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Answer to JP Holding - June 2012

On first reading of these critiques of Jesus' Words Only by J.P. Holding (JPH), the first thought that comes to mind is that those who claim to uphold the Christian faith ought to better observe our Master's precepts. I think most Paulinists would be embarassed by the prejudice and name-calling in this piece by JPH.

JPH Throws Jesus Under the Bus

More important, I hope most Paulinists would be embarassed that JPH rejects applying to Paul the words of Jesus against condemnatory judging, calling anyone a fool, and cursing by JPH arguing that if Paul violated Jesus' principles in that regard, so did Jesus, making Jesus thereby supposedly a sinner. (I will detail this below with quotes from his critique.) This argument recklessly ignores the fact Jesus has that prerogative from God-the-Father to do such things because the Bible in Psalm 2 tells us Jesus will judge every man which Jesus reiterated in His ministry. (Psalm 2: "Kiss the Son lest he be angry....") God-the-Father has delegated all authority to Jesus to judge every man. Id.

Why is this argument so terrible and reckless? Because no one can deny Jesus issued condemnatory judgment on Capernaum, or that Jesus cursed to hell in essence the Pharisees by saying their pupils were twice the sons of hell as they were, etc. So JPH would not concede Paul's words violated Jesus' words against such judgment when exercised by us. Instead, Holding turned Jesus's words upon Jesus without notice to the reader that there is a qualitative difference between Jesus, the Messiah, and Paul, a mere man. Jesus as the Judge can condemn to hell individuals and cities, etc. Paul as a mere man cannot do so. JPH leaves the reader only two options: either both Paul and Jesus are invalidated together, or both are valid because both can condemn and curse others. And JPH uses a context where it is clear Jesus' words to US about what WE cannot do are not meant or proper to apply to Jesus Himself for the reasons just stated. So a credulous reader -- one easily carried away by vitriole and blistering rhetoric that Mr. Holding uses -- could easily conclude Jesus was a false prophet by means of what JPH's words necessarily imply.

This is the most disturbing aspect of JPH's critique because it shows Paulinists would throw Jesus under the bus, if necessary in an argument, to preserve their love and veneration for Paul. As Jesus said, if you have two masters, you will love one and hate the other. Unfortunately, JPH appears more concerned about defending Paul rather than drawing a line that does not claim Jesus was a sinner, which JPH says would be true if Paul sinned by his condemnations, calling others fools, cursing by 'anathemas,' etc.

Incidentally, we must remember just because Jesus had righteous anger at others does not mean we can do that. Jesus told us that we are never to be angry at a brother. But Jesus as Judge for all men, appointed by God, can do so. Hence, we must restrain ourselves from ever justifying ourselves or Paul by reference to 'well Jesus did get angry,' because there is a distinction, as mentioned above.

Point by Point Discussion

1. Second Peter 3:16

JPH quotes this passage that many do not understand Paul, and applies this to me, commenting that Paul is so intelligent that few can understand him:

Paul remains an enigmatic figure who seems to be speaking on a different plane. This is understandable. Paul was certainly among the three most educated and intelligent of the NT authors (Matthew and Luke come close, or perhaps even match), and it takes a great deal of careful study to avoid misreading him.

This is condescending because we are to believe JPH has the key to understand Paul but the rest of us do not.

However, JPH misses the point of 2 Peter 3:16. As Calvin pointed out in expressing his view that 2d Peter cannot be authentic inspired writ, 2d Peter is criticizing Paul as difficult to understand. Rather than a statement to challenge us to find the true hidden meanings of the very wise Paul, Calvin correctly understood 2d Peter as a warning that it is difficult to know what Paul means. Due to this, 2d Peter says "many have lost their steadfastness in Christ." Ouch! Second Peter is warning us about Paul, not endorsing using Paul for doctrine! Many lose their steadfastness in Christ due to the "difficult to understand" passages in Paul. See our link.

Yet, in my work, despite my wish to quote and cite 2d Peter as authority to prove such danger, I conceded scholars are correct, including Calvin, that the evidence is against 2d Peter being deemed an authentic work of Peter. This is in an appendix of JWO. But JPH cites from 2d Peter in his twisted reading anyway without trying to prove he can claim 2d Peter is authentic and thus Peter's own words. It makes me suspect he has not read JWO cover to cover, yet finds himself ready to criticize it.

2. Not Discuss Authorities JPH Cites

JPH then says I discuss Charles Stanley and John MacArthur, but not Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, or David Wenham.

This is wrong, but also misunderstands the entire point of JWO.

I do discuss Witherington in JWO ch. 10, JWO ch. 11, and Appendix B under Canon. I am also fully aware of N.T. Wright's interpretation of Paul's usage of pistis, which Wright defends as meaning "faithfulness" (not "loyalty" as JPH understands). See JWOS ch. 26. I am fighting for that same view of Jesus' meaning as Wright when referring to pisteuousin, not against it. Id. Holding clearly has not substantially read JWO yet feels free to criticize it.

