

    I step in and raise my hand and ask if you really meant to go that far.

    You confirm this.

    What am I to do?

    Seems to me that since you admit you have no problem with apologetics and philosophy and a Christian approach to those things, there’s nothing for you and I to disagree with. Yet we do. You claim it’s because I want to give those things a privileged place. Not only do I say, “quote me,” I say, “Look, I’m willing to be the bigger man and say that even if you think I have done that, I renounce it, and don’t agree with the caricature of myself.”

    So at this point, what’s there to disagree about? From my angle I think I’m fighting for a crumb, from your it seems you think I want the whole pie. That’s not true.

  145. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, your statement about the skills of untrained and untutored elders is interesting. Sounds good in the abstract. Seems to think we’re still in the age of the apostles and the work of the Spirit that was going on then (like how baptists and charismatics reason), but let’s put that aside.

    Here’s my post that asks questions:

    Now, get an untutored, untrained, unread-on-these-matters elder to write up answers to all of these questions. Surely since he’s so largely spiritually endowed, and since you don’t lack confidence in the office of elder t be able to provide answers to questions like this, this shouldn’t be a problem.

    If this doesn’t work, get your favorite uneducated and untutored and unread-on-relevant-matters elder to sit down with me and I’ll ask him various questions from universalists, Arminians, and atheists and so how he answers them.

    I know this ruffles, but the problem with your claims is that they’re empirically disprovable. This isn’t meant to be mean, it’s just to put a perspective on things. You talk a good game, can you back it up with empirical support? Or will you say, “Facts be hung, I have my theory?” Sounds QIRCy to me, but that’s because I’m a worm.

  146. todd says:


    I think I’m with you on this, maybe because I am not a presuppositonalist and highly value reasoned answers to the faith, and Zrim knows I think he tends to go too far on the the idea of the means of grace, but don’t get us started on weekly communion. While I don’t think that many people reject the gospel for such philosophical or scientific reasons, I think the church at large should have specialists in apologetics who can answer those who do. I know as a pastor I can handle most typical objections, but when a person starts talking quantum physics, modern philosophy, etc… I know I am out of my league and could use the help.

  147. Zrim says:

    Seems to me that since you admit you have no problem with apologetics and philosophy and a Christian approach to those things, there’s nothing for you and I to disagree with. Yet we do. You claim it’s because I want to give those things a privileged place. Not only do I say, “quote me,” I say, “Look, I’m willing to be the bigger man and say that even if you think I have done that, I renounce it, and don’t agree with the caricature of myself.”

    Paul, it’s the same for me. You want to claim that I want to delete apologetics. Where have I said that? I keep saying there’s a place for apologetics. The only point I want to make is that Word and sacrament are prior to apologetics. So if you think that I have said “cursed be apologetics” then I also renounce that and don’t agree with your caricature of my words.

    Honestly, I think that when you hear me wanting to prioritize Word and sacrament you hear me denouncing apologetics. Perhaps an analogy: it’s like when I say only (qualified) men are authorized to lead in the church and someone thinks I’m demeaning women or saying there is no place for women. The point is one about proper order. To say this is primary and that is secondary is not to demean what is secondary, it’s simply to put things into proper perspective. I get that philosophy and apologetics are your thing, but I can’t help but wonder if your pushback on the point about priority has something to do with an unchecked assumption that Word and sacrament are co-equals with apologetics?

  148. David R. says:

    Michael Mann said yesterday at 7:49 PM: “I’m personally trying to work through the issue of VanTil & 2k. I know he is sharply critical of traditional apologetics, and the traditional method includes the idea of natural reason, which has a prominent place in the 2k common kingdom.”

    In broad brushstrokes, the issue here is that two features of the present age are (1) the antithesis and (2) common grace. Van Til’s apologetic highlights the former since its focus is engaging unbelieving thought. But the doctrine of 2K highlights the workings of the latter. So while it’s true that unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness (the target of Van Tillian apologetics); it is also true that they can manage quite well in preserving and even advancing civil society (which point is made by 2K). So Van Til’s apologetic and 2K are entirely compatible (though Van Til himself said some very un-2K things). I think VanDrunen discusses this somewhere but I don’t recall exactly where. Hope this all isn’t too elementary.

