A Good Illustration of My General Attitude

Lydia McGrew of “What’s Wrong With the World” just posted an excellent review and criticism of John H. Walton’s book “The Lost World of Genesis One”. I give it my highest recommendation. Go check it out.

Mr. Walton posted in the comments, and I responded. Instead of giving my commentary on it, I’ll just post the exchange. This is a good example of why I sometimes use the language I do, and it might give you all a better idea of where I’m coming from.

Mr. Walton:

1. When I find that I am having trouble understanding what someone is saying, especially when others have understood and found the work helpful, I am inclined to give him/her the benefit of the doubt and try harder to understand what he/she is saying rather than assuming he/she is incoherent.
2. When I feel that a fellow Christian is misguided I would consider it the most charitable and biblical option to talk to them privately and personally rather than to denounce them publicly.

Perhaps that is part of “what is wrong with the world?”

Me:

Mr. Walton,

You wrote a book, and she reviewed it, and it contained errors which she believed were potentially harmful to other Christians.

Also, seriously? Assuming you are incoherent? You have some nerve considering the in-depth treatment she gave to your work.

This is a childish response, and speaks to an inability to take criticism.

Smart a man as you may be, it is cowardly to cry about criticism when you put the work out there for public consumption. You owe Lydia an apology.

Mr. Walton:

For those who truly want to understand, more information is given in my more extensive monograph, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (Eisenbrauns, 2011). I also tried to refine the position in the opening chapters of Lost World of Adam and Eve. I doubt that these will satisfy any who are determined to be critical.

When a book is published on a topic as controversial as this the author must expect some negative reviews. That is fair, but one expects them to be even-handed and carried out with courtesy and professionalism. Furthermore, previous reviewers who gave negative reviews (mentioned above), have sought me out and I have been able to give clarification. I believe they understand my position better now, though we still have disagreements. I don’t think any the worse of them for that and I hope that they continue to have respect for me.

Any further conversation that I would be involved in would not be in the public sphere of a blog.

I want to point out: Lydia’s review is 74 paragraphs long, not counting direct quotes and one line paragraph headers. And he is claiming that she is assuming he is incoherent – a word she never even used! This despite that she not ONLY read the blog, but also watched two hour long video interviews of Mr. Walton.

So, my response:

You are a coward. You really think that everybody who negatively reviews your work is obligated to contact you specifically before publishing?

The hubris is stunning.

Here is the money section. Commenter Peter Grice said this to me:

MarcAnthony, I’m not sure why you felt such a personal attack necessary. Do you really think that Walton is obligated to invest time in any particular forum? Perhaps your own comment illustrates why he seems to have a personal policy against it? That was a terribly harsh display.

So this paragraph I give in response is as good and cogent an explanation as any of my general writing style. If you’re ever wondering why a response I make seems overharsh, you can refer to this:

MarcAnthony, I’m not sure why you felt such a personal attack necessary.

Because he deserved to be called out for his cowardice. He was incredibly disrespectful, and so I wanted to make it clear that I found his comments disgusting.

I’ll spell out my distinction here: You are more upset that I called Walton out on his cowardice than Walton’s cowardice. That is a problem.

He came into a forum where somebody gave an incredibly in-depth review of his work, expressed annoyance that the reviewer didn’t contact him before posting said negative review, then claimed that he wouldn’t actually address the reviewer’s concerns. He’s not only a coward, but an intellectually dishonest one because he had to come up with an excuse to avoid responding to the criticism.

Now, if he does respond, I’ll redact the claim of cowardice. But he would still be dishonest for claiming that Lydia was somehow not giving him his due diligence, because he very clearly was. He owes Lydia a sincere apology.

And dishonesty, as well as cowardice, more than warrants my harshness.

Oh, and let it be said that it’s not like I’m some blind rah-rah Lydia supporter. I’ve disagreed with and even called out Lydia several times in the past. But she is in the right here, very much so.

Do you really think that Walton is obligated to invest time in any particular forum?

No. Who cares if he does or not?

Perhaps your own comment illustrates why he seems to have a personal policy against it?

I don’t care if he does or not. My comment had nothing to do with his policy on forums. Anyway, he apparently did not have a policy against posting on forums earlier in the thread.

That was a terribly harsh display

It was also warranted. Paul and Christ both had no problem with harshness in the proper context. This was the proper context.

I put it up to my readers to make up their minds about whether or not I was out of line. This, however, is the whole exchange; those who believe I am leaving something out are invited to check out the thread themselves.

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36 Responses to A Good Illustration of My General Attitude

  1. labreuer says:

    Well, what’s the biblical precedent? Jesus was harsh with the Pharisees; was Walton acting like a Pharisee? See also:

    Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Rom 12:9–11)

    I’m not sure I’ve seen very many convincing examples of “Outdo one another in showing honor.” I see gratuitous complimenting and harsh condemnation, but not much of the following, a blurb by Alasdair MacIntyre on the back of my copy of Louis Dupré’s Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture:

    Dupré has written a brilliant, unsettling, and provocative essay about the genesis of modernity. He identifies not one, but two distinct moments at which Western thinkers severed important links with their premodern past, challenging theses advanced by Heidegger and Blumenberg among others. Whether it turns out to be true or false, his thesis has to be taken very seriously.

