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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Calvinist blogger attempts to refute my extensive Logizomai (Imputation) Article

A Calvinist blogger named Joey has written a multi-part series aimed at refuting my hard-hitting article refuting the Protestant doctrine of Imputation. I have interacted with Joey many times over the years, so I know his style and approach to things. I consider him to be a pretty intelligent guy, but I think most of what he has written is trying to defend the indefensible in trying to defend erroneous doctrines like Imputation. 

So I wont end up having to write multiple posts, and since I don't think he actually touches upon the important stuff of my article until later on in his series, I will try to deal with the main points of each of his (currently) 7 posts.

Part I 

Joey said: The theological term “Imputation” is a concept not a word. That has been stressed by the Reformed scholars. It may be conveyed in different verbs when discussing the concept. Prominently, logizomai in several passages in the Scripture.

This is the heart of his objection to me. He claims that I'm confusing/conflating a theological concept with a Greek word (logizomai). I agree that Imputation is a concept, but what Joey does not understand (throughout our interactions and his series) is that logizomai plays a linchpin role in defining the Theological Concept of Imputation. I gave many quotes of Reformed scholars showing a crucial connection between Paul's use of Logizomai and the Reformers understanding of imputation. For example, Reformed scholar T.F. Torrance spoke of "the Pauline 'reckon' (logizesthe) or the Reformers 'impute'" (source), clearly equating the two on some important level. What Joey either does not understand or is hiding is that if the Reformed use of logizomai fails, then the Reformed don't really have any back-up word or verse that can make up the difference.

Joey said: No one has asserted that the word “logizomai” means “to transfer”. However, the theological concept of Imputation implies the metaphorical transfer...

To say nobody has asserted logizomai means transfer is quite astonishing. I quote so many Reformed sources that say this. One of Joey's favorite Reformed scholars, Thomas Schreiner, said this: "This polarity between believing and working casts light on the meaning of the verb [logizesthai], which plays a major role in this chapter. The conception is that something is reckoned to a person that is not inherent to him or her. God’s righteousness is not native to human beings; it is an alien righteousness granted to us by God’s grace." Popular Reformed teacher, theologian, and author, John MacArthur said: "the Greek word [logizomai] means to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account." As far as I can tell, Joey is just messing around in semantics, as he even admits the Theological Concept of Imputation involves transfer, and it's plain that logizomai is the key term used in defining the Theological Concept, then logizomai naturally will be connected. 

Part II

Joey said: Though the prominent verb is logizomai, the concept itself is seen in different situations using different verbs and illustrations. When we speak of Imputation as a theological concept we are not constrained to the range of meaning of the word logizomai as there are other pictures using different verbs to convey the concept.

Again, logizomai is not just the "prominent verb," it is a super crucial verb. It's the verb Paul chose to use in the central text on imputation, Romans chapter 4. Joey's claim that other pictures and other words are also appealed to is very misleading, as there are no other words or pictures that Reformed authors really appeal to aside from Romans 4, 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc. Joey is trying to give off the impression that Reformed scholarship has a very Biblically-backed definition of Imputation without having to rely on verses that use logizomai, but that's simply untrue. It doesn't matter what the Theological Concept of Imputation states if that theological concept cannot be backed up with Scripture. And to back it up with Scripture requires very heavy appeal to logizomai.

Part III

Joey said: How can God be just and yet He “declares righteous the wicked” (Rom 4:5)? The biblical narrative has been clearly laid out. ... As can be observed in the points above, the “righteousness” that “justifies the wicked” (Rom 4:5) is a perfect righteousness able to meet the demand of the Law. It is a righteousness that is “not our own” because we could not keep the Law. ... As can be seen by readers, the theological concept has been explained. I intentionally explained it without even touching the verbs like “logizomai”.

The problem here is that Joey is assuming what he's trying to prove. In other words, he's attempting to say logizomai must mean X because he has already set up a theology that would demand logizomai mean X. Joey's entire theology rests on an extremely biased interpretation of Romans 4:5, which ironically uses the term logizomai, and which I wrote another article exposing. Joey and Protestants think that the only way God can "justify the wicked," which they define as "declaring as righteous the unrighteous," is for God to transfer someone else's righteousness to them so that God can have a just basis to make that declaration. As a result, they (logically) reason that since Paul uses logizomai here, that logizomai must involve transferring something (righteousness) to someone who does not actually possess it. But, as I just said, this is defining logizomai based on prior theological assumptions.