  149. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, let’s run through this again:

    First, let’s remember that Rube has on two occasions said you’ve gone too far, so it’s not like I’m getting this from nowhere.

    Second, when you and Hart say that an apologetics class or two along with catechism “denies perseverance of the saints,” it sure look like deleting.

    You’ve never once defended apologetics or philosophy or Christian approaches to epistemology etc., but have always critiqued those things (even if you didn’t call for deletion). You’re imbalanced. I have not only defend and promoted apologetics and philosophy but, while to a lesser extent, confessionalism, catechesis, and natural law.

    Fourth, I told you that I tried to play a Zrim. After repeated claims without citation that I want apologetics 24/7, and to create clones of me, despite my repeated protests to the contrary, I just played the Zrim card. I started acting and arguing like you so you could see the folly of it.

    So, I have never took issue with a claim of yours to “prioritize” word and sacrament—though that’s vague and can be subjected to qualification. I have taken issue with some of your overreaching rhetoric that *seems to* want to delete apologetics &c. You can’t say you don’t say things that at least give that impression, since your friend Rube has had to at least twice say he disagrees with you and has taken you to be saying that. He’s not a hostile adversary seeking to misrepresent or belittle or otherwise diminish word and sacrament. So how do you explain the friendly fire?

    Lastly, to make it clear: I have no “push back” with your claims of “priority.” What I do is “push back” against your caricature of me that I want apologetics 24/7 and also your statements that lean towards deletion. So, yeah, I focus on the things you say I do because as you say “that’s my thing.” Believe it or not, I do get emails from many people, even elders, about how to respond to this or that objection. So I have to “stay up” on that kind of stuff. I think my focusing on that seems to you like I want everyone to focus like that, or that I want to prioritize my interests. But that would be a faulty inference. Moreover, it may seem that way to you because I have pushbacked hard when you, and you can’t deny this, and Darryl have flat out denied that there is a Christian worldview (I think after multiple debates with me you’re starting to back off this). Recall the long debate there about whether the Bible says anything to epistemology? I said it did, you guys disagreed and debated with me ad nauseum. So, there’s been cause for pushback, for I know the apologetic dangers of claims like that. They are false and you don’t need them to get your 2K through. Sometimes I think you’ve taken this hardline and extreme approach because you’ve overreacted to the Kuyperians, neo-cals and theonomists. You haven’t needed to do this, but that is a common occurrence throughout history: people overreact the other way to positions they disagree with.

    Anyway, that’s my spin. 🙂

  150. Paul M. says:

    Todd, I am a presuppositionalist who is also for weekly supper 🙂

  151. "Michael Mann" says:

    David, thanks for the input.
    What do you make of Van Till criticizing Warfield’s position that “natural man…can give an essentially correct interpretation at least of natural revelation.” (from A Christian Theory of Knowledge). That isn’t an isolated comment or out of line with the rest of CVT’s work..

  152. Paul M. says:

    Sorry to butt in. Michael, is that a “direct quote?” I’d say the statement is ambiguous. Does he mean *some aspects* of natural revelation? Or does he mean a *systematic account* of natural revelation? Van Til appears to have denied the former; if the latter, he’s right but I’m not sure Warfield would disagree. The older Reformed view (orthodox, scholastic) was that a *systematic* natural theology could only be accomplished by the regenerate, though the pagan could get some aspects of it right. But there’s also the ambiguity of ‘natural revelation’ and what an interpretation of it counts as. The ambiguity here is as Michael Sudduth points out, between natural theology alpha and natural theology beta. As far as the Reformed objection to natural theology, including many of Van Til’s criticisms, *the* book to get on the matter is Sudduth’s The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology,

  153. "Michael Mann" says:

    Last things first: pay $89.95 for a book? Can I borrow your copy?