    How often do you see a review like this, which says that whether or not the person is right or wrong, that the work deserves careful analysis? Incidentally, two of the four blurbs on the back of the book do gush with praise. Anyhow, I suggest obedience to the bit of Romans I quoted above, as well as the following:

    “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Cor 10:23–24)

    But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14)

    • Jesus was harsh with the Pharisees; was Walton acting like a Pharisee?

      Absolutely; instead of addressing Lydia’s substantial criticisms he used sophistry and excuses to sneer at her review and avoid engaging with her. He writes a public review of a book, then whines when somebody criticizes it. He is every bit the hypocrite.

      How often do you see a review like this, which says that whether or not the person is right or wrong, that the work deserves careful analysis?

      1) She gave it careful analysis – a 74 paragraph essay of analysis.

      2) Sometimes it IS important to point out when something is wrong. In this case, Walton (if he’s wrong) is gravely misleading and misinforming many people, and should be corrected.

      • labreuer says:

        Absolutely; instead of addressing Lydia’s substantial criticisms he used sophistry and excuses to sneer at her review and avoid engaging with her.

        How narrowly can you identify (as few words as possible—which words?) what you are describing as “sneer”? I’m used to such terrible treatment on the internet—by atheists and self-described Christians—that my sensitivity may be too low for such things. I’m used to much worse than anything that exists in that comment section.

        I too would have liked actual engagement, but there are reasons to avoid it (e.g. the other person seems so hostile that perhaps time would be better spent in other ways). I’ve been around the block on the internet quite a few times; engagement is not always the best policy.

        He writes a public review of a book, then whines when somebody criticizes it. He is every bit the hypocrite.

        Wait, “public review of a book”? Walton wrote a book; what review of a book did he write that is relevant to this conversation? As far as I can tell, Walton is unhappy that the book made so little sense to McGrew, and instead of asking him why, she just posted that it in fact makes so little sense. If somebody were to treat my hard-fought attempt to figure out some part of reality in that way, I might be unhappy as well, and wish the person had come to me in private, first. I’m frankly tired that people so quickly conclude that someone else is a fricken idiot. I don’t think that’s the kind of world Jesus meant to bring into existence. I just don’t. I think Jesus meant for us to be more hopeful of each other. But hey, I could be wrong. People do love telling me that, in various and sundry ways.

        1) She gave it careful analysis – a 74 paragraph essay of analysis.

        This is not under dispute.

        2) Sometimes it IS important to point out when something is wrong. In this case, Walton (if he’s wrong) is gravely misleading and misinforming many people, and should be corrected.

        Neither is this under dispute. Shall I excerpt from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Against the Self-Images Of the Age: Essays on Ideology and Philosophy, in which he argues that the “end of ideology” folks were quite wrong in one sense, but had identified something legitimate in another? What this means is that they weren’t fricken idiots. Compare this to McGrew’s conclusion that Walton is a fricken idiot. (Or do you disagree with this inference?)

      • She never calls Walton an idiot from what I’ve seen; “wrong” and “idiot” are not mutually exclusive.

        Yeah, I made a typo, sorry. Meant to write book.

        Finally – you keep mentioning other writers you think are much better at disagreement than her, but all you’re saying is that you prefer people who write nicely. Lydia writes honestly. Lydia clearly thought, and SPELLED OUT IN DETAIL, that Walton’s book was wrong in every sense, and said so. She should be commended for not lying, and Walton ashamed for coming in and passive-aggressively insulting her, not to mention coming up with the bizarre idea that she was obligated to contact the author to confirm her interpretation before posting the negative review!

        I really do think you have a lot of nerve to come in, explain that Lydia was ACTUALLY insulting this guy even when she wasn’t, say she came into it assuming he was wrong even though she explained IN DEPTH why she thought he was wrong, and then taking HER to task for assuming things about the author, all while you assume things about Lydia’s motives without giving her anywhere close to the extremely detailed treatment she gave Walton.

        You too, Luke, are trying to win me over with politeness. That doesn’t work with me, and you owe Lydia an apology as well.

      • labreuer says:

        She never calls Walton an idiot from what I’ve seen; “wrong” and “idiot” are not mutually exclusive.

        You don’t need to say “idiot” overtly. All you have to say is that the entire book has no redeeming qualities. C’mon, you knew this. How could Walton write such a book, and not be an idiot?

        Finally – you keep mentioning other writers you think are much better at disagreement than her, but all you’re saying is that you prefer people who write nicely.

