Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 4: Discarding the Faulty Premise that Divides

See all the posts in the series, Toward Southern Baptist Unity»

The Southern Baptist Convention is unique in its composition of a wide range of approaches to the doctrines of salvation. As was shown in Part 3, the basic presuppositions of Calvinists and Libertarians (Traditionalists as well as Arminians) are seemingly irreconcilable; and yet, these groups have found enough on which to agree that we as a convention have remained unified for a very long time.

In such a diverse organization, attitude and emphasis are vitally important when it comes to doctrinal disagreement.  The emphasis that one puts on certain aspects of one’s own position—as well as the emphasis that one puts on certain aspects of the opposing position—can mean the difference between a unifying, conciliatory stance and a divisive, confrontational stance. But a conciliatory stance requires that one acknowledge the limitations of his own understanding and embrace the possibility that he might have left some unknown factors out of his reasoning (regardless of the high esteem in which he holds those great men of the past who have held to the same reasoning). I’m not speaking of the postmodern denial that the superiority of a position can be validly determined; but rather, I’m speaking of the kind of healthy humility that is necessary for an honest objectivity.

For example, both Calvinists and Libertarians firmly hold to the same unproven assumption, to wit, that if God is fully in control of who will eventually believe, then God cannot earnestly desire the salvation of all men and not do all that is needed to successfully bring all men to faith. In other words, both agree that if God earnestly desired all men to be saved, then God could do nothing other than save all men if He were in control of whether or not each man believes. The nineteenth-century Calvinist theologian, Robert Dabney, takes an unusual and enlightening position on this issue. He points to the fact that the “Scriptures ascribe to God pity toward the lost,” and he says that Calvin and Turretin were “afraid lest God’s principle of compassion… towards sinners non elect, should find any expression, and thus mar the symmetry of their logic” (bold mine):

We have no occasion for such questionable, and even perilous exegesis, as even Calvin and Turrettin feel themselves constrained to apply to the last. Afraid lest God’s principle of compassion (not purpose of rescue), towards sinners non elect, should find any expression, and thus mar the symmetry of their logic, they say that it was not Messiah the God man and Mediator, who wept over reprobate Jerusalem; but only the humanity of Jesus, our pattern. I ask. Is it competent to a mere humanity to say, “How often would I have gathered your children?” And to pronounce a final doom, “Your house is left unto you desolate?” The Calvinist should have paused, when he found himself wresting these Scriptures from the same point of view adopted by the ultra Arminian. But this is not the first time we have seen “extremes meet.” Thus argues the Arminian, “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has a propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. Therefore, as He declares He had a propension of pity towards contumacious Israel, I conclude that He also had a volition to redeem them, and that He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills. Here then, I find the bulwark of my doctrine, that even omnipotence cannot certainly determine a free will.” And thus argues the ultra Calvinist. “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. But if He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded. Therefore He never had any propension of pity at all towards them.” And so this reasoner sets himself to explain away, by unscrupulous exegesis, the most precious revelations of God’s nature! Should not this fact, that two opposite conclusions are thus drawn from the same premises have suggested error in the premises? And the error of both extremists is just here. It is not true that if God has an active principle looking towards a given object, He will always express it in volition and action…[1]

From this shared premise, the Calvinist concludes that God desires only the elect to be saved; while the Libertarian concludes that God has given control of the decision over to the individual man, so that “true freedom of will” can be exercised. As Dabney said, “two opposite conclusions… drawn from the same premise” should have suggested error in the premise. Both can support their opposite conclusions from Scripture, but neither can prove that their premise is true. Dabney explains, by way of illustration, that God can indeed have an “active principle” of compassion toward the non elect and still have reasons sufficient to not act on that desire toward them (bold mine):

…For instance a philanthropic man meets a distressed and destitute person. The good man is distinctly conscious in himself of a movement of sympathy tending towards a volition to give the sufferer money. But he remembers that he has expressly promised all the money now in his possession, to be paid this very day to a just creditor. The good man bethinks himself, that he “ought to be just before he is generous,” and conscience and wisdom counterpoise the impulse of sympathy; so that it does not form the deliberate volition to give alms. But the sympathy exists, and it is not inconsistent to give other expression to it… Hence it follows, that there may be in God an active principle felt by Him and yet not expressed in His executive volition in a given case, because counterpoised by other elements of motive, which His holy omniscience judges ought to be prevalent. Now, I urge the practical question. Why may not God consistently give Some other expression to this active principle, really and sincerely felt towards the object, though His sovereign wisdom judges it not proper to express it in volition? To return to the instance from which we set out. I assert that it is entirely natural and reasonable for the benevolent man to say to the destitute person. “I am sorry for you, though I give you no alms.”[2]

Dabney anticipates the objection of the Calvinist and Libertarian (bold mine):

The ready objection will be, “that my parallel does not hold, because the kind man is not omnipotent, while God is. God could not consistently speak thus, while withholding alms, because he could create the additional money at will.” This is more ready than solid. It assumes that God’s omniscience cannot see any ground, save the lack of physical ability or power, why it may not be best to refrain from creating the additional money. Let the student search and see, he will find that this preposterous and presumptuous assumption is the implied premise of the objection. In fact, my parallel is a fair one in the main point. This benevolent man is not prevented from giving the alms by any physical compulsion. If he diverts a part of the money in hand from the creditor to the destitute man, the creditor will visit no penalty on him. He simply feels bound by his conscience. That is, the superior principles of reason and morality are regulative of his action, counterpoising the amiable but less imperative principle of sympathy, in this case. Yet the verbal expression of sympathy in this case may be natural, sincere, and proper. God is not restrained by lack of physical omnipotence from creating on the spot the additional money for the alms, but He may be actually restrained by some consideration known to His omniscience which shows that it is not on the whole best to resort to the expedient of creating the money for the alms, and that rational consideration may be just as decisive in an all wise mind, and properly as decisive as a conscious impotency to create money in a man’s.[3]