    Yes, Paul, a direct quote; that explains the quotation marks (sorry, I’m Irish so I like to fight when I drink beer). Its on p.251 of the P&R 1969 printing from the chapter “NaturalTheology and Sripture: Kuyper and Warfield on Apologetics.”

    You can probably guess how VanTil proceeds from that point: in taking that position, Warfield has allowed for the autonomy of human thought, has neglected the self-attesting nature of God, has abandoned the idea that God has clearly revealed himself, etc. If you know VanTil, you pretty much know the script.

    I don’t have CVT’s work on common grace – that might shed some light.

  154. John Yeazel says:


    I did not think I was being that hostile. I also stated that I read Kane’s book too. I’m all for thinking hard and clearly. That is how we learn from both special and general revelation. I am much more opposed to how charismatics and gnostics obtain and glean their knowledge than how you go about it. I just have trouble comprehending a lot of philosophical thought and find my time spent more productively on topics and issues that bring me more clarity than confusion. I also have met with your condescension and impatience with some questions I have had. I am not really that angry about it I just avoid any interaction with you, which you do with me too. I sometimes enjoy reading your book reviews and blog comments too. Peace out!!

  155. Paul M. says:

    Last things: a TEDS PhD student has my copy, otherwise I would.

    Sorry, Michael, for the vagueness, I meant a direct quote from Warfield.

    As far as for what you say how he progresses, I’m not seeing how that addresses the ambiguities I mentioned.

  156. Paul M. says:

    Nuh-uh, John, I broke up with you first!

  157. Zrim says:

    Paul, I’m pretty sure I never said “apologetics denies the preservation of the saints.” And as far as Christian worldview, it’s not quite as simple as saying I categorically deny it. If you recall, what I have said is that if by Christian worldview one means that any particular ideology (or worldview or politics, etc.) is implied by Christianity then it is false, or that while there are Christians with different ideologies there is no Christian ideology, or that while it has one resident within it Christianity is not a way of life.

    Why do I need to defend apologetics/philosophy? Is that some sort of requirement everybody has on him that he must fulfill some sort of quota to someone’s satisfaction? What does Rube’s disagreement have to do with anything? Contrary to what you might think, not all 2kers are carbon copies of each other. How do I explain the friendly fire? He disagrees. Is it really more complicated than that? Some other 2kers want to discipline someone for his political views on abortion. I disagree because I don’t think that’s very consistent 2k.

    But I’m glad to hear you have no pushback on my point about the priority of Word and sacrament to apologetics. Some have expressed that it would be nice if we could smooth this over. In the past I have tried to do this by way of suggesting that within the Reformed family, in addition to Reformed doctrinalists and pietists and culturalists, there are also Reformed confessionalists and Reformed logicians. My guess is that you don’t like this very much, but I do think it’s a helpful way of explaining what can account for different ways of seeing how the Reformed faith should generally be embodied, as well as saying there is plenty of room for us all. And if this works, each camp can champion their notion of how the Reformed faith should be embodied.

  158. David R. says:

    Michael, I’m away from home and don’t have the right books with me and google wasn’t much help. And I’m not really familiar enough with Warfield’s position on the natural man’s ability to interpret GR, or with Van Til’s criticism of him on that point, to have any great insights. I did, however, locate VanDrunen’s discussion that I had mentioned, asserting the compatibility of Van Til and 2K. It’s in this essay:

    He says for example: “I have stated publicly numerous times and have put into print at least once that I hold to a Van Tillian, presuppositional view of apologetics…. I am not a professor of apologetics, but if anyone has evidence that I have ever published or taught in the church or classroom a different apologetical position, then he should present it to me for my reconsideration. But, I will say again that I do not teach courses in apologetics, and A Biblical Case for Natural Law is not a book on apologetics…. Apologetics is important, but it is not everything. Van Til was an apologist and he wrote books on apologetics. Van Til was not a social theorist and he made only occasional and usually passing comments on broader issues of the Christian’s responsibilities in daily cultural affairs. Van Til’s task in, say, The Defense of the Faith and my task in A Biblical Case for Natural Law are two very different things. I see no reason why one cannot be Van Tillian in apologetics and think that natural law should have an important role to play in the Christian’s daily cultural work. Van Til emphasized that we should never view nature as an autonomous or neutral realm; the Reformed natural law tradition, which always affirmed that the natural law is God’s law, did not view nature as autonomous or neutral. But if one tries to apply Van Til’s apologetical method to every aspect of the Christian’s daily cultural work, there is trouble brewing, I fear, and I do oppose that sort of move (a move that Van Til himself made on occasion)….