Part IV

Joey said: I will begin by providing the background of Romans 4.

This is all just a continuation of begging the question by assuming Reformed theology is true and then forcing logizomai to mean X. Romans 4 uses logizomai 11 times, meaning one must have an understanding of logizomai prior to exegeting Romans 4. Since Part I, Joey has still failed to look at how the Bible uses the term logizomai. If Joey cannot show that logizomai means X by appealing to a clear verse where it must mean X, then I deny Joey and Protestants can end up concluding that logizomai means X when approaching Romans 4. Joey has it backwards, he is starting with Romans 4, when Romans 4 is what is under dispute! The only alternative is for Joey to concede that logizomai never means X except in Romans 4, at which point I'd be happy to take the concession and then face off in Romans 4 itself.

Part V 

Joey said: Exegesis of Romans 4:1-5 and Imputation

Same story as above. All the "data" Joey mentions can be accounted for by the Catholic side, except even more so by the Catholic side, since Reformed theology doesn't know what to do with the rest of the chapter (you'll rarely see Protestants comment on Romans 4:9-25). The fundamental problem with Reformed theology is that it is so laced with unconscious theological assumptions that they don't realize how much man-made ideas they project onto the text.

Joey said: The preposition eis translated as “as” in many English translations does not denote equivalence. It is not saying that “faith” is equivalent to “righteousness”. Rather, the more appropriate translation is: faith “for or unto” righteousness. Faith lays hold or leads toward a righteous standing and does not necessarily connote that faith is righteousness by itself.

This argument doesn't really amount to anything significant since any of these terms (as, for, unto) can denote some kind of equating or equivalence. For example, in Romans 9:8 it says children of the promise are "reckoned as/eis" seed of Abraham. It doesn't greatly change the meaning if the word "for" or "unto" were used. In fact, this "reckoned as/eis" is used in Psalm 106:31, which Joey comments on in this same post, which clearly is saying Phinehas' zeal was reckoned as/for/unto righteousness in that the zeal held the quality of or led-to righteousness. The terminology of "faith lays hold" is a Protestant invention, since faith is never said to act like a arm or hand.

Joey said: Paul calls Abraham as his grand example of a person who is wicked thus destitute of the standard of righteousness but merely trusts/rely on the God who justifies the wicked and receives the declaration of being righteous.

There is a lot of "baggage" that Joey brings to this text (Rom 4:5). The focus of Paul is on those who have faith "apart from works the [Mosaic] Law," such as circumcision (3:28, 4:6b, 4:10). This reading is the only way Romans 4:13-15 makes any sense. In Joey's mind, Abraham being "wicked" must mean that (a) his faith cannot have anything righteous about it, and (b) that God must impute/project/give an alien righteousness instead so that God can "declare" Abraham righteous. Both of these are man-made assumptions projected onto the text. Abraham's faith was robust and God-pleasing, and this is seen plainly in Romans 4:18-22, if Joey would but exegete it. And there is nothing in this text that suggest God had to find/supply a perfect righteousness to count in place of Abraham's unrighteousness.

Part VI

Joey said: The verb logizomai appears 42 times in the New Testament. ... The semantic range is wide from mere thinking, reminding, judging, keeping a mental record/list to crediting to one’s account. The act itself is a mental exercise. It always involves value judgments/opinions towards the contextual realities of the object.