The Libertarian can show from Scripture that God loves all men and calls all men to salvation, being unwilling that any should perish; while the Calvinist can show that God has unconditionally chosen all men in eternity past and is the very Author of our faith. The eminent Baptist Centrist of the eighteenth century, Andrew Fuller, states well what has historically been the answer of the Baptist Centrist to this problem:

If I find two doctrines affirmed or implied in the Scriptures, which, to my feeble understanding, may seem to clash, I ought not to embrace the one and to reject the other because of their supposed inconsistency; for, on the same ground, another person might embrace that which I reject, and reject that which I embrace, and have equal Scriptural authority for his faith as I have for mine. Yet in this manner many have acted on both sides: some, taking the general precepts and invitations of Scripture for their standard, have rejected the doctrine of discriminating grace; others, taking the declarations of salvation as being a fruit of electing love for their standard, deny that sinners without distinction are called upon to believe for the salvation of their souls. Hence it is that we hear of Calvinistic and Arminian texts; as though these leaders had agreed to divide the Scriptures between them. The truth is, there are but two ways for us to take: one is to reject them both, and the Bible with them, on account of its inconsistencies; the other is to embrace them both, concluding that, as they are both revealed in the Scriptures, they are both true, and both consistent, and that it is owing to the darkness of our understandings that they do not appear so to us…[4]

When the whole of Scripture is considered, it is not the wisdom of God but the reasoning of men that says that God cannot both unconditionally elect and call upon all men to believe in Christ for salvation with an earnest desire that they come. And while Calvinists and Libertarians reject one another’s conclusions, both ought to squarely face the possibility that this shared premise is an incorrect and oversimplified assessment of the mysterious ways and will of God. As we shall see below, the falsity of the premise is easily revealed.

The premise errs by attributing a simplicity to God’s will and ways, and denying to God the complexity that man has even in himself. Just as the decisions of men often entail the weighing of complex motivations and factors, yielding a result which does not reflect the entirety of his values but only the strongest after due deliberation, the decisions of God can be just as complex, and be grounded on various principles and exigencies in His nature and plan that are beyond our understanding. This complexity in God’s will has long been recognized in other areas. How could the same God who hates sin will for sin to occur? The answer is that He allows what is repugnant to His nature in order to accomplish what is to His greatest glory. Jesus was sinfully betrayed, falsely accused, unrighteously tried and executed—yet, such atrocious sin was planned by God from the beginning. God’s strong hatred for sin is constrained by the exigencies of what He wants to accomplish. The same principle should be applied to God’s desire for the salvation of the nonelect. Therefore, the premise is proven false: it is not necessarily true that if God earnestly desired the salvation of all (and God was in control of who is brought to faith) then all men would be brought to faith—any more than it is true that if God earnestly desired righteousness then He would not incorporate any sin into His plan (or permit it to happen). God’s will is complex, and not simple; and the utter repugnance of any man perishing is permitted by God in order to accomplish the greater purposes of His perfect plan.

Libertarians already accept such a complexity in God’s will, since in their scheme God values the freedom of men’s decisions more than He values saving them from hell. In other words, even though it is acknowledged that God could manipulate any man into believing, the freedom of will is deemed too valuable to violate even though heaven and hell hang in the balance. Therefore, it is admitted that God does indeed allow more important considerations to weigh against His earnest desire to save all men, and yield a decision that results in many perishing in spite of God’s desire for them to be saved. Even under the Libertarian scheme, God does not relinquish control. Men may decide, but God retains the power and prerogative to determine a positive decision in every case if He so chooses. Therefore—again—the premise is falsified. God’s will is not simple, and the fact that God does not do all that He possibly could do in order to bring all men to faith does not establish that God has no desire for their salvation or that God is not in full control of the matter. God does in fact permit men to reject His salvation for His own purposes.

Discarding this faulty premise that divides the two ends of the spectrum will not result in immediate agreement; but it can bring about a more humble objectivity that is more conducive toward unity.

Continue to Part 5: Unifying Propositions on the Inability of Sinners»

Ken Hamrick, 2013


[1] Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, chap. 35
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Andrew Fuller, “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation,” The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle, 1988), p. 367

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15 thoughts on “Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 4: Discarding the Faulty Premise that Divides

  1. Dear Ken,

    You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

    No reformed thinker I know of denies that God had a reason for choosing some over others.
    Paul tells us that God desired to make His power known and to demonstrate His wrath thus to magnify the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, those He predestined and called, even those He also justified and whom He also will glorify.
    So why doesn’t God call and save all? Believe His Word.

    Now why did he choose to save me? Beats me, but am sure glad he did!

    Dabney offers nothing in the way of reconciliation. But before i show you why, let me address your third paragraph which you opens thus:

    “For example, both Calvinists and Libertarians firmly hold to the same unproven assumption, to wit, that if God is fully in control of who will eventually believe, then God cannot earnestly desire the salvation of all men and not do all that is needed to successfully bring all men to faith.”

    That is not an assumption but a hypothetical. Certainly C’s may assume it as true but they wouldn’t say “if”. Libertarians [L's] would see it as only hypothetical. How can we speak of unity and reconciliation when we skewer what people believe in the name of conciliation? besides that, there is an assumption made that L’s really only care about defending God’s ‘love’ and not really about free will. I think not. They are called L’s for a good reason: They believe in man’s power of choice. And that leads us to Dabney’s poor illustration of limited atonement.

    Dabney seeks to explain limited atonement. Basically he says that God CAN’T save the non-elect due to some other consideration of His sovereign wisdom. [Which of course He tells us in Romans 9 just what that is]. First, no L is going to find that message conciliatory: God CAN’T save you all because of some other wise reason, which of course discounts man’s will in the matter all together. Second, it also means that the non-elect have absolutely zero [0] chance to be saved. God CAN’T save them due to some other cause He can’t or won’t overcome in Himself.