        Please define “nicely”, because my understanding of the term does not match up with what you say, here. The writers I cite execute the Hebrews 5:14-esque separation of καλός καί κακός quite incisively. The difference is that when they investigate the ideas they investigate, they don’t find “(all of it negative, I regret to report)”. Instead, they find that those espousing the ideas really did find a legitimate pattern in reality, even though they screwed up by misattribution, distortion, and other ways of getting ideas not-as-they-ought-to-be (κακός).

        I find that those who are intellectually immature tend to 100% accept a thing or 100% reject the thing, instead of take a nuanced approach. As one matures, one learns to break a thing down into component parts, finding the good (καλός) and the bad (κακός). What surprised me is that Dr. McGrew couldn’t find anything καλός in Walton’s entire book. And so, you and she and others are goading me into finding if her extreme conclusion is warranted or not. I almost didn’t even post this response before doing that!

        Lydia writes honestly.

        This is not under contention.

        […] Walton ashamed for coming in and passive-aggressively insulting her […]

        It is curious that you think necessarily, this is The Correct interpretation of what Walton did, and what Walton meant to do. I see this as one of multiple possible interpretations, and I am nowhere near thinking that your interpretation is so likely to be the correct one.

        I really do think you have a lot of nerve to come in, explain that Lydia was ACTUALLY insulting this guy […]

        What did I say which you construe this way? Please be precise; I do not recall ever intending to say that Dr. McGrew was insulting Walton.

        […] all while you assume things about Lydia’s motives […]

        What, precisely, have I assumed “about Lydia’s motives”? Do please lay this out in some detail, because this accusation confuses me.

        You too, Luke, are trying to win me over with politeness.

        False. Perhaps you ought to be more careful in what you assume of my motives.

  2. labreuer says:

    Incoherence: Assuming vs. Concluding

    Having spent thousands of hours in online discussions, largely with atheists (I am a fairly orthodox Christian), I have to say that sometimes it is hard to discern whether the charge of incoherence was an assumption or a conclusion. I don’t always trust other people’s self-reports; see the scripture’s warnings concerning self-knowledge (e.g. Prov 20:5), modern cognitive science, or philosophy (e.g. Eric Schwitzgebel’s The Unreliability of Naive Introspection).

    It is simply too easy for people to slip their own, conflicting presuppositions into my arguments, find that the result is incoherent, and thus conclude that what I was presenting was incoherent. One might even call this half-assuming, half-concluding. I just watched a Veritas Forum with N. T. Wright and Peter Thiel last night; N.T. Wright said the following:

    I think one of the problems… is the decline of reason, that we don’t think properly—I was talking last night with an atheist philosopher and we were talking about the decline of reason—we’ve forgotten how to do discourse, how to do reasoned discourse, how to line up arguments and actually work from premises to conclusions and think through issues. So much is done in knee-jerk reactions—maybe some of that is necessary in complex culture—but in the world of Silicon Valley, somebody has to be doing the very fine-tuned sharp-edged stuff. (N.T. Wright)

    Having done quite a bit of investigation, I think Wright is absolutely right. If you want to trace some of this, I suggest Wayne C. Booth’s Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, Richard M. Weaver’s The Ethics of Rhetoric, Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language ~~ Abuse of Power, and Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit.

    Now, here’s the statement that really stuck out at me:

    and since there is much to say about the book (all of it negative, I regret to report)

    While human beings do occasionally churn out absolute nonsense, frequently it simply isn’t absolute nonsense. The question is whether you’re smart enough and wise enough to see what they’ve gotten right, and what they’ve gotten wrong—separating between καλός and κακός, to use the Greek words in Heb 5:14. See how there is a one-letter difference in the words, and see how κακός has a meaning of “not such as it ought to be”. How different is it from “as it ought to be”? Well, maybe not very far. So, can we detect that one-letter difference, or do we condemn an entire corpus of work?

    There are two wonderful examples which counter Lydia McGrew’s. One is well-known Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity (also published as The Ethics of Authenticity), in which he examines the “be true to yourself” idea and finds how to purify it of nonsense and give it solid backing. Indeed, I would almost call it a secular version of the New Covenant. Another example would be Alasdair MacIntyre’s Against the Self-Images Of the Age: Essays on Ideology and Philosophy. In one of his essays, he critiques the “end of ideology” thesis, but finds that the supporters of it had actually identified something legitimate. He was able to find something quite sensible, even though he thought the core thesis was wrong. Neither Taylor nor MacIntyre said anything like “(all of it negative, I regret to report)”.

    Really, what McGrew did was assert that John H. Walton, a very respected OT scholar (I’ve met him once), is a fricken idiot. Not only Walton, but every single person who has endorsed his Lost World of Genesis One. Having interacted with Walton in person, this just doesn’t hold up. Having seen him give an “ask me anything”-style Q&A about the Bible, this just doesn’t hold up. I’ve read part of Lost World, and I don’t see the gross incoherence that McGrew finds.