    “Van Til’s apologetics involves exposing the rotten foundations of non-Christian thought, showing how unbelievers must borrow truths that Christianity teaches in order to make whatever sense of the world that they have, driving those who reject the triune God to greater epistemological self-consciousness of what they are doing. This is a necessary endeavor for Christians in the world, especially for those like Van Til who are called to be professors of apologetics. But apologetic confrontation with unbelieving thought is not the only kind of interaction that Christians have with unbelievers. Christians are called not only to break down every pretension that sets itself up against Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) but also to live lives in common with unbelievers in a range of cultural activities. Christians may and even should make music, build bridges, do medical research, and play baseball with unbelievers. Believers are called to live in peace with all men as far as it lies with them (Rom. 12:18), to pray for the peace of the (mostly pagan) city in which they live (Jer. 29:7; 1 Tim. 2:1-2), and to interact in the world with people whom they would not admit to membership in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11). There is a place for a believing musician to explain to an unbelieving musician that music is meaningless unless the triune God exists, but when they are rehearsing together in the community orchestra such a Van Tillian apologetic confrontation would be highly inappropriate—the task at that time is cooperation at a common cultural task. The same thing is true in regard to working on a construction site with non-Christians or grilling burgers with an unbelieving friend at a neighborhood cook-out or thousands of other ordinary endeavors. To try to put it briefly, we have different sorts of encounters with unbelievers at different times. Sometimes we have opportunity to engage in apologetic discussions, in which our modus operandi is confrontation and exposure of the futility of unbelief (though always in love). Other times (and probably most of the time for the ordinary Christian who is not a professional apologist) we have common tasks in which to engage alongside unbelievers, in which our modus operandi is trying to find agreement and consensus so that shared cultural tasks can be accomplished as well as possible in a sinful world.”

  159. "Michael Mann" says:

    Is it a little ironic that the title above this brawl is “Guess the Good Guy?”

  160. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, I just can’t re-read that chapter right now. Otherwise I’d be glad to attack your ambiguities.

  161. "Michael Mann" says:

    Thanks, David. Good stuff to ponder.

  162. Paul M. says:


    1. I said Hart said the perseverance thing and you patted him on the back and jumped on me too. Sometimes silence means consent.

    2. You’re misunderstanding me, I was listing evidence for why one might read you as wanting to delete apologetics. When it’s all critical and never positive, one wonders. There’s also no demand that you be 100% critical and never positive, so since you have liberty here, what you do with your time comes into account. Lastly, the Rube point was not to point out that he disagreed with you, but to point out that he *read you* as wanting to delete apologetics. All of this was part of my “case” you asked me to substantiate. When people ask to to back up charges, I do so, unlike some 2Kers I know. Ahem.

    3. I don’t really care about your taxonomy, doesn’t bother me, doesn’t give me holy goosebumps either. What I don’t like is all of your constant pushback on every statement I’ve ever made about apologetics, philosophy, and worldview. You cannot cite me as being the monster you want me to be, and given your claim now that you pretty much agree with my stance on the role and task of apologetics and philosophy, one wonders why you have always been so critical. Here’s the problem: You overstate things, overreact to the monsters you find in the Reformed world, like Theonomists and Worldviewists. I come in and raise my had, saying “Zrim, you sure you want to go that far.” I don’t know if it’s pride or what, but you’ve never said, “Yeah, you’re right, it was just some fun online rhetoric, so don’t read that much into it.” No, you’ve critiqued every defense I’ve ever made for apologists and philosophers getting their crumbs at the Reformed table, and every argument I’ve made to the effect that sometimes theologians overstep their bounds and speak authoritatively about that they really don’t know much about. I’ve tried to point out commonsense notions that just because you’ve graduated WSCAL or are an elder doesn’t mean you don’t sound like a moron when you start waxing philosophical about, say, Christianity not being a worldview or not saying anything about epistemology or claiming that sums change depending on what base you add in.