    Dabney gets off on the wrong path because he has an illogical mix up. What the C has a conclusion the L has as a premise. But Dabney calls them both a premise.
    Here is the L argument:
    Thus argues the Arminian, “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has a propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. Therefore, as He declares He had a propension of pity towards contumacious Israel, I conclude that He also had a volition to redeem them, and that He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills. Here then, I find the bulwark of my doctrine, that even omnipotence cannot certainly determine a free will.”

    The L’s conclusion is:
    :Here then, I find the bulwark of my doctrine, that even omnipotence cannot certainly determine a free will.”

    Now the C argument goes like this:
    And thus argues the ultra Calvinist. “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. But if He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded. Therefore He never had any propension of pity at all towards them.”

    The C’s conclusion is:
    “Therefore He never had any propension of pity at all towards them.”

    Now they do share one premise together:
    “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action.”

    But they differ on their second premise as we see below:
    C: If He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded.
    L: He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills.

    To say these two groups are putting forth the same argument with different conclusions is to compare apples with oranges. Yet that is what Dabney says: “Should not this fact, that two opposite conclusions are thus drawn from the same premises have suggested error in the premises?”

    It seems you are trying to jam a square peg in a round hole.

    Now you further err by saying this as if it were true: “The Libertarian can show from Scripture that God loves all men and calls all men to salvation, being unwilling that any should perish;” But neither Ken nor the L can show from Scripture that it is true. In fact it most certainly false. When a group bases its theology on false ideas and understandings it only reckons that they will come up with a wrong idea:
    “He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills.” [And most of the time God FAILS!!!]

    But you continues: “while the Calvinist can show that God has unconditionally chosen all men in eternity past and is the very Author of our faith.” And that truth is easily shown in God’s Word which is why God did not will to convert reprobate Israel, and why they could NOT be converted.

    Then you switch gears but do you realize it?
    In the beginning you ares speaking of a dichotomy in the will of God as to what GOD will do: God wants to save them but He cant!
    But to show proof of that you contrast what God desires OTHERS to do versus what He allows/wills them to do. You said:

    “How could the same God who hates sin will for sin to occur? The answer is that He allows what is repugnant to His nature in order to accomplish what is to His greatest glory. Jesus was sinfully betrayed, falsely accused, unrighteously tried and executed—yet, such atrocious sin was planned by God from the beginning. God’s strong hatred for sin is constrained by the exigencies of what He wants to accomplish.”

    Allowing sin or even willing sin by others is not the same as being internally inconsistent. Such things are consistent with God’s holiness and glory are they not. God is not conflicted internally by my sin. There is no inconsistency in His own being. It needs repeating:

    There is no inconsistency in His own being.

    There is no inconsistency in His own being. He gets what He earnestly desires. If He cannot fill His own needs, how can He complete ours?
    God does not desire the salvation of all men. He is not hoping in it or trying to achieve it.

    What L’s do and what you do is devalue God’s love. And in doing that you devalue the cross of Jesus. Coming soon in a new post.

  2. Mike,

    You stated:

    let me address your third paragraph which you opens thus:

    “For example, both Calvinists and Libertarians firmly hold to the same unproven assumption, to wit, that if God is fully in control of who will eventually believe, then God cannot earnestly desire the salvation of all men and not do all that is needed to successfully bring all men to faith.”

    That is not an assumption but a hypothetical. Certainly C’s may assume it as true but they wouldn’t say “if”. Libertarians [L's] would see it as only hypothetical. How can we speak of unity and reconciliation when we skewer what people believe in the name of conciliation?

    It is indeed an assumption, since both assume it is true without proof. The presence of the word, “if,” does not substantially change the assumption, but only presents it in such a way as to show what both groups share. You are nitpicking. The statement could just as easily be presented as: “If it is given that God is fully in control of who will eventually believe, then God cannot earnestly desire the salvation of all men and not do all that is needed to successfully bring all men to faith.” Nothing has been “skewered” here at all.

    You continue…

    besides that, there is an assumption made that L’s really only care about defending God’s ‘love’ and not really about free will. I think not. They are called L’s for a good reason: They believe in man’s power of choice.

    I disagree. They certainly make freedom of will their primary focus, but as I explained in the part 3, their reason for doing this can be found in their desire to defend God’s love and goodness.

    You state:

    And that leads us to Dabney’s poor illustration of limited atonement.

    Dabney seeks to explain limited atonement. Basically he says that God CAN’T save the non-elect due to some other consideration of His sovereign wisdom. [Which of course He tells us in Romans 9 just what that is]. First, no L is going to find that message conciliatory: God CAN’T save you all because of some other wise reason, which of course discounts man’s will in the matter all together. Second, it also means that the non-elect have absolutely zero [0] chance to be saved. God CAN’T save them due to some other cause He can’t or won’t overcome in Himself.

    You say his illustration is poor. Dabney (one of the revered Calvinist theologians of the past) and I disagree with you on that assessment. He is not trying to explain limited atonement but selective grace/reprobation. I did not say that Libertarians would immediately find such a message conciliatory. Rather, by invalidating the assumed premise, one is left with something short of the certainty that the false premise previously provided. This undermines the authority (and false confidence) with which both sides fervently declare one another’s view as nonsense and unbiblical. You are wrong: it is not true that it “discounts man’s will in the matter all together.” You are falsely assuming that God cannot effect His plan THROUGH the will of men rather than merely by frustrating the will of men. And nothing in this world happens by “chance.” IF by chance, you mean opportunity, then you are wrong again: the certainties of heaven do not preclude the possibilities of earth. God’s plan is a matter of utter certainty, and all things will occur as He has planned. However, this world consists of contingencies, possibilities and opportunities, of which many will never be chosen. It is not true that because it is certain that the nonelect will never choose God then they will never have the opportunity to choose God in this life—any more than it is true that because it is certain that the elect will choose God then we were never headed toward hell (then, what were we saved from?). I’ll get more into this in Part 5.