    It’s hard to believe that McGrew went into the book with the assumption that perhaps what Walton wrote is coherent. Maybe she did—only God knows for sure—but it’s hard for me to believe. I’ve been frequently treated like McGrew treats Walton, and I can say that it’s not how I envision one Christian treating another in a way that Jesus would smile upon. We live in an age that prefers tearing down to building up. We don’t do very much “hoping for the best” of each other, in my experience. We expect the other person to either match what we believe very closely, or be a fricken idiot, or evil bastard. In my experience—and by this I describe Christians and atheists.

    • So you have no responses to McGrew’s criticism. You just assume she’s being unfair. And then have the gall to accuse HER of uncharitable interpretation.

      • labreuer says:

        So you have no responses to McGrew’s criticism.

        Do you believe that it’s legitimate to question a foundation of an argument? No, I have not yet critiqued anything she did argue, but if she is predicating her entire argument on a fallacious model of human consciousness—of how people in the ANE thought about reality and acted in reality—then important portions of her argument will collapse. Let me explain by analogy. In my many discussions with atheists, I find that sometimes they sneakily inject their presuppositions into my arguments. Sometimes they probably don’t know they’re doing it and I bet that sometimes they do. Anyhow, this tends to poison the argument, and if I don’t see it happening, I will be tempted to think that my argument was bad. Likewise, I worry that McGrew has done this, herself.

        Now that I’ve gotten myself into this, I should probably review my The Lost World of Genesis One, John H. Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible, and some other books I have. Maybe I’ll find that McGrew is right, and maybe I’ll find a good criticism of her extensive review.

        You just assume she’s being unfair.

        Nope, I was very careful to ask whether she had self-knowledge of an ability to do something I claim is important, to understand Walton’s work. I was indeed questioning her competence, but that’s something you have to do in The Real World.

        And then have the gall to accuse HER of uncharitable interpretation.

        Where did I do this? It could be that Walton is “a fricken idiot”. It doesn’t necessarily flow, from that analysis, that the interpretation was uncharitable. What I am saying is that it makes no sense that Walton would give such sensible answers to a Bible Q&A, and yet be such a fricken idiot when it comes to his Lost World. Now, one option is to say that I am not aware of how fractured people’s minds can be, how they can speak complete sense in one area and then nonsense in a seemingly very related area. And so, one could say that my “this just doesn’t hold up” is predicated upon a bad model of human nature. That is an option.

        I don’t care about nice.

        I care about obeying scripture, regardless of what the other person did or did not do. If your conscience is 100% satisfied that you were obedient, that’s excellent; Thomas Aquinas would be happy and so am I. Personally, I don’t see how you were obeying the scriptures I laid out, but my lack of understanding doesn’t mean you have in any way sinned. I will say this: I have repeatedly had people treat me, like you treated Walton. It never seemed to contribute to me becoming more like Jesus. Take that for what it’s worth.

      • In response to you, I leave Lydia’s responses on her thread. I think she did a fine job.

        Sorry Luke, I normally like you (or else I’d be even meaner right now, ha), but I think you’re dead wrong on this one.

      • labreuer says:

        Sorry Luke, I normally like you (or else I’d be even meaner right now, ha), but I think you’re dead wrong on this one.

        I actually don’t care whether you like me. I am not a people-pleaser; I was never allowed to be one. I was hated and mocked all throughout my childhood, and I continue to be online—by atheists and theists. I was never allowed to value whether people “like” me. And so, what I say is not designed to make you like me more, or make you like me less.

        What I care about is what is true, and whether Christians treat other Christians as if they are trying to discover what is true, or as if they are fucking idiots. I am well aware that all sorts of rationalizing stories can be concocted for extant behavior. And so, what I do is I look at the fruit of such behavior: instead of merely judging from one state of affairs at one point in time, I keep track over time. This seems necessary to avoid judgment by appearances, which I think we both know that God hates.

        For example, I look to see whether your treatment of John H. Walton actually advances the kingdom of God. I am simply not sure that it does. Do you actually test whether you advance the kingdom of God by how you treat other people who profess to follow Jesus Christ?

      • Actually, just for kicks, I’ll tackle this final comment. Then I PROMISE I’m done.

        Do you believe that it’s legitimate to question a foundation of an argument? No, I have not yet critiqued anything she did argue, but if she is predicating her entire argument on a fallacious model of human consciousness—of how people in the ANE thought about reality and acted in reality—then important portions of her argument will collapse.

        First off, you didn’t actually demonstrate this. Second, here’s Lydia:

        I don’t know how good I am at getting into the mindset of ancient peoples, but I’ll tell you one thing: Anybody who says that the ancient Israelites “had no distinction between the supernatural and the natural” is worse at it than I am! Because there is strong evidence from ancient texts–specifically, book after book after book of the Old Testament–that that’s completely false. I have made arguments to this effect. See the post itself.