  163. Paul M. says:

    Hmmmm, I would have thought it clear that I pointed out ambiguities, so it’s odd you’d want to “attack” them. I don’t even know what that means, anyway. Did you say it was a philosophy degree you had, or psychology? How’s that fighting spirit? Or, did you run out of beer? Oh, and I thought Irish drank whisky? How many Irishmen does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Four: one to hold the bulb, three to drink until the room starts spinning.

  164. Anonymous says:

    Huh, say what? You talken to me?

  165. Anonymous says:

    That was me!

  166. John Yeazel says:

    Huh, say what? You talken to me too!!

  167. RubeRad says:

    Just to let y’all know, even though this is “my” post, I checked out a long time ago. I try to stick by a rule (of thumb, at least) of not participating in comment threads that go past 100.

  168. Zrim says:

    So, Paul, your basic gripe is that when I try to tamp down the import of apologetics and philosophy I can overdo it? Fair enough. Mea culpa. But I do think that part of the interpretation may also owe to the perceiver overdoing philosophy in the first place. Is it at all possible that’s the case on your part?

    I also can’t help but see a parallel here when I try to tamp down the relative importance of politics. Often times the interpretation seems to be it’s a function of political apathy. Maybe, but the fact that I participate politically or have political views seems to suggest apathy isn’t exactly right. (Heck, I just signed a petition last night for what I thought was a sensible localist effort.) What I am inclined to think is that the accusers have a larger sense of the importance of these things, and seem prone to the “If you don’t care the way I care then you don’t care” syndrome. Philosophy and politics are great, Paul, and they have their place to be sure. But I think it’s possible to over-realize these things and one sign that that might be happening is when someone raises his hand and suggests everyone is getting a little too wrapped up in them and missing forests for trees and he gets blasted for being a radical anti-intellectual quietist hate monger. Oh my.

  169. jedpaschall says:


    I responded over at my blog.

  170. Paul M. says:

    “Is it at all possible that’s the case on your part?”

    As a philosopher who makes use of thought experiments appealing to Zombies, weird possible worlds, evil demons, brains in vats, etc, the correct answer is, “Of course, almost anything is possible!” 🙂

  171. "Michael Mann" says:

    I think there may be a conversation worthy of having, but we’re so deep into comments I don’t know if this is the place.
    Some readers of this blog and Old Life may be concluding that there is a tension between philosophy and 2k. I understand why that conclusion might be reached. It might be partly based on Zrim and Darryl Hart not being philosophers. That might seem like stating the obvious, but let me phrase it another way: it is not their particular concern, and, I would say that it doesn’t have to be. Darryl is a historian, and perhaps Zrim could be called a generalist. That’s is only a problem if philosophy is a mandatory core perspective. But, for all my fondness of philosophy I would assert it most definitely is not. Consider three areas of study: philosophy, theology, and church history. In terms of importance, I would rank philosophy third in that trio.
    The apparent tension may also be based on what I will call worldviewism, which is not the same as the bare recognition that there are worldviews. Worldviewism sets itself up as the ultimate perspective, and can even take over pulpits. It starts with branches growing out of certain basic premises taken to be biblical, then smaller branches grow off those branches, and still smaller branches grow out of those until it’s the tree that took over the forest. This can lead to the very smallest branches being treated as indubitably Christian positions because, it is thought, they grew from Christian premises so they must be true. So anyone who doesn’t accept all the outer extensions of the alleged worldview must be sub-Christian in his worldview. Thus worldviewism strives to bind Christians to extra-biblical thought life just as surely as fundamentalism does (did?) on cards and dancing, but it does so under the seemingly more lofty end of having our minds transformed in all things as we take all things for Christ.
    So I think there is an appearance of tension, but I’m not convinced that’s the reality.