    You stated:

    Now they do share one premise together:
    “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action.”

    But they differ on their second premise as we see below:
    C: If He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded.
    L: He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills.

    To say these two groups are putting forth the same argument with different conclusions is to compare apples with oranges. Yet that is what Dabney says: “Should not this fact, that two opposite conclusions are thus drawn from the same premises have suggested error in the premises?”

    It seems you are trying to jam a square peg in a round hole.

    The primary premise is what I was referring to. Each sides adds their own secondary premise, but the root of the problem is in the primary premise. The secondary premise is itself based on the assumed truth of the primary premise. It is only because the L’s believe that God acts on every propension that they could posit that God “did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills.” It is only because C’s believe that God acts on every propension that they could posit that if God earnestly desired to convert reprobate Israel He would have infallibly succeeded. Invalidate the primary premise, and you remove all ground for the secondary one.

    More later, when I have more time…

  3. Mike,

    Continuing…
    You stated:

    Now you further err by saying this as if it were true: “The Libertarian can show from Scripture that God loves all men and calls all men to salvation, being unwilling that any should perish;” But neither Ken nor the L can show from Scripture that it is true. In fact it most certainly false. When a group bases its theology on false ideas and understandings it only reckons that they will come up with a wrong idea:
    “He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills.” [And most of the time God FAILS!!!]

    The fact that Libertarians can find significant and valid support in Scripture—that a valid argument from Scripture can be made for their view—is beyond any reasonable, objective dispute. People on both sides may blindly deny that the other side can validly find support in Scripture; however, this series of articles is addressed to those who still maintain enough intellectual honesty and objectivity to at least admit the validity of the opposing arguments. I don’t have time to engage those who refuse to admit it. The Libertarian arguments are widely known and readily available to anyone interested.

    Anyone honestly engaged in theology should realize that this is not an exact science. When it comes to such things as the disagreement between Calvinism and Libertarianism, we do not find the same level of certainty that we do when it comes to such things as the existence of God or the inspiration of His Word. Therefore, we do not deal with proof, but with comparisons between valid arguments and systems, not finding any system that is without its inconsistencies and “problem passages,” but trying to find the system that has the least problems. Calvinism, like Arminianism and any other system, has its problem passages that require it to take a more difficult exegesis than the opposing view. Whether a view is “based on false ideas” is only be established by systematic comparison, which does not provide the kind of certainty for you to declare, “In fact it [is] most certainly false.”

    You stated:

    Then you switch gears but do you realize it?
    In the beginning you are speaking of a dichotomy in the will of God as to what GOD will do: God wants to save them but He cant!
    But to show proof of that you contrast what God desires OTHERS to do versus what He allows/wills them to do. You said:

    “How could the same God who hates sin will for sin to occur? The answer is that He allows what is repugnant to His nature in order to accomplish what is to His greatest glory. Jesus was sinfully betrayed, falsely accused, unrighteously tried and executed-—yet, such atrocious sin was planned by God from the beginning. God’s strong hatred for sin is constrained by the exigencies of what He wants to accomplish.”

    Allowing sin or even willing sin by others is not the same as being internally inconsistent. Such things are consistent with God’s holiness and glory are they not. God is not conflicted internally by my sin. There is no inconsistency in His own being. It needs repeating:

    There is no inconsistency in His own being.

    There is no inconsistency in His own being. He gets what He earnestly desires. If He cannot fill His own needs, how can He complete ours?

    You’re not making sense to me, Mike. I never said that God was “internally inconsistent,” only that God was complex in what He willed rather than simple. I did not switch any gears. God works through the will of men. God saves men by bringing them to the point where they are willing to come to Him.

    As for sin, God is not wholly desirous that any sin occur. To claim that He is would be to put God on the side of sin—a Promoter of sin who fully accepts it and embraces it. The God of the Bible is utterly repulsed by sin, absolutely hates sin, and would never be wholly desirous that it occur. But He does ordain it as part of His eternal plan, only to accomplish His greater purposes which cannot be accomplished otherwise. You reductionist assertion, “He gets what He earnestly desires,” ignores the holy nature of God and begs the question of the complexity of His will.

    You stated:

    God does not desire the salvation of all men. He is not hoping in it or trying to achieve it.

    What L’s do and what you do is devalue God’s love. And in doing that you devalue the cross of Jesus.

    You have not proven your case. God does not hope for what will not occur, but that does not prove that the nonelect were reprobated because God had no earnest desire to save them. You would deny to God what you do not deny for yourself—the propensity to have deisires, motivations, and compassions toward someone even though you find larger considerations keep you from acting on those desires and compassions. By denying this to God (due to your unproven assumptions), you (and Calvinists like you) impugn the love and compassion of God. By making God’s love the ground of His electing, you make His love to the very means of the nonelect’s destruction, because an electing love is a reprobating love. Such a failure to understand the difference between love and decree twists the idea of God’s love into something it is not.

    The cross of Jesus is a perfect expression of His true nature. Not only will it infallibly save the elect, but also, it is offered to “sinners as sinners,” and would save any who would be willing to come to Him (even the nonelect if they would hypothetically come in faith). Thus, no one perishes for lack of atonement, and no one would be turned away for not being on the list of elect. God is abundant in mercy and ready to forgive all those who come to Him. I understand that this butts up against your Calvinist theology, but it should also make you take a second look at such things (if you’re still able to do that).

  4. Ken,
    I need your help.
    i looked and looked and could find no evidence that Libertarians firmly hold to the unproven assumption, to wit, that if God is fully in control of who will eventually believe, then God cannot earnestly desire the salvation of all men and not do all that is needed to successfully bring all men to faith. In fact they deny that God is fully in control of who will believe.
    So will you provide your source material for your statement?
    Thanx.
    mike

  5. Ken,
    What i found was that L’s believe that God does earnestly desire the salvation of all men and does all He can to bring them to accept Him as Lord I found that Libertarians are for the most part indeterminate meaning that God has ceded some control to man and thereby making man’s will free.