        Moreover, the vague statement that ancient peoples thought differently than we do (though trivially true) doesn’t mean that John H. Walton’s statements about how they thought are true, now does it? If that were enough, then any Old Testament scholar could make up anything he liked, attribute it to ancient peoples, and then huffily respond to criticism by saying, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you realize that ancient peoples thought differently than we do?” Yes, they did no doubt, but he hasn’t given us good evidence that *his* interpretation of how they thought is correct.

        Next:

        Nope, I was very careful to ask whether she had self-knowledge of an ability to do something I claim is important, to understand Walton’s work. I was indeed questioning her competence, but that’s something you have to do in The Real World.

        You stopped beating your wife yet, Luke?

        Where did I do this?

        From you:

        But if you have little established ability to break out of your probably-very-modern way of looking at reality, to explore radically different ways of looking at reality, then it seems reasonable to suppose that if Walton’s thesis is even somewhat correct, then you have zero established ability to really grasp it.

        …Except you didn’t do ANYTHING to establish that Lydia’s way of looking at reality was wrong. Nothing.

        I will say this: I have repeatedly had people treat me, like you treated Walton. It never seemed to contribute to me becoming more like Jesus. Take that for what it’s worth.

        Perhaps, then, you should consider whether or not they were right.

        Seriously. I HAVE done this, and apologized before, and I DO think I was better for it.

      • labreuer says:

        First off, you didn’t actually demonstrate this.

        Fair enough; to really drive the point home, I would have to present a compelling model for another way to slice up reality that renders the OT texts more intelligible.

        Second, here’s Lydia: [supernatural vs. natural categories of thought]

        Yeah, I read that, and I’m just not sure she’s right. But perhaps all she is saying is that people be able to discern between acts of YHWH, acts of non-YHWH deities, and acts of human beings?

        Moreover, the vague statement that ancient peoples thought differently than we do (though trivially true) doesn’t mean that John H. Walton’s statements about how they thought are true, now does it?

        Did I ever say it means that Walton is right? Malcolm, I think you are too used to people insinuating things. I almost never intend to do that (I’m not sure I ever should), and this is not one of those “almost never”s.

        You stopped beating your wife yet, Luke?

        Do you truly believe that what I asked was on this level? That is, do you think Jesus would agree with you in saying that what I asked is on the level of “stopped beating your wife”? I remind you of Eph 5:17, Jn 15:15, and 1 Cor 2:9–16.

        …Except you didn’t do ANYTHING to establish that Lydia’s way of looking at reality was wrong.

        But that was not my intent. My intent was to gauge to what extent Dr. McGrew had done what I say is necessary to do. She answered my question: “I don’t know how good I am at getting into the mindset of ancient peoples…”. Again, you appear to be imputing motives to me I simply did not and do not have.

        Perhaps, then, you should consider whether or not they were right.

        I do, frequently.

        Seriously. I HAVE done this, and apologized before, and I DO think I was better for it.

        That sounds like believing Jesus about repentance. Have you read Rom 2:4 and Gal 6:1, lately?

      • Just want to say:

        I actually don’t care whether you like me. I am not a people-pleaser; I was never allowed to be one. I was hated and mocked all throughout my childhood, and I continue to be online—by atheists and theists. I was never allowed to value whether people “like” me. And so, what I say is not designed to make you like me more, or make you like me less.

        Then you should be happy to know that I like you regardless. 😉

    • Basically: All you really did was point out a couple of cases where people disagreed with McGrew. So what? They happened to be nice?

      I don’t care about nice. I want honest, and Lydia was. And that I can respect. I don’t respect the sniveling of Walton.

      I have no doubt he’s quite a good guy in person, but what he did was cowardly, period.

    • Come to think of it, checking out the thread, Lydia can speak for herself. I will say no further in her defense, and in response to your specific points I will point to Lydia herself.

  3. Chad says:

    Good job Malcolm. I think that few people realize that the extent of public criticism being just is tied to the amount of public opinion and size of the platform the individual has. This is both out of charity to the person whose opinion you’re criticizing as well as their audience. One must both try to correct any souls being misled, to gather the sheep back for the shepherd as it were. The other thing is that if someone has the pride to present an idea without properly checking their logic and facts, public criticism helps humble them and avoid such in the future. It should help everyone involved.

    As for the commenter above, I believe they should re-read Acts; particularly how Paul corrects other apostles. He does so in a public forum, and it was an integral part of the formation of Christian theology and doctrine. Not only for the issues he corrected others on, but for showing both such manly courage to do so, humility and grace in how he did so, coupled with passion and zeal for correctly serving God, and how to handle it after you’ve made your case. In addition, it shows how those corrected should act.