  172. Zrim says:

    Michael, I aspire to being called a generalist, so good on ya. And double blessings for your ranking of philosophy. May your fondness of it only grow within its proper limits.

  173. Paul M. says:


    It might be partly based on Zrim and Darryl Hart not being philosophers. That might seem like stating the obvious, but let me phrase it another way: it is not their particular concern, and, I would say that it doesn’t have to be. Darryl is a historian, and perhaps Zrim could be called a generalist. That’s is only a problem if philosophy is a mandatory core perspective. But, for all my fondness of philosophy I would assert it most definitely is not.

    Then what accounts for the cut-downs, putdowns, and ignorant butting into? Like when Hart tries to undercut a philosophical point being made by claiming that 2+2 has a different sum depending on what base you add in. So, I agree with what you’ve said above, and am all for letting Hart speak authoritatively on matters of his field. I actually promote that, and can easily bow to his superior knowledge on the descriptive events of what happened in history. My problem is that bith he and Zrim make philosophical statements while not only taking shots at philosophy, but being totally ignorant of the field their pontificating about. So when Hart or Zrim say, “The Bible says nothing to epistemology,” they sound obscurantist; and not because they don’t know the Bible, but that they don’t know enough about epistemology and its questions and concerns.

    I also agree with your and their critique of “worldviewism,” and I myself, as Zrim should know, have joined this critique, and invoked my own categories: worldview minimalism and worldview maximalism—finding some eeeeeeevangelicals in the former and some neo-Confessionalists in the latter group.

    In terms of your ranking, the problem is not so much with the ranking which can, I suspect, be given interpretations that make it come out correct (which it needs, since the statement, as stands, is vague), but with the fact that so much of Church history is embedded within various philosophies and express philosophical positions. Same with various theological issues. Think of debates about God’s timelessness or not, foreknowledge-in-relation-to-responsibility, the meaning of religious language, explications of the doctrines of the trinity and incarnation, not to mention the analysis of certain terms we apply to God, viz., good, wise, loving, beautiful, etc. The Bible doesn’t explain these terms in any kind of philosophically precise or rigorous way, and the way one understands them affects theological systems. For example, some say that the concept of God’s goodness rules out Calvinist exegesis when we exegete according to the analogy of faith.

    So, given a rough and ready understanding of your claim about important, I’d rank philosophy as second, since it’s been called handmaiden. Actually, HT is rather new, much newer than philosophy. Calvin, Vermigli, Turretin, et al. recognized the value and importance and vitality of philosophy to theological inquiry, but none of them mentioned HT. No doubt, they did appeal to what certain fathers had said, but this isn’t the discipline we know today as HT.

    Actually, I like the model of analytic theology as presented by Crisp, Helm, etc. It looks to be an ideal (as it can get) melding of the disciplines of theology, philosophy, and HT. In fact, it’s a *way* of doing theology, as Paul Helm nicely puts it:

    “[Analytic theology] is the practice of theology using the rigorous standards of current analytic philosophy. (See Analytic Theology, New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, edd. Oliver D Crisp and Micheal Rea, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009). Analytic theology is thus not a type of theology, as is Process or Openness theology, but a way of doing theology which relies upon the making of careful distinctions, the use of definitions, the awareness of logical possibilities which may or may not have been actively canvassed in the past, the use of argument and inference, a sensitivity to the presence of self-contradiction, an interest in metaphysical modality, and so on. With such an outlook, analytic theology has strong ties of method and temper to the scholastic methods of doing theology of the medieval period, and of Reformed Orthodoxy, and even (though Crisp does not make the connection), with rationalist philosophers such as Leibniz.