  6. Ken,
    More help/
    You said, “I disagree. They certainly make freedom of will their primary focus, but as I explained in the part 3, their reason for doing this can be found in their desire to defend God’s love and goodness.”

    I couldn’t find this either.
    Could you also give me references as to where i might read this of them myself?
    Thanks again.
    mike

  7. Ken i did find this:
    in a review of Roger Olson’s book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, by Kyle Demming of skepticalchristian.com, he said…
    “Perhaps the best part of the book was its emphasis on the character of God being the primary motivation for Arminian theology. Many critics see the theology as motivated by a desire to keep “sacred” the human free will, but Olson wisely points out that this is not the main point of affirming the reality of human free will. The primary motivation is to protect the character of God. Since God is not the author of evil, Arminians seek to place the blame for sin (including the Fall of Adam), evil, and unbelief in the hands of free human creatures. In fact, this reflects my intuitions as well…”
    But many other Arminian web places give the reason they believe in man’s free will seems more for the sake of the free will of man than for the sake of God’s goodness.

    Of course most C’s place the blame for sin and the fall on Adam. But then again, most C’s believe man has free will just not Libertarian.

  8. Ken,
    You said, “The fact that Libertarians can find significant and valid support in Scripture—that a valid argument from Scripture can be made for their view—is beyond any reasonable, objective dispute.”

    If one thinks an argument is valid, then embrace it.
    Do you think the Libertarian argument is valid?
    Then why do you reject it?

    valid: Actually supporting the intended point or claim; acceptable as cogent:
    cogent: Clear, logical, and convincing.

    I do not think the Libertarian argument actually supports their claim or is clear, logical and convincing.
    I object to their position on Scriptural grounds.

    Thus I do not think they have a valid argument.
    Here is the problem, those who think like i do not only reject the Libertarian argument, we see no reason to compromise truth for unity.
    And I know that some Libertarians feel the same way,

    Now why do you write insultingly? Am I dishonest? Using rhetoric like that when your goal is conciliation seems to way off base.
    Are you trying to convince the unsure? Or divide the sure one from the other?

    Now of course you didn’t say God was internally inconsistent, just that He sends those to Hell that He loves. …that he sends a Savior He knows won’t save them. …He provides provision for those He knows won’t take it. ,,,and that He does not give them the grace He knows they need.

    …and, oh yeah, He does not get what He earnestly desires. And He’s God!
    …He wants what He can not have.
    …There are things He wants to do, He can not will Himself to do.
    …There is love He wants to lavish on those He loves, but alas, He can not!

    And to disagree with those things is to ignore the holy nature of God?
    Yet the Word of God tells me a different story than what I am reading here:

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.
    “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    And do not return there without watering the earth
    And making it bear and sprout,
    And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
    So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
    It will not return to Me empty,
    Without accomplishing what I desire,
    And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    And His Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And Jesus will save every person whom God desires to be saved. And those not saved were not desired by God to be saved.

    But your examples compare God’s will to man’s action, which is not even what we are speaking about. God also says:
    “To whom would you liken Me
    And make Me equal and compare Me,
    That we would be alike?…
    …“Remember this, and be assured;
    Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
    “Remember the former things long past,
    For I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is no one like Me,
    Declaring the end from the beginning,
    And from ancient times things which have not been done,
    Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
    And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;”

    [Edited by Open Forum Admin]

    Listen to you in contrast to His Word:
    “God does not hope for what will not occur, but that does not prove that the nonelect were reprobated because God had no earnest desire to save them. You would deny to God what you do not deny for yourself—the propensity to have deisires, motivations, and compassions toward someone even though you find larger considerations keep you from acting on those desires and compassions. By denying this to God (due to your unproven assumptions), you (and Calvinists like you) impugn the love and compassion of God”

    [Edited by Open Forum Admin]

    There are many other places in dispute, but I this is all we need work on now.

  9. parsonsmike,

    Declaring that those of the opposing view (whether on the Calvinist side, Arminian side, or in the middle) worship a false god will not be tolerated. We certainly appreciate your participation here, and are confident that this reminder will be sufficient.

  10. Mike,

    You stated:

    You said, “The fact that Libertarians can find significant and valid support in Scripture—-that a valid argument from Scripture can be made for their view-—is beyond any reasonable, objective dispute.”

    If one thinks an argument is valid, then embrace it.
    Do you think the Libertarian argument is valid?
    Then why do you reject it?

    valid: Actually supporting the intended point or claim; acceptable as cogent:
    cogent: Clear, logical, and convincing.

    I do not think the Libertarian argument actually supports their claim or is clear, logical and convincing.
    I object to their position on Scriptural grounds.

    Thus I do not think they have a valid argument.

    The best argument is not always the only valid argument. Anyone can attest to the validity of their own argument, but it takes some objectivity to acknowledge the validity in an opposing argument. In “first tier” doctrines, there is only one valid argument. There is no valid argument for denying the deity of Christ, for example. But why would someone hold to such an invalid argument? When it comes to such essential doctrines, the invalid arguments are held because the holders are unbelievers who are willing even to resort to being irrational and illogical in order to maintain their self-chosen delusion. However, when it comes to the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, the issues are not “first tier” doctrines, and so God does not provide the kind of certainty that He provides for the deity of Christ. Without that certainty, you cannot claim that your position is the only valid position. Any appeals on your part to Scripture can be answered by appeals to Scripture on their part. And while you claim that your exegeses are superior, they claim the same thing. Now, it is true that you can demonstrate an exegetical superiority on certain passages, but it is not true of every passage in question. Your side as problem passages just as their side has—and that fact is the hole in the “air-tight” authority by which you declare the other side invalid.