Joey finally begins to address logizomai, but as you'll see he does so in a very biased manner, which leads to an incorrect understanding of the term, which is then used to misunderstand what Romans 4 is saying. The thing to keep front and center is that logizomai is about a mental evaluation, no transferring (e.g. of Christ's Righteosness) is included nor even implied.
Joey said: It should be noted that the falsity or validity of the judgement/opinion is dependent on the falsity or validity of the second factor, i.e. the falsity or validity of the basis of the opinion. That is why it should be highly emphasized that when analyzing the falsity or validity of the conclusion made, we get to know the context and reality of the reason (the why) of the conclusion. The context grounds the validity of the judgment/opinion.
Though this is correct, it provides no support whatsoever to the Reformed position. For example, if righteousness is reckoned to Abraham's faith, nothing about this definition Joey gave suggests or implies faith itself has no actual quality of righteousness about it. And when someone makes an incorrect mental evaluation about something, the Bible shows this person in error is plainly deceived or acting maliciously. So if God were to regard someone as righteous when in fact there is nothing righteous about them, which is basically how Joey reads "justifies the wicked," this would be an erroneous evaluation on God's part. The Reformed try to get around this by saying Christ's righteousness is transferred to the individual, so that God now sees that instead of the person's unrighteousness, but this is a man-made idea found nowhere in the text. This is especially clear when it comes to interpreting "faith is regarded as righteousness." This will come out clearly in the next quote.

Joey said [quoting verbatim from Reformed scholar O Palmer Robertson]: As Genesis 15:6 records the first occurrence in scripture of the word “believed,” so it also records the first occurrence of the term “reckoned” (חשב). Yet the construction of the phrase and the subsequent usage of the term within the Pentateuch justifies a rather specific understanding in the sense of “account to him a righteousness that does not inherently belong to him.” The phraseology may not in itself exclude absolutely the possibility that the faith of Abraham was considered as his righteousness. But the context strongly pushes in another direction.
Notice how quickly the actual definition of logizomai is swept aside. Now "faith regarded as righteousness" suddenly means "account to him a righteousness that does not inherently belong to him". This dogmatic assumption is the only thing holding Sola Fide in place. No reasoning is or has been given as to why there's no possible way that it could mean regarding as righteous something that actually is righteous. 

Joey said: These are not conclusions made out of the blue. In a cursory search of the exact Hebrew word form from Genesis 15:6, there were two occurrences that has that word form (one in Genesis and another outside of the Pentateuch):
1. Genesis 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.
2. 1 Samuel 1:13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.
In each of these occurrences (Genesis 38:15 and 1 Samuel 1:13), the acts of reckoning have basis grounded upon the contextual realities of the object as perceived by the beholder
.

Here Joey says this conclusion was not "out of the blue." But where is the context of Genesis 15 here? All we see is "a cursory search" of where the term reckon appears, which are really two carefully selected verses, and even these don't do what Joey thinks they do. From this biased sample, Joey is trying to convey to the unsuspecting reader that "reckoning" is typically about making an evaluation about someone contrary to reality. The lesson Joey should be taking away from these is that in each case these men reckoned contrary to reality because they were deceived and didn't know any better. Is this really what happened when God saw Abraham's faith? Was God reckoning it as righteousness even though Abraham's faith had nothing righteous about it?

Joey said: The second occurrence of the Hebrew word chasav does not have the exact same form as in Genesis 15:6. ...
1. Genesis 31:15 Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price.
2. Job 18:3 Why are we regarded as beasts, As stupid in your eyes?
3. Psalm 44:23 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
In each of these passages, we know that the beholders (i.e. the ones making the judgment) are performing the act of reckoning not based upon the inherent reality of the object but their contextual reality. In that, even if the conclusion does not correspond to the inherent quality it is still perceived as such by the beholder without making his conclusions unacceptable.


As with the above, these texts were carefully chosen, and the same conclusion as above can be made. In the Genesis 31:15 example, the daughters are sold, making them disinherited, and thus regarded as foreigners. (If one were to say they should be regarded as daughters, then this simply means the father failed his duty and thus erred in regarding them as foreigners.) In Job 18:3, Job's "friends" are upset at Job's refusal to accept their theory of why bad things are happening to Job. In this case Job is regarding them (metaphorically) as dumb as an ox. This is not to say they are literally oxen, that's the point, but they have the quality of stupidity, akin to what a brute animal has. Similarly, "faith regarded as righteousness" does not mean faith is literally a synonym for righteousness, but rather that faith has a righteous quality. In the Psalm 44:23 example, evil persecutors are regarding God's people as sheep to be slaughtered. It is wrong to regard God's people as a free pass to slay them.
So, clearly, these verses also don't help the Reformed view in any way.

