A Brief Rejoinder

After many months of making reference to my statements (normally as found on the Dividing Line) only by ostensibly humorous sub-tweeting, Dr. Barcellos recently directly addressed me via Twitter. Given the length of the thread, and my desire to have facial expression and tone of voice available (one of the worst problems with Twitter in general), I responded on the Dividing Line of 7/21/22. Dr. Barcellos has again responded with a lengthy Twitter thread, to which I respond here.

I confess it is hard to know whether Dr. Barcellos actually listened to my comments, or is going off of someone else’s notes. This only adds to the confusion, unfortunately.

I noticed you mentioned me on your DL yesterday. Before I address that, I noticed you also mentioned Drs. Carl Trueman and Scott Swain.

You noticed as in you listened? I ask because the substance of my reply to you is not even addressed in this thread. In fact, I see no evidence you are even aware of that content, which touches on the key issues that should be front and center in this discussion since, of course, it is a public discussion extending outside the borders of our nation.

Since you apparently have Carl’s phone number (and I assume his email address) and are friends, why didn’t you contact him and ask him if he was referring to you? Seems the courteous thing to do.

I have two numbers, both of which are over ten years old I would assume. But I do not call people to make inquiries about their public statements. If someone is going to make blanket statements without identifying the object of said statements, that is where the lack of courtesy lies, as I mentioned in my response.

Concerning Scott Swain, are you certain his tweet was contextualized by the Trueman podcast? How do you know if he even listened to it?

Seems pretty obvious. No one was throwing around the “Socinianism” canard until the MoS episode, and Steve Meister was pretty quick to post the transcription of that particular statement. It is possible, of course, that two people could come up with an equally bad allegation separately within 12 hours, but it is highly unlikely.

Back to me. If you feel the need to read my tweets on your show (which I don’t recommend), I ask that you read them in full and word-for-word. Yesterday you misread a portion of one of my tweets.
You said “our” (more than once?), while I said “their.” This was in reference to my statement about me critiquing Drs. Frame and Oliphint.

When you ask “more than once?” I am again left wondering what your source of information is? Be that as it may, are you saying I was attempting to change your point? If I misread the tweet I apologize, but what was the relevance? And I simply have to point out that once again I read these comments, quote from articles, books, etc., and yet your timeline is simply overflowing with snarky comments about what others have said without naming them, quoting them, using proper sources, etc. In fact, I took the time to look up that portion of the Dividing Line and in so doing I had to work through your timeline on Twitter to find the original thread. I will be honest, I almost did not bother with this article just on the basis of the past 24 hours worth of tweets.

I don’t understand why u feel the need to read & comment on my tweets.

You comment on my statements on the Dividing Line regularly, just without doing me the honor of doing so openly and accurately.

But in this situation, you addressed me directly, and I responded on the Dividing Line so as to be able to do so fully and with less chance of misunderstanding. Further, we seem to have a very, very different concern about these topics. I believe the issue of scriptural sufficiency and supremacy to be foundational to the entire church. I do not think you or I are particularly important, but the issue is vital. So I replied to your thread because it is relevant to all of those who are struggling with the change in emphasis that has become clearly visible over the past half a decade or so.

I have never, as far as I can remember, mentioned your name during my weekly preaching ministry. I don’t agree with u on several fronts, but have never felt the need to expose my people to the differences.

I refrained from mentioning your name initially simply because I hoped (naively) that this was a passing phase or fad and that cooler heads would prevail. But how could I respond to your thread without using your name? Your thread was posted publicly. Would you prefer I respond to some “anonymous” person on the Internet?

As u have your concerns about me, so I have my concerns about u.

I think someone, I do not remember who, only a matter of weeks ago was harping on how this should all be about “doctrines, not dudes.” Ah, the good ol’ days! My concern is about the faith once for all delivered to the saints. A new emphasis has appeared amongst us, and you represent one aspect of it. Many people would be benefitted to see how the historical/grammatical method, practiced by believing men who hold to the highest view of Scripture, its harmony and consistency, etc., differs from the new emphasis that includes the “great tradition.” In fact, just today I had a student point out that another IRBS prof had defined biblical hermeneutics like this:

Grammatical historical exegesisNT Priority (Christ is the lens through which we read the OT)The creeds and confessional tradition of the church

The student asked a good question: when did we start talking about the creeds and this “confessional tradition of the church”? You know this is the “new” emphasis and it raises a lot of questions, especially since someone like myself has always believed that the sole authority of any creed, or any confession, is its fidelity to the content of divine revelation found in Scripture alone. How any Baptist could functionally use a phrase like “confessional tradition” I do not know, at least historically. But these are the issues. Remember how about two months ago you went on that “personal pope” binge on Twitter? That is directly relevant.

