Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Douglas del Tondo's JWO, Part 3

I understand Geisler has now enlisted Sproul in his crusade,but has said nothing new in the process. I'll check that for Friday's entry. For now, let's close out this series.

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 For our last portion of a depth review of Douglas del Tondo's (DDT hereafter) Jesus' Words Only, we will have much less to say. In this last section we have divided out, most of the content is:
  • DDT repeating earlier assertions
  • issuing warnings about not following his teachings
  • issuing warnings about not placing Paul over Jesus
  • claiming that early church writers argued against Paul (while not mentioning him by name) because they argued against the views DDT wrongly ascribes to him
  • laying out the supposed benefits of a "Jesus' Words Only" view
  • criticizing dispensationalism and Calvinist predestination, views I do not hold and I do not find in a contextual reading of Paul
  • criticizing the heretical second-century Marcionites, as supposed heirs of Paul's true legacy
As such, we will have comparatively little more by way of reply. Indeed, our remaining comments amount to four points.
  • DDT makes much of Romans 10:9 [374] to the extent that he believes Paul's use of an aorist tense indicates "a faith that saves is a single step." A correct, contextual understanding of faith shows this to be a misplaced sentiment; the semantic baggage of "faith" by itself implies a process that by nature extends over time. Thus as well, much of DDT's later objections to other passages translated, as he supposes, to wrongly reflect faith as a one-time event, are completely misplaced. Even so, DDT is compelled to face a question elsewhere asked often of the necessity of baptism: Will someone like the thief on the cross be saved, having done no works? An answer rooted in Semitic anthropology answers in the affirmative, seeing works as a result, not a requirement, of faith.
    DDT answers this question not in an honest, satisfactory way, but by essentially moving the goalposts. In order to maintain what amounts to a salvation-by-works stance, he argues that the work that saved the thief was his verbal confession on the cross [450]. But this only removes the absurdity a step further. Just as it may be asked if someone will not be saved if they are shot dead while walking to the baptismal pool (even after making a decision of faith), we may ask DDT if the thief on the cross would have been condemned had a Roman soldier slipped a spear into him between the time he made an epistemic decision of faith and the time he formed the words that enunciated that faith.
  • A very clear case of dishonesty emerges as DDT quotes John Walvoord's Matthew commentary [378]. DDT uses ellipses and shortcuts to misrepresent Walvoord; we will give one example. In the last sentence of the quote, DDT has it as referring to the Sermon on the Mount thusly:
    "[The Sermon involves] unimportant truth."
    Is this reflective of what Walvoord says? Not in the least! Here is the full quote of the sentence in question:
    On the other hand, the Sermon on the Mount is clearly intended to be a definitive statement of Christ's teaching and should not be pushed aside lightly by unnecessary stricture which would relgate it to unimportant truth.
    There is no charitable way to say it: DDT has outrightly lied about Walvoord's words.
  • DDT seeks reason why Paul, he supposes, does not quote or use the words of Jesus or mention any of his doctrines [491]; he supposes it was because the Gospels were written to correct Paul's view and of course, because Paul was contrary to Jesus. This is rather imaginative, and begs the question of disagreement between the two; but more ironically, reflects as well the objections of Earl Doherty, who argued that Paul's alleged non-use of Jesus' words reflected Jesus not even existing on earth.
  • DDT also commits the same error as atheists in misinterpreting Luke 14:26. [414] This, in service of the idea that Luke is an inferior account to the others.
Thus we close commentary on DDT's 500+ pages of misguided eisegesis of Paul. We may now close this series with a few observations.
Members of what I have called the "Paul Fan Club" (facetiously) are little different than Skeptics who read the text using their own understanding as the standard by which the text is to be understood. This is not surprising, given that any error inevitably boils down to imposing an alien context. 

It is not often, however, that I find one who has gone out of his way, as much as DDT has, to avoid reading Paul in his native context. He has avoided scholarly commentators and works on Paul, preferring sermons from minor pastors and aged commentaries. He has badly misrepresented many writers and their intentions. He offers a number of self-cotradictory positions, and forces the least charitable possible reading onto Pauline texts. He has selectively used Scripture for his own purposes, arbitrarily severing whatever texts he needs to sever in order to arrive at his desired conclusion, and has done the same with scholarship as a whole. 

The result: A pedantic, self-righteous legalism -- which apparently sees no fault in doing anything, even that which is immoral, to promote itself.
It is ironic indeed that Paul the former Pharisee is so derided, for the reputed sake of Jesus, by one who embodies the very principles espoused by the Pharisees who attacked Jesus.

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