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P = I. I = Irrelevant. Therefore P = Irrelevant

June 29, 2009

Well “E” for Effort to our Mr Chew in Singapore. Mr Chew has produced his reply. You can find it here as a downloadable PDF. His main post is here.

I printed out the little opus and scanned it eagerly. Unfortunately for us, the actual amount of reply probably could be fit on one page. I mean the actual relevant Bunyan response. What is more, the sections which do contain a direct reporting on Bunyan contain nothing new, but rehash old arguments (which if I have time I will come back to).

What I want to do today is firstly, give a brief outline of the sections. I want to then reply to his section on the rules of interpretation. And lastly, I want to address his distortion of Preston.

I should say though, one major problem is that the pages are not numbered, so referring to it will be cumbersome.  Readers should simply “control f” key words from what I cite to find the context in Mr Chew’s PDF. For the Preston quotation as cited by Tony, that can be found here. Readers should read that for context’s sake.

One more point, while I am fairly blunt in the following, it is my desire to represent his assertions as fair as possible.

A break down of the sections:

The first section just republishes the entirety of Tony Byrne’s post. The next section is a response to Dr Gonzales. Gonzales has already dealt with all this in exegetical detail. After this comes the claim that one cannot infer intentions from volitions. One should note though, that Mr Chew has phrased this in a way that does not represent Gonzales’ post and claims or the Reformed position. The Reformed position is that commands presuppose desire for compliance to those commands. See a survey of Reformed comment here. Gonzales has dealt with this argument here. After this comes the section on illogic, and here we see the usual anti-paradox rationalism.  Then comes the breakdown on the visible/invisible church distinction.  This section contains nothing new or relevant. Then come Chew’s fundamental argument regarding classes and particulars. This line of thought he later retrojects into Bunyan. Then come covenant theology and the offer.  Finally we see Mr Chew’s treatment of Bunyan.  After this comes the section alleged illogic of our historical hermeneutics.  Lastly, he returns to Bunyan, but again, nothing new here.

The logic of historical hermeneutics:

When I read this I had to laugh. The bottom line specious claim here is that unless all possible interpretations of a given theologian have been falsified, such that it has been proven that there can be only one interpretation of that given theology, no interpretation can be obtained. Let me quote Mr Chew directly so that we all know what he is saying:

We can concede for the sake of argument that if these famous theologian/pastors would teach that Neo-Amyraldism is biblical (q), then they would use the words that are being quoted (Q), and thus the major premise (X < Q) is true. However, even then, the reasoning process commits the same logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. For there may possibly be different interpretations of the words (Q) of X famous theologian/pastor. Unless it can be proven that there be only one interpretation of Q, which is q, the entire enterprise of quote-mining cannot even begin to take off. The enterprise of quote-mining as proof of truth therefore suffers at two stages: it must and cannot prove that the interpretation given to the quote is the correct one (such must be argued for, not merely asserted), and it must prove that the person teaching it is infallible at that very instance (which is false). Therefore, the entire enterprise is doomed from the beginning, and all who are swayed by such arguments are thinking irrationally.

[underlining mine.]

To break that down into numbered points.

1) All other possible interpretations must be falsified.

2) The preferred interpretation must be proven to be the ONLY possible interpretation.

3) And one must prove that the  author of historical source was infallible at the time of the assertion.

4) Unless 1 to 3 are met, the entire work of historical investigation is doomed to failure.

Well what can be said to that? Firstly, this is moronic. This is just patently absurd. No one operates by these strictures. Not even Mr Chew. What is worse, Mr Chew suffers from a self-referential absurdity because he himself offers interpretations of both Bunyan and Preston, and yet never proves premises 1-4, at all. Does Mr Chew falsify all possible alternative readings of Preston and Bunyan? Does Mr Chew prove that his interpretation (and I use the term loosely) is the only possible interpretation? Given that Mr Chew has asserted that a given historic author must be infallible at the time the assertion under review was made, which “infallibly” is impossible, says Mr Chew, then Mr Chew, as much as anyone, is in no position to be positing interpretations of Bunyan, Preston, or anyone.

But here is the rub, Mr Chew wants to engage in the process of historical interpretation by the same common sense methods we all use, but then wistfully insist that we are bound by his strictures. But these strictures, if they are true, condemn Mr Chew as much as anyone else.

This is called a self-referential absurdity or fallacy. In no uncertain terms Mr Chew’s claims here must be unmasked as just plain foolishness.