Joey said: In Psalm 32:2 (Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit), the Hebrew word form utilized is the same as in Job 41:27, 41:24, Lev 17:4, 25:31, 2 Sam 19:20, Prov 17:28, Isa 29:16, 29:17, 32:15.  Out of the 17 occurrences of the word form, only  5 (Psalm 36:5, 40:17, Prov 16:9, Isa 10:7 and Dan 11:24) has the unique Hebrew meaning of “plan, plotting, devising or thinking”. All others points to the context where the object takes a “conclusion” based upon its contextual reality and not its inherent reality. The “conclusion” may not be in congruence or correspond to the inherent reality of the object but because of contextual realities about the object, the conclusion is understandable (not absurd) and justified in the eyes of the beholder.

Joey's case here is pretty weak, for these verses he is quoting do not support what he's trying to prove. In the case of Psalm 32:2, God does not reckon sin to David precisely because David's sins were forgiven (32:1). Does Joey really think the best reading of Psalm 32 is that God won't reckon sin to someone even though they're still guilty? In Joey's references to Joby 41, there are poetic-metaphorical references to "steel regarded as straw" and such, in which God's might bends steel analogous to the way a human bends a straw. The point isn't that steel is a synonym for straw or that anti-straw is considered as straw. Joey and Protestants must torture these passages in desperation to find an excuse to read Genesis 15:6 as God reckoning Abraham righteous even though there is nothing righteous about him. The Leviticus 17:4 text is about a man who unlawfully sheds blood shall have blood-guilt reckoned to him. How does this support Joey? I won't go over the rest of the verses because I've addressed a lot of this already. The trend is very clear: according to the Biblical testimony, the person using right judgment "reckons" something as either having a certain quality or as equivalent to something, where as the person who "reckons" contrary to the truth is deceived or has evil plans.

Joey said: In conclusion then, it is justified to say that the correct understanding of Genesis 15:6 in the sense of “account to him a righteousness that does not inherently belong to him” (as Robertson concluded) has strong contextual and linguistic basis. Having briefly explained the Greek and Hebrew semantic ranges and our conclusion regarding Genesis 15:6, we can now study how Paul utilized the word logizomai in Romans 4.  

This conclusion is ridiculous. Joey has established nothing whatsoever to warrant regarding Abraham as righteous even though there is nothing righteous about him. Where in the context of Genesis 15 does Joey even get this? Where in the Biblical usage of "reckon" does Joey get this? Where is Joey's look at the NT use of logizomai? The truth is, Joey has ignored all these factors. And that is very telling. I see no other conclusion than Joey and Protestantism are helplessly up a creek without a paddle on this matter.

Part VII

Joey said: Here in Isaiah 53:12, it was the suffering servant who “was numbered with the transgressors”. Per the context of this chapter, it was the Lord who laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa 53:6 cf. 53:10). This is the reason why the suffering servant “was numbered with the transgressors”.
Joey has badly misunderstood what "numbered with the transgressors" means. He thinks it means God the Father regarded Jesus as a transgressor even though Jesus was not. What the text is really saying, and what Mark 15:28 clearly shows, is that Jesus being "numbered among the transgressors" means Jesus was jailed, whipped, and crucified along with other criminals. The Jews reckoned Jesus as among the transgressors, and in doing so they sinned greatly. Even the plural form of "transgressors" brings this out, where as Joey would have to have this in singular, so that Jesus was reckoned as a (singular) transgressor. The same goes for Isaiah 53:3, where the Jews "reckoned" Jesus as of no significance. Again, they sinned in doing so. So Joey has only dug himself a bigger hole than before.

Joey said: In verse 4 and 5, the verb is used clearly in a commercial context where an employer pays an employee. An employee is credited a wage after fulfilling his obligation. ... an employee was credited a wage even though he did not fulfil his obligation.
This is a common misreading of verse 4 as well as a disastrous one. Joey says the "employee is credited a wage," giving the impression that "crediting" means 'to pay' or 'to give' or 'to transfer' the wage to the employee or his bank account. But that's not what the text says! The text says the wage itself is either regarded as a gift-wage or a debt-wage, depending on whether it was worked for. So the "reckoning" pertains to the type of wage, not to the giving of the wage to the employee. Thus, when a man works, the payment is regarded as a debt by the boss. This is "reckoning" the working-wage just as it's supposed to be regarded, as a debt-wage. Again, Joey has failed to properly and fairly analyze the evidence, and this in the ultra critical context of Romans 4:3-5.