    • labreuer says:

      As for the commenter above, I believe they should re-read Acts; particularly how Paul corrects other apostles. He does so in a public forum […]

      Paul also violates Jesus’ dictum to not return insult with insult, in Acts 23:1–5. So I think we ought to be a little more careful than merely saying “Paul did X, therefore X is ok”. Perhaps you have some specifics in Acts that you would like to point out as exemplars of “Outdo one another in showing honor.”, or if you do not think that command (of Paul’s) applies, whatever it is you think he was doing?

      […] humility and grace in how he did so, coupled with passion and zeal for correctly serving God, […]

      There is a zeal without knowledge (see Rom 9:30–10:13), there is truth without love (see 1 Cor 13:1–3), and there is rebuke without gentleness (see Gal 6:1–5). So again, I think a little more careful analysis is called for. Also, how is the following, ‘humility’:

      This is a childish response, and speaks to an inability to take criticism.

      Smart a man as you may be, it is cowardly to cry about criticism when you put the work out there for public consumption. You owe Lydia an apology.

      ?

      • Chad says:

        A man as priest receives more graces than a man as father receives more graces than a single man. Discuss.

      • labreuer says:

        I’m sorry; I don’t see how this connects and it is a vague question to boot. God is not a respecter of persons. I think this is because you construct a terrible world if you are a respecter of persons. On the other hand, recognizing people for sacrifices they have made is a time-honored tradition, with Hebrews 11 probably being the most magnificent example. Ja 3:13 is also excellent wisdom. Beyond this, I don’t know how to “discuss” what you’ve said.

  4. Labreuer:

    “As far as I can tell, Walton is unhappy that the book made so little sense to McGrew, and instead of asking him why, she just posted that it in fact makes so little sense. If somebody were to treat my hard-fought attempt to figure out some part of reality in that way, I might be unhappy as well, and wish the person had come to me in private, first.”

    If you write a book for public consumption, that book should be understandable on its own. People shouldn’t have to talk to you personally for it to make any sense.

    • Also, she didn’t “just” post that it made little sense. She wrote a 74 paragraph essay explaining why.

    • labreuer says:

      If you write a book for public consumption, that book should be understandable on its own. People shouldn’t have to talk to you personally for it to make any sense.

      Do we Christians operate under the dictates of arbitrary “shoulds”, or do we operate under the dictates of love and building-up, only tearing down when other options have been exhausted? See, I’m well-aware of people who would like reality to run their way. And of course, now that Dr. McGrew did what she did, those who do not wish to say that she possibly did anything wrong will utter “shoulds” that establish that she did not possibly act suboptimally in achieving the will of God. I prefer to empirically test what leads to building others up and the kingdom of God up, and measure actions by their fruit, per Mt 7:15–23, Mt 13:24–30, and Mt 25:31–46.

      Here’s what I suggest. You push for those around you to act like you think they “should” act. I will push for those around me to do what I describe above. We can use the various empirical predictions in the NT as tests of success or failure. We can look at the kinds of world that different ways of treating people bring into existence. Surely at some point, your way of treating people will sufficiently diverge from mine, such that we can meaningfully compare them?

  5. Ilíon says:

    I put it up to my readers to make up their minds about whether or not I was out of line.

    Is one’s God’s name ‘Truth’, or is it something else, like ‘Nice’ or ‘Go-Along’ or ‘Don’t-Offend’?

    If one’s God is named ‘Truth’, then one will inevitably find oneself opposed by those who worship the other fellows … because if a man does not love ‘Truth’, then he must hate him and all who love him.

    • labreuer says:

      Is one’s God’s name ‘Truth’, or is it something else, like ‘Nice’ or ‘Go-Along’ or ‘Don’t-Offend’?

      I believe God’s name is agápē, and I believe this is the relationship with truth:

      If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:1–3)

      Thoughts? There is also this:

      But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22–23)

      So, for people to expect kindness, love, and gentleness from someone who claims to be spirit-led would seem to be basic exegesis and no more. Furthermore, rebuke is to be offered in a specific way:

      Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal 6:1)

      Do you disagree? Here’s yet another:

      I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1–3)

      Do you think Malcolm was exemplifying “bearing with one another in love”, in how he responded to John H. Walton? Do feel free to post your counter-scriptures. I will leave you with this one:

      Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil 4:5)

      • https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+21%3A12%E2%80%9317&version=ESV

        Jesus Cleanses the Temple
        12 And Jesus entered the temple[a] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

        https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%205&version=ESV

        Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

        5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

        3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.[a]

        You are quoting various out of context verses and trying to apply them to each situation. This is bad exegesis. Jesus drove out the Pharisees from the Temple and overturned tables, and frequently called the Pharisees hypocrites. St. Paul called the Corinthians arrogant. Obviously if we are interpreting those verses about gentleness to exclude calling people out for their sinfulness – such as calling somebody a coward – we are missing something.

      • Ilíon says:

        God’s name is ‘Truth’; God’s name isn’t ‘Love’. Scripture asserts that “God is Love” … which isn’t quite the same thing as asserting that “Love is God”; expecially when by ‘love’ one really means ‘sentimentality’ or ‘supineness’.