    Really, Mike, your whole objection here smacks of the kind of blind intransigence that is found in anyone who claims, “you’re not arguing with me—your arguing with Scripture.”

  11. Mike,

    (Continuing…)

    It is a stretch to claim that Libertarianism is not valid merely because you have not found it convincing. “Convincing” and “valid” are not synonyms, in spite of your chain of dictionary definitions. You really seem to miss the fact that in such unessential doctrines, the goal of theology is not to find the only valid argument, but to find the best out of all the valid arguments. I’m not going to argue such a fundamental point any further. Maybe we will just have to disagree.

    You stated:

    Here is the problem, those who think like i do not only reject the Libertarian argument, we see no reason to compromise truth for unity.
    And I know that some Libertarians feel the same way,

    I have not asked you to compromise any truth. But if you think that unity with Libertarians is itself a compromise of truth, then you sound like a tribalist (one who is against the kind of unity that the BF&M reflects).

    You stated:

    Now why do you write insultingly? Am I dishonest? Using rhetoric like that when your goal is conciliation seems to way off base.
    Are you trying to convince the unsure? Or divide the sure one from the other?

    I did not write insultingly—did you read insults into what I wrote? Here’s what I think you’re referring to (since it is the next comment):

    “People on both sides may blindly deny that the other side can validly find support in Scripture; however, this series of articles is addressed to those who still maintain enough intellectual honesty and objectivity to at least admit the validity of the opposing arguments.”

    Intellectual dishonesty is not quite the same as plain dishonesty. It is not an accusation of immorality—of lying—but rather, it is an accusation of bias so strong as to prevent a reasonable objectivity. I went on in the paragraph that followed to explain what a reasonable objectivity entails, and why your reply seemed to fall short of that. Here’s what I said:

    Anyone honestly engaged in theology should realize that this is not an exact science. When it comes to such things as the disagreement between Calvinism and Libertarianism, we do not find the same level of certainty that we do when it comes to such things as the existence of God or the inspiration of His Word. Therefore, we do not deal with proof, but with comparisons between valid arguments and systems, not finding any system that is without its inconsistencies and “problem passages,” but trying to find the system that has the least problems. Calvinism, like Arminianism and any other system, has its problem passages that require it to take a more difficult exegesis than the opposing view. Whether a view is “based on false ideas” is only be established by systematic comparison, which does not provide the kind of certainty for you to declare, “In fact it [is] most certainly false.”

    So then, what was insulting about that?

  12. Ken,
    Valid has more than one meaning,
    It can mean true.
    In reference to arguments it can mean reasonable.
    The problem is that you apply one meaning in one instance and another meaning in another,

    I took valid as meaning true and disagreed with the Libertarian position thus considering it invalid.
    You disagree with their position but take it as valid meaning reasonable.

    But my position, that the L position was invalid is reasonable. But you treated my reasonable or valid argument as invalid.
    In other words you applied a double standard.
    Now why is that?
    It is because you didn’t like my argument because it stood against what you were attempting to do.
    So you said my position on the L’s was wrong, or not valid.
    Yet holding to my position is reasonable given my beliefs [just like the Libertarians position is reasonable given their beliefs].
    To clarify:
    My holding to my position on the L’s is valid like the L’s holding on to their position is valid.
    Just because I was standing against you doesn’t make my position unreasonable or not valid.

    Furthermore, when I opposed your position on God as [in my words] internally inconsistent and compared your words to a couple of passages of Scripture to show how your position was anti-Scriptural, I was giving both a reasonable and true argument, valid by either definition. That you didn’t like what I was saying doesn’t invalidate my argument.

    And that you in censoring me gave out false information, saying that I said you were worshiping a false god, which is just a blatant untruth. i said you were erecting or building a false god. I never said you worshiped a false god.

    So, I expect you to re-post what you deleted and apologize or I will sadly not read or post here again.
    Not only for the above reasons, which are enough to show me that you are possibly more interested in your agenda than truth, but also because you in your rhetoric bash those that oppose you. You don’t do it nearly as well as some SBC bloggers, so if i want abused, i would rather post there [which I don't so I won't.]

    The power of the pen is to be used responsibly. And as one who teaches you are held to a higher standard.
    Is the God you are promoting the God of the Scriptures? If so, show the passages that prove it and show the exegesis that discounts the passages I put forth.

    If one is biased toward the truth is that being intellectually dishonest? Who draws that line -you? Again, a valid and reasonable argument is not accepted by you at your whim. Those who fail to agree with you are intellectually dishonest and improperly biased. So why bother disagreeing with you? Change or be ignored.

  13. Mike,

    You stated:

    Valid has more than one meaning,
    It can mean true.
    In reference to arguments it can mean reasonable.
    The problem is that you apply one meaning in one instance and another meaning in another,

    I took valid as meaning true and disagreed with the Libertarian position thus considering it invalid.
    You disagree with their position but take it as valid meaning reasonable.

    But my position, that the L position was invalid is reasonable. But you treated my reasonable or valid argument as invalid.
    In other words you applied a double standard.
    Now why is that?
    It is because you didn’t like my argument because it stood against what you were attempting to do.
    So you said my position on the L’s was wrong, or not valid.
    Yet holding to my position is reasonable given my beliefs [just like the Libertarians position is reasonable given their beliefs].
    To clarify:
    My holding to my position on the L’s is valid like the L’s holding on to their position is valid.
    Just because I was standing against you doesn’t make my position unreasonable or not valid.

    A “valid argument” does not necessarily mean a true argument. As I tried to explain, in such theological disputes as this one (unessential doctrines) the truth cannot be determined with certainty. Therefore, to describe an argument as “valid” cannot mean anything other than that it is reasonable. I am sorry that you misconstrued the meaning when I said that the Libertarians’ argument was valid, but there was no reason for you to be offended.