Joey said: Paul also used this verb in Romans 9:8 where it says, “This means it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise are counted as descendants.” In this instance we see again the context where not all who are inherently Jewish are regarded as children of God. A different contextual basis is used in order to be called Israel (9:6). That means that even if you are a Gentile inherently you can have the status of being the Israel of God (9:24-25). This again shows that the verb can be viewed legitimately as an imputation of a status not inherently possessed by the subject.

Again Joey has botched his own alleged proof. Joey says Romans 9:8 proves "imputation of a status not inherently possessed," but that's a total distortion of the meaning of 9:8. The lesson of 9:8 is that God does not say you're a child of the promise based on biology but based on something else. Joey has this backwards, thinking that God bases on being Seed due to their biology, namely the Jews, but that God graciously "reckons" those of non-biological decent, the Gentiles, as also Seed. Wrong! Joey mistook being a biological Jew with being a "child of promise". The "children of the promise" are "reckoned" as Seed. One is a "child of promise" not based on race, but on faith.  So anyone who has faith is a child of promise, and as such are "reckoned" as Seed. 

Joey said: Logisetai occurs only in verse 8. The verb is neutral and can be taken in a positive or negative sense. In Romans 4 however, this is the only instance where it is taken in a negative sense. The object of crediting is sin rather than righteousness. The context is about a person who clearly sinned and should have been accounted as a sinner but instead the Lord did not account his sin and instead forgives him. In a way, such language of forgiveness is equivalent to being seen by the Lord as righteous even though in actual fact we have sinned against him.
Well, Joey is on a roll here, but he's on a self-refuting one. Again he botches the evidence and effectively refutes himself. Joey admits that the person to whom the Lord will not reckon sin is the one who is forgiven and seen as righteous. There is no reason to think or assume that someone has guilt before God and is also not reckoned a sinner. The whole point of the verse is that man is forgiven and thus sin is gone. Period. Now there's no sin there to reckon. This isn't rocket science.

Joey said: Logisthetai appears in verse 11. The context of which is that those who are uncircumcised are credited righteousness. Note that prior to Sinai, the practice of circumcision was already commanded by the Lord (Gen 17:10-14). Those who are uncircumcised is accounted as disobedient and such act of sin is worthy of being excluded of God’s gracious covenant (Gen 17:14). But, in this case we see that an uncircumcised person is credited righteousness. It is also the same context in which Paul expresses himself in Romans 2:26 in which an inherently uncircumcised person is credited the status of being circumcised.
I wonder if Joey realizes what he's saying. Of course the uncircumcised can have righteousness reckoned to them, that's precisely Paul's point with Abraham in Romans 4:11-12. This is why Paul speaks of the real basis by which God justifies, it is by "walking in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised." This is precisely what Paul was getting at in 2:26 when a Gentile (Christian) was uncircumcised outwardly yet kept the commandments, God saw this as equivalent to having the status of a faithful circumcised Jew. So God is not reckoning contrary to the facts, but rather reckoning precisely according to the truth. 

Joey says: The data showed that the word logizomai in Romans 4 is used in such a context where the act of imputation of a status is not inherently possessed by the subject. Once this is established, the repercussion is great. 

These are the concluding remarks of Joey's series aimed at refuting my essay. I believe I showed quite plainly how badly he botched his own case as well as the Biblical evidence. He ignored large amounts of data in an attempt to select biased evidence, but even in doing this I showed decisively how he botched even that.


To conclude, the real issue at stake here is, well, everything. If Joey or any other Reformed grants my arguments any truth, then it becomes a growing crack in the wall to their entire theology. That ultimately means they will have to resist granting any of my points any validity at all costs. An unfortunate ramification of that is that the Protestant must often go to absurd extremes to get around the plain evidence.

10 comments:

Restless Pilgrim said...

Hey Nick,

I've been enjoying these logizomai posts very much, thanks.