        Concern-Trolls condemn the targets of their so-tender concern on the basis of “Love is God”; except that by ‘love’ they don’t mean ‘love‘, and they certainly don’t mean ‘truth’.

        To say that “God’s name is ‘Truth'” is another way of saying that “God’s name is ‘Is/Being'”; it’s another way of expressing the fact the God is Being Itself.

        And, after all, being is foundational to everything else.

      • labreuer says:

        Concern-Trolls condemn the targets of their so-tender concern on the basis of “Love is God” except that by ‘love’ they don’t mean ‘love‘, and they certainly don’t mean ‘truth’.

        There are of course plenty of people out there who do truth without love, and there are plenty of people who do love without truth. Is this news? Are you accusing me of engaging in love without truth?

      • labreuer says:

        You are quoting various out of context verses and trying to apply them to each situation.

        Actually, I offered them up for potential application to this situation. You offered up other verses. It takes wisdom in order to see what best applies. Or do you disagree?

        What is curious is that with the verses you chose, you are putting John H. Walton in the category of:

        1. robber of poor people
        2. sexually immoral

        Unless you, too, were merely offering up these verses for consideration? But I don’t see how either #1 or #2 possibly applies to the situation at hand, and so I am confused.

        St. Paul called the Corinthians arrogant.

        How convinced are you, sir, that you are not “arrogant”? What do you do, to see whether you are, or are not? What is the process you go through to test this, to evaluate yourself?

        It is also a bit odd for what is, really if you know academia, the mildest of arrogance at most, to be put in the category of ‘Pharisee’. Do you have any other information upon which to put John H. Walton in the category of ‘Pharisee’? Or did you do that with precisely two comments on the internet, plus some awareness of his book?

        Obviously if we are interpreting those verses about gentleness to exclude calling people out for their sinfulness – such as calling somebody a coward – we are missing something.

        Could you rephrase this?

      • What is curious is that with the verses you chose, you are putting John H. Walton in the category of:

        1. robber of poor people
        2. sexually immoral

        I put him in the category of liar and coward. Whether or not this is as worthy of condemnation as sexually immoral is perhaps up for debate, but I’d say so.

        I have no hatred for Mr. Walton. He could be the most polite man who ever lived in person, fearsome in battle, gentle in spirit. But that does not change what he said during this exchange.

        How convinced are you, sir, that you are not “arrogant”? What do you do, to see whether you are, or are not? What is the process you go through to test this, to evaluate yourself?

        Quite a fair question, since I do have an issue with this. Generally before I post something that I know or think will make people angry I stop and say “Is this really warranted? Did what this person did merit this language? Will I have to apologize for this later? Is this contrary to the Biblical commands for how we treat sinners?” If the answer to the questions is yes, yes, and no, then I do not post what I have in mind,

        Sometimes I post things in the heat of the moment, regret it, and apologize. But in this case I have thought about it and don’t think I need to apologize.

        It is also a bit odd for what is, really if you know academia, the mildest of arrogance at most, to be put in the category of ‘Pharisee’. Do you have any other information upon which to put John H. Walton in the category of ‘Pharisee’? Or did you do that with precisely two comments on the internet, plus some awareness of his book?

        I did not put him in the category of Pharisee. You might note that I have no desire to go into Mr. Walton’s office and overturn his tables, or chase him out with a whip. That example was merely to point out that it’s premature to say that those verses on gentleness was the end of the conversation. I’m glad you think so as well.

      • labreuer says:

        I put him in the category of liar and coward.

        About what did he lie?

        Whether or not this is as worthy of condemnation as sexually immoral is perhaps up for debate, but I’d say so.

        Really, so Christians are to engage in condemnation? Jesus didn’t come to condemn (Jn 3:17ff), but we Christians are? Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean by the term.

        I would also like you to explain whether you were attempting to restore a brother in Christ who you caught in transgression, making Gal 6:1 applicable.

        Quite a fair question, since I do have an issue with this. Generally before I post something that I know or think will make people angry I stop and say “Is this really warranted?

        Do you measure the fruit of how you treat people? For example, what was your goal in how you treated John H. Walton, and how will you know if that goal was achieved, or not achieved? Of course one often has to do these things statistically, but nonetheless, I would like to hear you speak on how you evaluate your actions based on the fruit thereof—or whether you don’t do a whole lot of this. I find that many people do not, contra Jesus’ command.

        I did not put him in the category of Pharisee.

        Ok, then I am confused as to how the Bible warrants your harsh treatment of Walton. I think we have established:

        1. John H. Walton does not rob poor people.
        2. John H. Walton is not [grossly] sexually immoral.
        3. John H. Walton is not a Pharisee.

        And yet, John H. Walton deserves vehemence from you. Why?

