Sunday, June 24, 2012

The "Reasonable Doubts" podcast on presuppositional apologetics: Part 4, 2 Thessalonians 2

Continuing with our critique of the Doubtcasters' critique of presuppositional apologetics and their allegations that the God of the Bible is deceptive...

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12
7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

The main pattern of note in these two episodes (RD98 and RD101) of the Doubtcast is low-quality biblical exegesis. I don't recall them citing any commentaries or exegetes, either. They seem merely to wing it when it comes to their analyses of Bible passages, and this is a serious problem for them.
The Doubtcasters, in examining this passage, assert that God sends a spirit of delusion on people to ensure they will not repent. They extrapolate from this idea some doubts as to whether people can be held morally responsible for not repenting and believing.
They also hasten to charge that Christians thus have no way to trust that God could be the precondition for intelligibility and reason, that since God deceives people, we have no way to know whether we are deceived at any given time.

Unfortunately for the Doubtcasters' point, the passage does not say anything of the kind.
Notice that the theme of deception is introduced early in v10 - the coming of the "lawless one" is in accord with Satan's activity and with deception of wickedness.
This is a common and constant biblical theme - that wickedness and sin lead to self-deception. Remember how Eve's refusal to listen to God in the Garden led to a total negation of the possibility of God's law being truly communicative and binding ("Has God really said...?") and then hiding from God? Why did she hide from God? God created the whole cosmos! How could someone hide from Him?
That is self-deception in action - this bizarre thought that it is better to do something silly like hide from the Almighty rather than confess and repent immediately, in sorrow and humility.
Or take Satan himself - the bright morning star, some say the head angel of all Heaven, hid pride in his heart and desired to make himself God Almighty. He has lost, been shown time and again his relative weakness, knows the Bible well, knows he is going to lose, and yet carries on fighting. Does he really think he can win? He may well think so - self-deception operates in such ways.

Thus, we note that the theme of the passage is dealing with "those who perish" and their wicked deception. That's a problem already for the Doubtcasters - they're supposed to be showing that Christians don't have a good reason to trust God, but Christians are not those who perish, and they've been rescued from wickedness.

Why do those who perish perish?
Verse 10 - "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved."
Those who perish live in that deception of wickedness because they have not been saved. Why not? They didn't receive the love of the truth. But Christians have received the love of the truth, and have been saved.

So, now we arrive at verse 11, where God sends a strong delusion, and the text explicitly states why. It is because these wicked, self-deceived unbelievers have refused to believe the truth and be saved. This means they are stubbornly refusing to live for Jesus and thus carry out their calling and obligation. They are at war with God.

Is God obligated to send intelligence and information to obstinate, hateful enemies of His? On what basis would the Doubtcasters say He is?

Notice also that these wicked people have already refused to believe the truth, and then the deluding influence leads them to believe what is false. But they already believe plenty of false things. The point here is that God is leading these enemies of His to become worse enemies of His so that He may exercise harsher judgment against them.
But where is there any indication that God is deluding or misleading His people, His followers? Right, there is no such indication. Christians do believe the truth and take pleasure, not in wickedness, but in truth and holiness.

The Doubtcasters are simply engaging in silly, surface-level analysis of the text. They may have read more than one or two verses during their show (which, sadly, is more than you'll get in a lot of 'seeker-sensitive' worship 'experiences'), but they didn't actually take into account what the text said. They looked closely only at one phrase, and missed the entire point of the passage.

The Doubtcasters have shown that unbelievers have no reason to expect any good or any help from God, but that's hardly any surprise for the serious student of the Bible. We knew that already.

(Please leave any comments at the Triablogue post.)