Do you have a article presenting the case for the Catholic explanation of salvation? I'd very much like to read it.

Sometimes I feel like we spend so much time arguing against Sola Fide that the Catholic understanding rarely gets heard.

Thanks,

David.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

Thanks for this article and especially for your original article on the subject.
I wish it had more public exposure, because it really is the best, most comprehensive study I've seen.

The reformed position runs into dead ends in every direction, especially in Joey's attempts to claim that Abraham is the prime example of the "ungodly" in the sense that he was a wicked man, even though Paul never reinforces the argument and in fact never brings up an example of where Abraham's actions could be seen as sinful Acts.

For as intelligent as many of the reformed are, their attempts at co-opting logizomai and the example of Abraham's faith in the context of Roman's 4 are to me incomprehensible.

I interacted with Joey briefly on your original article at Devin's blog. He is a respectful person and has an admirable zeal for his reformed theology, but I see a lot of problems with question begging, and unfortunately, even common sense.

I can see a sense in which Abraham could be included in the "ungodly" in the sense that he wasn't effectively a Jew so that he couldn't just be claimed exclusively by the Jews in the Roman Church. Is this how you would see it?

Nick said...

Thank you for your comments. I totally agree with your sentiment. I know that once Logizomai goes more mainstream, then it's game over for Protestantism. This is why the big name Protestant scholars and apologists wont touch this issue. They are completely on the retreat, running from Catholics holding nothing but the Bible. This is why I've repeatedly said Protestantism, the intellectual strands, is going to be gone in our lifetime. No honest person can look at these naked facts and remain Protestant.

In response to your question, I've become more and more convinced that "ungodly" means "Gentile" rather than "wicked" in general or even "never saved". You would actually enjoy an article I wrote showing how the context fully backs this up.

JoeyHenry said...

To both, an upcoming article will be posted on Romans 4:5 at Soli Deo Gloria. For a preview, however, both of you should look at the evidence on what asebe means. Paul used this term many times not just once so we know what he is talking about. In Romans 5:6 he used the term again equating it to hamartolon (sinners)... I've never seen the NT writers use the word such that it doesn't refer to falling short of the moral standard esp in Paul.

To nick, you claim bias to the word study. But such merely is an ad hominem. The study did not haphazardly chose verses but rather trace the exact Hebrew word form in Gen 15:16 in the Pentateuch and how that Hebrew word form function when used in the OT. Same for the Psalms that Paul quoted in Romans 4. So I'll encourage the readers to judge the articles I've written... The readers are intelligent enough to judge which of our article dealt with the evidences and follow where it leads.

I think the readers know who are just writing using triumphalistic statements such as "retreat, running from Catholics" rather than substance and exegesis.

Thanks,
Joey

John W said...

Joey,
You first need to provide some context as to why the Roman church would believe that Paul was trying to show that Abraham was a truly wicked man - truly hateful to God whose deeds were also hateful to God. We are not speaking of some kind of pseudo positional wickedness, but what the average God fearing person would know instinctively like a murderer, rapist, drunkard, thief, etc. with evil intentions.
Does Paul say anything prior to Rom. 4:5 about Abraham that would lead them to believe he was ungodly in the sense of a wicked sinful man? How about actual wicked references to Abraham after Rom. 4:5? Not a one!
Clearly, none of the well trained Jews are going to be persuaded by a word out of the blue if Paul hasn’t first made a case for the claim of asebe in the sense of true wickedness.
According to Word Studies, the etymology of the word asebes simply means lack of reverence or without due respect, i.e. failing to honor what is sacred – especially in the outward (ceremonial) sense.
To give it a stronger usage like real, concrete wickedness, you have to provide context to back it up, but Paul hasn’t provided one shred.
At this point I see no other way to see your interpretation other than you importing your theology apriori and then conflating another usage of asebe from Jude or Peter .
To me, it simply points to Abraham being a gentile as he was not under the law when he was justified by faith. This is explicit in the text. It’s the Jew vs. Gentile; God is the God of the Jews and also of the Gentiles. Paul’s mission to bring about the obedience of faith.
There are plenty of references in the bible to know what Jews thought of Gentiles. Even Jesus referred to the Canaanite woman as a dog. Peter's dream of unclean animals was a sign about the gentiles. Jews by birth contrasted with Gentile sinners from Gal 2:15.
Peter and Jude use the word to speak of truly evil people and their evil actions. Nothing that would remind us of Abraham.