  6. Ilíon says:

    I *never* worry myself with the antics of concern-trolls.

  7. labreuer says:

    Malcolm, I would love to see you do an analysis of the word πραΰτης (praÿtēs), as used in the NT. One definition is “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness”. A few mentions:

    Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (Gal 6:1)

    Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1–3)

    So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Col 3:12–14)

    Your thesis appears to be that whatever πραΰτης is, sometimes we it is not appropriate. Paul seems to agree:

    What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness? (1 Cor 4:21)

    When do you decide to employ πραΰτης, and when not to? Personally, I am inclined to employ πραΰτης first, and only ramp up the intensity and severity if the situation calls for it. I am reminded of James’ warning to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”, and wonder whether this can be construed as advocating πραΰτης, and severity later.

    It also just seems like starting off with “childish…cowardly” as your first response is not what Jesus would do. It took him a while to ramp up to Mt 23 in talking to the Pharisees. It is as if he gave them plenty of chances, and laid it on thick only when their arrogance was demonstrated without a doubt. In contrast, it only took one comment by John Walton for you to be quite harsh.

    And so, I would love to hear your own thoughts on when πραΰτης, and when a rod is called for. I am also reminded of 1 Tim 5:1’s “Do not rebuke an older man” (ESV), where “older man” (presbyteros) primarily means “the elder of two people”. I’ve personally struggled with this one, but it seems that obedience to it is indeed better than disobedience, or the choice to interpret presbyteros as “position of man-recognized authority”, instead of simply “older man”.

    Finally, I will end with Job 40:6–14. I think YHWH was setting up an attainable goal for Job, and not saying that man would never be able to “look on everyone who is proud and abase him”. Indeed, those who wish to maintain power over the masses and be immune from criticism of any kind would like to deny that this is an attainable goal. We need to speak truth to power. We need to deal with arrogance effectively. I believe the Bible has valuable wisdom on what constitutes that ‘effectively’, and I think we are responsible for testing the results of our actions to see if they are indeed effective. (see Gal 6:1–5)

    • That’s a fair request. I’d have to do a whole lot of research on it before I actually wrote anything, so it would be a while before you see anything, I think. But I’ll look into it.

      • labreuer says:

        Ironically, I wrote up some thoughts on gentleness in response to a seminary intern on a college campus. He was absolutely obsessed with the concept; Jesus’ exasperated “oh ye of little faith” would have completely offended his sensibilities. At one point, I had to let me temper flare for about fifteen seconds to convince him that attempting to prevent someone from committing suicide was worth sacrificing a student’s comfort. It is quite convenient to be able to let one’s temper fly for a few seconds, kind of like a controlled nuclear reaction.

        What I’m suspicious about is ad hoc justifications of harshness and what sometimes seems like verbal abuse. My current understanding is that God generally employs the weakest force that will have the desired effect. After all, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”. There is still clearly a place for noting who may be a coward; else how could one understand that word in Rev 21:8? But when do you employ the word, and when do you give the other person a chance to tell a different (better) story about himself/herself? How do you “hope the best” for your fellow Christian? How do we “outdo one another in showing honor”? How do we maximally build each other up, instead of tear each other down?

        Surely we are concerned with helping our brothers and sisters in Christ to be more conformed to the image of Christ (see emulating Christ). I wonder: when does the use of the term “coward” do this, and when does it not? Scripture can indeed give us some guidance, but it seems that empirical observations and testing are also required. From my own experience, I don’t see why one would whip out the “coward” card until that character trait was well-established. The penalty for getting it wrong seems pretty high.

        It is the chrēstos of God which brings us to repentance. Translations of Rom 2:4 translate that word ‘goodness’ and ‘kindness’. I wonder: how can we discern when only chrēstos is needed for a brother or sister we judge to be in error, and when is something harsher required (with the ultimate being “handed over to Satan”, in 1 Cor 5:1–5 and 1 Tim 1:18–20)? Only naïve, immature Christians think that gentleness is the only thing that is ever required. But is not-gentleness employed too often? Perhaps the amount of not-gentleness around today harms discourse?

        If there’s one thing I have observed in our day and age, it is that groups of differently thinking people are finding it harder and harder to have constructive conversations. Too quickly, evil motives are ‘discerned’, harsh words exchanged, and the chance for a meeting of minds dissipates much more quickly than the vapor in James 4 or the grass in Is 40. Perhaps there aren’t as many purely-evil motives around as is sometimes estimated? And perhaps there are better ways to deal with those motives which do contain appreciable amounts of sin and evil?

  8. labreuer says:

    FYI, Malcolm, Dr. McGrew and I have engaged in further debate, including about parts of her review. I also started re-reading Walton’s Lost World, and found out that my first two allegedly off-topic comments had many strong similarities with how Walton started his book. It is curious that they were off-topic, despite the fact that Walton thought them to be crucial to his book, and Dr. McGrew’s review was about the book. Oh well.

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