    You position “that the L position is invalid”, according to your own definitions (“I took valid as meaning true and disagreed with the Libertarian position thus considering it invalid”), is that the “L position” is not true (false). I never intended to treat as invalid any argument or position that claims the “L position” is not true. Of course, holding that the Libertarian argument is untrue is a reasonable position. So your accusation that I applied a double standard is unjustified.

    Now, as to your judgment of my motives, claiming, “Now why is that? It is because you didn’t like my argument because it stood against what you were attempting to do.” It is well-known how difficult is the task of moderating comments on any discussion forum or blog—especially when it comes to the notorious topics relating to Calvinism. It is the policy of this Open Forum, of which the task falls to me, to maintain the peace and an environment conducive to good and fair discussion among Southern Baptists. In order to do this, standards must be enforced regarding personal attacks such as attacking the authenticity of the opponent’s salvation or presumptuously attacking the opponent’s motives. Such things are not accepted here, Mike. You cannot read my mind, and neither can I read yours.

    You stated:

    Furthermore, when I opposed your position on God as [in my words] internally inconsistent and compared your words to a couple of passages of Scripture to show how your position was anti-Scriptural, I was giving both a reasonable and true argument, valid by either definition. That you didn’t like what I was saying doesn’t invalidate my argument.

    Believe it or not, Mike, I actually like your participation here, and I like discussing these things with you… which explains why you and I have been involved in such discussions for many years (both in person and on the web). Of course, I disagree with many of your arguments, but I have no desire to declare them to be untrue merely because of my disagreement. As for being valid arguments, I never said your argument (that God has no earnest desire to save the nonelect) was unreasonable. But frankly, you didn’t present much of an argument. And what you did present I substantively replied to.

    You stated:

    And that you in censoring me gave out false information, saying that I said you were worshiping a false god, which is just a blatant untruth. i said you were erecting or building a false god. I never said you worshiped a false god.

    You’re hiding behind semantics. The God I was describing was the only God and the God that I worship. Without worship, any so-called god loses its definition. People worship gods or God. Any “false god” that is not worshipped is no god at all, so the worshipping is implied in calling it a “god.” Let’s be real here. You said I was inventing a false god, which means that I my portrayal of God was so far off as to no longer refer to the real God but had to refer now to a false god. That sort of rhetoric in a Calvinist-Libertarian discussion is completely below the belt and unacceptable. You did not even need to go there, and it adds no light at all to the discussion—it gains you no substantive advantage, proves no point, and only serves to provoke. If you have run out of any further substantive points to offer, then leave it at that. Resorting to such tactics is unacceptable. And adding to the flames by now accusing me of falsifying what you said is over the top.

    You stated:

    So, I expect you to re-post what you deleted and apologize or I will sadly not read or post here again.
    Not only for the above reasons, which are enough to show me that you are possibly more interested in your agenda than truth, but also because you in your rhetoric bash those that oppose you. You don’t do it nearly as well as some SBC bloggers, so if i want abused, i would rather post there [which I don't so I won't.]

    Criticizing the moderating will not be tolerated. I don’t think you can find any place to discuss these things that is more fair than this forum, but you are welcome to try. When it comes to the views of Southern Baptists (as opposed to atheists and others), the moderation here is based solely on behavior and not on viewpoint (at least one Arminian has been banned from here due to claiming that Calvinists were not genuinely saved). Personally, it would sadden me for you to depart in this way; however, I will not compromise the standards of this forum even for you.

    You stated:

    The power of the pen is to be used responsibly. And as one who teaches you are held to a higher standard.
    Is the God you are promoting the God of the Scriptures? If so, show the passages that prove it and show the exegesis that discounts the passages I put forth.

    You are here teaching, just as I am. I have substantively addressed all that you have offered. As you know, merely quoting Scripture is not an argument. If you have something of substance to add, I will be happy to address it as time allows.

    You stated:

    If one is biased toward the truth is that being intellectually dishonest? Who draws that line -you? Again, a valid and reasonable argument is not accepted by you at your whim. Those who fail to agree with you are intellectually dishonest and improperly biased. So why bother disagreeing with you? Change or be ignored.

    In this uncertain area (libertarianism v. Calvinism, etc.), how would you know that your bias is “toward the truth?” Intellectual honesty would admit that bias is bias, and that the truth must be sought out with some measure of objectivity. I do not accept in this debate any claim to an exclusively reasonable position. You are free in this forum, as you well know, to post your own article on how the Libertarians are unreasonable. If I have time, I might engage you in the comments of that article.

  14. Ken,

    Two parts to this reply.
    Both to show inconsistencies. The first with the Word of God.
    The second with your own words.

    I am not mad or upset with you, nor do I have any bitterness against you. My goal is to help you see the truth, and I hope that God will open your eyes to it.

    You said:

    “God does not hope for what will not occur, but that does not prove that the nonelect were reprobated because God had no earnest desire to save them. You would deny to God what you do not deny for yourself—the propensity to have deisires, motivations, and compassions toward someone even though you find larger considerations keep you from acting on those desires and compassions. By denying this to God (due to your unproven assumptions), you (and Calvinists like you) impugn the love and compassion of God”

    And I brought up two passages of Scripture.

    “To whom would you liken Me
    And make Me equal and compare Me,
    That we would be alike?…
    …“Remember this, and be assured;
    Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
    “Remember the former things long past,
    For I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is no one like Me,
    Declaring the end from the beginning,
    And from ancient times things which have not been done,
    Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
    And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;”

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.
    “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    And do not return there without watering the earth
    And making it bear and sprout,
    And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
    So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
    It will not return to Me empty,
    Without accomplishing what I desire,
    And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

    You: You would deny to God what you do not deny for yourself
    God: To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me,That we would be alike?
    You: God has an earnest desire to save them [but can or will not]
    God: My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.
    God: So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

    And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jesus is the Word become flesh. He has and will accomplish what God desires, and He will succeed.
    The Spirit tells us in Luke: For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
    Will He not save all those He seeks? Of course He will. Is it all of God’s good pleasure then to save those not elected? Nope or He would save them since salvation is only through Jesus and Jesus is seeking and saving those lost. Who then are the lost? Those saved. Otherwise if those Jesus seeks do not get saved, He, the Word sent, fails. Likewise all the good pleasure of the Father is fulfilled. ALL!