But neither Witherington, Wright nor Wenham can deny that Paul uses "faith" (pistis in Greek) in the belief-alone sense in Romans 4:3-6 and Romans 10:9, which leads to 'no condemnation' in Romans 8:1. Nor can anyone dispute that Paul teaches that any effort to obey the Law to be right with God, such as obeying Sabbath, in Galatians 5:4, and similar verses, causes separation from Christ. If you seek justification as the Law teaches by obedience to the Law (see Deut. 6:5), Paul says you are lost. (By contrast, Jesus teaches the publican who repents of sins under the Law "goes home justified" in the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.)

So ultimately those scholars do not address the key points of conflict between Paul and Jesus on salvation which I highlight in JWO ch. 8. Hence, I must address points that Witherington, Wright & Wenham are not addressing which opponents of their views advance to describe Paul's views as justifying a 'faith alone' theology. That theology predominates as we all know, not the notions of Witherington, Wright or Wenham which I could only wish were followed more.

Nor does JPH ever cite or quote Witherington, Wright, or Wenham in his piece. He just wants us to assume they agree with him yet he does not demonstrate how. This is known as the fallascious appeal to authority. Where is the proof of any relevance to their works against what I am saying?

More important, I quote Stanley or MacArthur to illustrate the typical evangelical or reformed views of scripture. NT Wright and Wenham are Anglicans. Witherington is a Methodist minister. These are not the viewpoints that I am criticizing for undue focus upon Paul to the detriment of Jesus' doctrines.

3. Holding Ignores The Key Issues

Holding is trying to make my analysis in JWO to only be about salvation doctrine. However, my focus is instead about applying the Bible's tests to the validity of Paul. If Paul is inspired, then we can rely upon Paul's salvation doctrine, but if Paul is not inspired, then we cannot rely upon Paul's salvation doctrine. The issue thus is not about salvation doctrine per se, but about whether Paul is validly treated as inspired.

Thus, the JP Holding piece starts with red-herring concerns. The focus of JWO is not upon salvation doctrine. I simply say that salvation issues are of concern to me and another reason why we must examine Paul to determine whether he is a prophet of God or just an ordinary person whom one might regard as edifying but otherwise we must reject him as inspired. Hence, to the extent Paul contradicts Christ on salvation, it is just one more reason to regard Paul as not a prophet of God.

4. Holding Concedes My Main Point

Interestingly, in the end, JPH concedes Paul is "not a prophet," so JPH is not actually opposing my main thesis. He just seems to like to find fault and criticize, but not much else.

Perhaps I should declare victory, and keep this short so as not to offend on the next point raised by JPH.

5. Too Long

Mr. JPH says JWO is too long. I guess he won't like to read this reply either. It has too many words. Since JPH concedes the main point that Paul is not a prophet (and hence not inspired), I should just stop here. 

Additional Note

JP Holding in 2009 wrote an Amazon Review. It is more of this name-calling which I wonder if Mr. Holding has examined against Christ's teachings. Here it is:

How to start? The factual errors, the absolute paranoia, the grossly incompetent exegesis -- it's all here. I'll be producing a detailed refutation of this ridiculous book in the next few weeks, so I won't repeat arguments here; if you know who I am, you know where to go. I think it is enough to say that Tondo is a complete know-nothing when it comes to Pauline scholarship. And little wonder! He seems to think people like Bob George and Charles Stanley are the top level he needs to look into. Adam Clarke's commentary??? Hello, Doug? It's 2009! Drop the dead white men and back away from the word processor!

If you consult REAL Pauline scholarship -- stuff by serious, credentialed scholars like Ben Witherington, N. T. Wright, and so on -- it becomes pretty darned clear in a hurry that Tondo is a thorough exegetical ignoramus with a chip on his shoulder and an agenda on his mind. That he's ignorant enough to make use of Eisenman's fringe nonsense speaks for itself.

A sad effort by a monumental fraud.

Anyone can call another names. It takes a true follower of Jesus to explain without sinful speech where another has made a mistake. Ultimately, JPH has nothing persuasive to say because it is all ad hominem fallacies -- i.e., insults. At Philosophy Lander under Logic, we learn:

Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial): the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument. Often the argument is characterized simply as a personal attack.

    1. The personal attack is also often termed an "ad personemargument": the statement or argument at issue is dropped from consideration or is ignored, and the locutor's character or circumstances are used to influence opinion.

    2. The fallacy draws its appeal from the technique of "getting personal." The assumption is that what the locutor is saying is entirely or partially dictated by his character or special circumstances and so should be disregarded.

JPH precisely fits into this mold of using the Ad Homimen fallacy in these examples which I extract from his Amazon review:

I supposedly am paranoid, and have grossly incompetent exegesis. However, no example is offered. I am also supposedly a complete know-nothing. Again no example is offered. I am finally alleged to be a thorough exegetical ignoramus with a chip on my shoulder, but again no example is offered.

Hence, this may make JPH feel good that he insults another, but there is one who will Judge between us who is obeying our Lord and who is not.

Doug, June 2012