I will be glad to read your work on asebes, but I don’t see how one word is going to make up for the lack of context.

JoeyHenry said...

John,

Other than Jude and Peter, though important factors in assessing the word usage, we have Paul himself using asebe and its cognate for example in Romans 1:18, Romans 5:6, and 1 Tim 1:9... this shows that the exegetical proof for this word to mean something else outside of it's semantic range remains wanting in the Pauline usage. Have you seen Paul use this word as a reference to gentiles other than 4:5? If no, then you have to ask yourself whether the accusation you throw at me for importing a priori theology is actually true of you instead.

Does Paul argue before that Abraham was ungodly before 4:5? Positive. One only need to look at Rom 3:9, 12, 23. Does not 4:1 point to the arguments laid out already in chap 3 where it is vitally important for Paul to point out that all continue to sin both Jew and Gentile and that only the finished work of Christ on the cross in behalf of the sinners can reverse the verdict already made? Isn't it true that Abraham is one of the ungodly in 5:6? Or one in which God's wrath was appeased through a work not done out of faithful obedience to the law by the sinner but by a sacrifice of another in behalf of the sinner as revealed in 1:18 and 3:22-23?

Follow the evidence John... God bless.

John W said...

Joey,

So are you of the opinion that Paul has the license to quote OT verses and re-apply them without regard to their context?
None of those references to the Psalms would apply to Abraham, but of truly, concretely evil men who are against David and the righteous of the OT.

Are you also of the opinion that the sopisticated, learned Jews in the Roman church are going to allow Paul to make a point which doesn't follow from the references and yet be convinced?

Nick said...

One of the main problems I have with Joey's Romans 4:5 argument is that he bets the whole farm on this one verse. There is no other verse that comes anywhere close to supposing God is declaring an unrighteous person to be righteous, so the Reformed tradition must put literally their entire stake on this one verse, to the point that it causes the rest of Scripture to become mangled in order to maintain that interpretation.

That's a dangerous hermeneutic. A robust and valid hermeneutic is one in which one's thesis can be derived from multiple passages and doesn't require such lop sidedness with the data. This is why I've been critical of the Reformed refusing to incorporate Romans 4:18-22, Galatians 3:5-9, and James 2:22-23 in their interpretation of Romans 4:3,5.

John W said...

Nick,
To take it one step further, it really comes down to a couple of words and phrases that the reformed build their whole doctrine around.

Words like logizomai and asebes and phrases like "works of law", "He became sin", "the righteousness of God", and concepts like "justification before men" are absolutely critical to the reformed paradigm. It would seem that they can't err on any of these or their tightly constructed arguments crumble, similar to an electron being removed from a molecule making it a completely different compound.

For example, Joey is ostensibly going to attempt to prove a narrow semantical use range for "asebes" as you rather conclusively did with logizomai.

The irony is, even if he could prove asebes in the same way that you have proved logizomai, would he not be forced to concede on logizomai to be logically consistent?

This would then force a conflict in Romans that couldnt be resolved.

If Abraham's faith was reckoned by God as having a righteous quality (conclusion of "logizomai") and at the same time he was qualitatively "ungodly" when he was reckoned as righteous (Joey's claim for "asebes"), we are at an impasse.

Nick said...

John W,

You are one of the few that really "gets" it. And once you see it, there's no going back. That's the central goal of all my apologetics.

The Reformed position is so unbiblical that most people don't realize that it all hangs on a thread. The impression that the Reformed gave off all these centuries is how robust and thoroughly Biblical their theology is. Once you realize the opposite is true, then your eyes are forever opened.

This is why Joey hangs everything on Romans 4:5. He's among the most educated Reformed I know, and so he knows what he's saying. The "electron" you mentioned is Romans 4:5 for the Reformed. Remove their narrow interpretation of that verse and everything crashes down immediately.

It's this growing realization that has caused me to be very vocal about the fact Protestantism will cease to exist in our lifetime.