    Now according to you, God is like men who want what they can not get. According to you, God is like men and has the propensity to have desires, motivations, and compassions toward someone even though you find larger considerations keep you from acting on those desires and compassions. But certainly God has nothing but GOOD desires does He not? We agree there. But the Word tells us that God will accomplish ALL His good pleasure and that Jesus will accomplish what He desires and succeed in the His endeavor.

    Which means Jesus did not come to earth and die to save the ones who will end up in Hell. It means that God is not desiring their salvation. And there is no Scripture that contradicts that truth.

    Now as creatures in this world, we have uncertainty about the best course of action at times. We have limited knowledge and understanding and we do not see the big picture as God does, or even close. But this one thing is true, we can never err in our actions if we are walking in the Spirit even if our understandings and our emotions become in conflict. We are to trust God and then do the right thing no matter what the cost to us or to them. And we trust God to set things straight and to make sure justice and compassion reign. So that in whatever situation we are in we know that God is in control and he is able to make it right. For example ley ius say you see one begging for food and you have none and no money to give him, but you have compassion for him so what do you do?

    One account goes like this:
    Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

    So we look at Dabney’s illustration. What was the right thing for the man to do? I don’t know, but one thing the man could’ve done was to stop and pray with the man and give him the words of life, trusting the man to the God who sees all. I don’t give my money to the poor man on the street. I give my money to my bills, for my food, and to my church. And the church gives food and clothes and money to the poor man on the street as God moves us. Your idea of God leaves Him unable to satisfy His own desires and then do you expect Him to be able to fulfill yours? Rather in His great wisdom and understanding He is able and does or will bring justice and truth to the world, straightening out all the crooked places because he sees all, knows all, and is in control of all. Those that suffer and die for their sins deserve to. And we who are saved from what we deserve are saved by the grace and mercy of God who chose to save us and not them. That ken is also part of His purpose and plan that is perfect and in perfect harmony with His being and understanding so that God is not conflicted internally by desiring that which He can not have.

    Now as to your words being inconsistent.

    You said: Of course, holding that the Libertarian argument is untrue is a reasonable position. So your accusation that I applied a double standard is unjustified.

    You also said: The fact that Libertarians can find significant and valid support in Scripture—that a valid argument from Scripture can be made for their view—is beyond any reasonable, objective dispute. People on both sides may blindly deny that the other side can validly find support in Scripture; however, this series of articles is addressed to those who still maintain enough intellectual honesty and objectivity to at least admit the validity of the opposing arguments.

    So according to you I can reasonably hold that the L argument is untrue and must also hold that they have a valid argument or I am intellectually dishonest. I can find support that Jesus was a crybaby: “Jesus wept.” Finding support in the Scriptures by failing to properly discern them does not make a reasonable or valid argument. There is then a few positions one can hold. [1]You agree with the L argument. [2]You disagree with the L argument. [3]You don’t know what to think. [4]Or you don’t care either way.
    But there is no place to hold it as untrue and still think it a valid argument since you disagree with its validity in the first place.
    But the real problem with your words is the judgmental dismissal you proclaim: People on both sides may blindly deny that the other side can validly find support in Scripture; however, this series of articles is addressed to those who still maintain enough intellectual honesty and objectivity to at least admit the validity of the opposing arguments.

    What if Ken, what if I am right? Am I blind and intellectually dishonest because I don’t think the L’s have a reasonable or valid argument? Their argument is no better than the JW’s or Mormons. Yes it is on a lower tiered level than the heretics but that does not make their argument for LFW any stronger. I disagree with the Presbyterians on baptism and I think they have no sound basis in Scripture for baptizing babies so does that also make me intellectually dishonest and without objectivity? I disagree with many ways tongues is presented as true and believe they have no scriptural grounds, does that make me intellectually dishonest and without objectivity? I disagree with many dispensationalists on how to view the Jewish people, and believe they have no scriptural grounds, does that make me intellectually dishonest and without objectivity?

    You said that I did not present a very substantial argument against the L position and you are right. That was never my intention. Why should I argue against the L position with someone who disagrees with it? My argument is against the way you are trying to slander those who hold strong Calvinistic views, even me.
    Did you not say my views were reasonable and valid? Yet did you, before that, also say this: By denying this to God (due to your unproven assumptions), you (and Calvinists like you) impugn the love and compassion of God.” A doctrine that is impugning the love and compassion of God is reasonable and valid? Do not the Scriptures tell us that God is love! Is not my doctrine then calling into question the very nature of God?

    And how can you call such doctrines reasonable and valid?
    And how can you call doctrines reasonable and valid that are held by those without objectivity and with intellectual dishonesty because they think those who disagree with them have no true case?
    But you ask, “where is the insult”, just incredible!

    You said: In this uncertain area (libertarianism v. Calvinism, etc.), how would you know that your bias is “toward the truth?” Intellectual honesty would admit that bias is bias, and that the truth must be sought out with some measure of objectivity.

    Notice again that you slander anyone who by faith holds a position they think is the truth simply because someone else sincerely holds an opposing view. They {which includes me} are not intellectually honest. And they are not using any measure of objectivity!

    So again I proclaim: If one is biased toward the truth is that being intellectually dishonest? Who draws that line -you? Again, a valid and reasonable argument is not accepted by you at your whim. Those who fail to agree with you are intellectually dishonest and improperly biased. So why bother disagreeing with you? Change or be ignored.

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