John Preston:

Mr Chew:

Moving ahead, we would look at Byrne’s continual penchant to distort historical writings even while quoting them, showing forth the strength of deception gripping him and his inability to  think of anything outside his theory, thus imposing his theory on the writings of others. In his quotation of the Puritan John Preston, Byrne overlooks the fact that Preston uses the phrase “in different respects”, thus overlooking the nuance that Preston qualifies his expression.  Further down, Preston utilizes the phrase “because of the conformity the thing [not persons] itself has with his will”. While these two phrases do not prove Byrne’s interpretation wrong, it neither proves it correct. As I have logically proven, unless Byrne proves that any and every alternative interpretation of the quote which does not make it teach Neo-Amyraldism is wrong, this quote is useless in proving his Neo-Amyraldism. Even a look at the Preston quote does not say anything about God’s desires and/or intentions, and to assume that the phrase “in differing respects” does not mean that Preston did not have in mind the strict dichotomy between command/precept and desire/decree is specious without any evidence to the contrary whatsoever. Contrary to Byrne’s false assertion, in the sense in which Preston and Perkins meant it, God can truly wills [perceptively] [sic] what He [decretively] nills to effect, with the understanding that the perceptive [sic] will does not indicate God’s desires or intentions in any sense whatsoever.

[underlining mine and “sic” mine.]

Let us break that down in numbered points again.

1) Mr Chew claims to know that Tony Byrne continually, by disposition, lies about and is deluded with regard to his sources.

2) Mr Chew admits that Preston’s language of the  ‘two phrases’ does not disprove or prove Tony’s interpretation.

3) Mr Chew tells us that we know that 2) is true because of Mr Chew’s [absurd] “hermeneutic” (above).

4) Mr Chew asserts that Preston may have simply held to the bare decree-precept dichotomy.

5) Mr Chew asserts that for Preston, the preceptive will contains no sense of desire or intention “in any sense whatsoever.” [Note the categorical emphasis there.]

To respond:

By Mr Chew’s own hermeneutic, he cannot claim that Tony has lied with regard to any of his historical interpretations because Mr Chew has himself failed to test all of Tony’s statements by way of his own strictures. Next, Mr Chew cannot assert any interpretation of Preston, either, because he himself has again failed to invoke his strictures.  With regard to 4. Mr Chew only proffers a barely possible interpretation without any supporting argument. In doing so, he further discards the very strictures he tries to impose upon others. Mr Chew saws off the branch while sitting on it. That is, he begs the question.

But here is the kicker. Mr Chew is just plain wrong when he says that the precept for Preston contains no sense of “desire.” Mr Chew should have swallowed his own medicine of ‘context Context, CONTEXT.’ Tony, in posting the section on Preston on the Will of God, extracted that from the larger Preston file here. Tony even links to the original source. If Mr Chew had been less driven to be contrarian he would have taken the time to read the Preston file.

In that file Preston says such things as:

Reas. 3. The third reason is, because it is acceptable to God that the Gospel should be obeyed, that is, that men should believe that they might live and not die; and therefore he says he desires not the death of a sinner, and so are many speeches scattered in the Scripture, “Oh that my people would harken, why will you die O house of Israel?” these and many more show that it is a thing very pleasing to God that, men should not perish, but that they come in and believe, and live forever.


Object. 2.

It may be objected, is it possible that the same will should be carried upon the same object in different respects, as if God should will the damnation and Salvation of Judas both at the same time?


To this I answer, that it is most possible for a man to will and to nill one and the same thing upon the same object if it be in different respects; as for example, a man may will his friends departure from him, and yet not will it, he wills his departure out of a desire he has of his friends good, and yet will it not out of a love he has of his friend’s company, and so God here he wills that all men should be saved, and therefore he beseeches men to believe, because it is agreeing to him, and it is so, neither can it be otherwise because of the conformity the thing itself has with his will; yet he will not use all means to bring this to pass. A father will not have his son drunk, if will tie him up in a chamber he will not be drunk, yet he will not take such a course, though he has a will his son should not be drunk, so God though he do will that men should be believe and repent and be saved, yet he will not be said to use all the means for the effecting of it in all men, because he will glorify his justice as well as his mercy.

On the last, Preston is basing his case on the human analog. As the analogical human desire contains complexity, so likewise does God’s. If one were to object that complex “desire” is not the point of contact Preston wants to underscore, that is refuted by the previous commented cited above.

The matter becomes even more absurd when we factor in that Preston was a hypothetical universalist. This is well documented in the literature. Preston was part of a circle of friends which included Ezekiel Culverwell and James Ussher.  Jonathan Moore’s recent dissertation (English Hypothetical Universalism), with its faults notwithstanding, conclusively confirms what has already been known. What is more, Moore, himself, has had PRC leanings, therefore he is no biased neo-Amyraldian (which itself is a meaningless term).

But now, let me remind the reader that in ascertaining Preston’s true position, I did not have to jump through Mr Chew’s naive strictures at all. All I had to do was “read.” Preston’s own words have their own self-evincing ability to communicate to the reader. Mr Chew, however, would darken our understanding. But to rub salt into the wound, when we table other self-evincing statements from men like Musculus and Kimedoncius, he carries on with such a flap with the same obscurantism we see here.

To conclude

There are two critical lines of thought which are self-evidently apparent. Mr Chew is stuck in quagmire of his own self-referential irrationalism. He imperiously imposes upon others, strictures he himself discards capriciously. Indeed, under his hermeneutic, no historical fact could ever be known. Lastly, he is just plain wrong on Preston.

Thus most of Mr Chew’s mini-tome is irrelevant, but thank you very much for the effort at least. :-)



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