    This is not to say that the method of analytic theology is rationalist. Far from it. For as Crisp and Michael Rea construe it, such theology (as Christian analytic theology) operates within self-consciously held limits: the limits of the Scriptural testimony, the ecumenical creeds, and the confessional traditions, both the documents themselves and the theologians who endorse them, of the more fragmented church. All of these, except Scripture of course, is defeasible, but to each is attached a descending order of value and importance: first Scripture, then the creeds, then the confessions, then the individual theologians, doctors of the church. This is Christian analytic theology; but there could in principle be, as Oliver notes, Mormon, or Muslim or Manichean analytic theology.

    So the orientation is firmly in the faith seeking understanding tradition which pretty well originated with Augustine. But though traditional, the outlook is not stagnant, content with merely i-dotting and t-crossing a rigid traditionalism.”

    That’s kinda where I’m at 🙂

  174. Paul M. says:

    Sorry, when I said “Neo-confessionalists in the latter,” I meant *former*, and a similar switch with eeeevangelicals.

    Also, my first paragraph may have come across as more aggressive. I basically meant: if what you say is true, good, but let’s see an admission of ignorance and an end to the uninformed comments. Likewise for me, I do not assume to wax informed about matters of 19th century American religion. So I stay out of it. Part of the problem, though, with HT guys, is that some can’t avoid reaching *normative* conclusions, even though their discipline and speciality is in the realm of the *descriptive*. I understand this, the descriptive is usually pretty boring, everyone wants to *evaluate* and render *judgments*, but when you do this, you’ve left HT. Richard Muller understands this, why don’t his lessers?

  175. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, FYI, my daytime contributions are necessarily brief.
    I would like to check out analytic theology.
    I just plucked out three disciplines to make a point. To clarify, my ranking is influenced by an attempt to account for the abilities, schedule, and ecclesio-centric needs of Joe Pewsitter, an intelligent but not necessarily academic lay leader. In that context, the accessibility, usefulness, and rewards of theology and church history exceed those of philosophy.

  176. Paul M. says:

    Michael, maybe. But, his studies of theology and HT are going to be studies of philosophy too, he can’t escape it. So now the question is, since he must read and do and think philosophically, will he do it well or not?

  177. Zrim says:

    I have no interest in continuing the kerfuffle, but, uh, “ignorant butting into”? I think you’re a little high strung, friend.

  178. Paul M. says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I actually don’t think Joe Pewsitter should read, say, Routledge’s Contemporary Introduction to Epistemology over, say, the Bible, a systematic theology (even something light, like Berkhof’s Manual of Christian Doctrine, a commentary on a confession or catechism, or a piece of HT like, say, Nichols’ For Us and Our Salvation.

  179. Paul M. says:

    Got a better term for admitted philosophical know-nothings who make negative or unflattering comments about the field? When one says, “sums differ depending on bases added in,” or “the Bible says nothing to or about or relevant for epistemology,” that sounds like an ignoramus butting into things. Seems like someone who thinks he knows something about everything; rather like the eeeeevangelical worldviewers and Kuperians who are said to believe “regeneration raises the I.Q. So, where was I off?

  180. "Michael Mann" says:

    Paul, lawyers might be familiar with the phrase “that’s the argument,” meaning that, if there is an argument, that’s the one, but it’s not a particularly overwhelming argument. I can go to a lot of different reformed churches and hear preaching that sounds a lot like the preaching in my home church. Yet, I don’t think all the preachers have studied philosophy much. How would you explain that?

  181. Zrim says:

    Paul, I don’t know how it’s “ignorant butting in” when it’s typically the aggressive philosopher who descends out of no where on an otherwise sanguine conversation, where nobody is trying to filter anything though the philosophical nets in the first place, to deliver his El Kabong. But if philosophy is to the intellect what body building is to the body then calling someone an anti-intellectual ignoramus for questioning how there can be a redemptive version of creational tasks is like calling someone an anti-health dweeb just because he’s not so sure that physical health must include Lou Ferrigno regimens. We get it. You gots big guns. So what? Does it really bother you that much when someone just isn’t that impressed and thinks he can have perfectly good health without also having bulgy guns?

  182. John Yeazel says:

    Careful Zrim- you might be committing the Lou Ferrigno fallacy; it’s similar to the emphasis fallacy.

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