I am concerned about the purpose of the DL & the direction it has taken. I am concerned about your changing doctrinal convictions on eschatology and the function of the law of God, especially so late in life.

Well, that’s all very interesting, but also utterly irrelevant to the issue at hand. I took the time yesterday to fairly read your thread and ask important questions about sola scriptura, tradition, how we do theology beyond the language of Scripture, etc., and instead of engaging that, which everyone knows has been the substance of my concern for over six months now, you bring up eschatology? I am sorry, but I have no interest in wandering off into such topics. You cannot even have a meaningful discussion of eschatology without sharing a common view of Scriptural sufficiency, so I think any discussion elsewhere is just a distraction.

I am concerned about your view on divine simplicity.

And I, you. God is not made up of parts. He is not complex. But only by importing Thomistic metaphysics can you then demand that we believe, as dogma, that we can know God’s view of Himself ad intra, so as to know He does not make the same distinctions that glorify Him when they are made by His creatures. Recognizing that omniscience and omnipresence are two true, but different, statements about God’s being does not create “parts” so as to divide God’s being. Only a medievalist operating with a metaphysical construct that is nowhere present in Scripture nor taught by the Apostles could dogmatize the point. You are welcome to believe it, if it is of benefit to you in some fashion, but to demand it as a mark of orthodoxy is to go far beyond any biblical categories.

I am concerned about some things you have said in relation to Christology. I am concerned about your hermeneutical and theological method. You have your concerns about me and I you.

The difference between us is I lay these issues out and discuss them for the benefit of others. We are not just two private guys having a chat. We have been put in positions of leadership. I have made my position clear on hermeneutics, and you believe you have as well.

But here’s the difference: I don’t broadcast my concerns to my primary audience, my church. You, on the other hand, broadcast your concerns about me on Twitter and your show. Why? Who has appointed you to be the theological watchdog for the church catholic?

You are positing an obvious category error. The Dividing Line is not a church, and has never pretended to be so. I have never mentioned you in a sermon in my church, either. But I find it astonishing that you would speak like this. Your twitter feed is filled with statements that would fit into the “theological watchdog for the church catholic” category you just artificially created. The double standard here is amazing. Are you seriously suggesting that it is inappropriate to point out the shift that you yourself have admitted is plain in your own position?

Tell me, when Owen, or Turretin, critiqued other positions in their day, were they setting themselves up as theological watchdogs for the church catholic? Isn’t every pastor bound to warn of false teachers, or even trends in the church that history tells us never end up well? I can think of so many statements by the early Fathers that would likewise fall under your condemnation here.

If your show were a ministry of your church, I might see the relevance but, as far as I know, it isn’t. I don’t think your current modus operandi is helping your audience.

Let me see if I follow you here: so if I made the same criticisms of encroaching traditionalism as a part of, say, Apologia Radio, which is specifically a ministry of my church, that would make those criticisms valid?

I will leave it to those in the audience as to whether they have been helped. I can tell you that MANY have reached out to thank me for taking a stand and for examining these topics, especially students in seminaries and Bible colleges where they are all of a sudden being hit with perspectives they know were not a part of the curriculum only a few years ago.

You often paint your fellow brother interlocutors in a bad light (eg, …
… assigning labels to them they do not and probably will never use, accusing at least one of them of lying).

God knows what has been written and said over the past six months; He knows the intentions of the hearts, and He knows who has engaged in unfair and untrue accusation. My files are filled with the insults and mockery of the other side, the vast majority of which has gone unanswered. The past 72 hours have seen the rise of the insane accusation of Socinianism, for example.

Someone commented recently something like this: “While you are exegeting tweets, those with whom you disagree are writing books.” The books that tweeter was referring to interact with Scripture, the best primary historical sources, and the best secondary historical sources.

Yes, I saw it. Only a person who has ignored the hours of careful teaching I have provided could make such an inane assertion.

I’ve read many of them and have profited much from them. These books exemplify an ad fontes mindset—back to Scripture, as well as the best sources of historical theology.

Since you do not provide specifics, there is, of course, no way to respond meaningfully. Do you consider Craig Carter’s Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition to be one of these books?

I ask that you reconsider the path you’ve taken. I don’t think it’s helpful. If you think you need to continue as is, I recommend you do the work necessary to critique others.

The path I have taken is the same path that brought me to teach for you over ten years ago. I have not changed, Richard. You have. You know this. And given you have yet to interact meaningfully with ANY of the lengthy presentations I have made on hermeneutics, tradition, etc., and seem to only rely upon others reports, I have to reject your insinuation that I have not been doing serious work in my critique of others. What is more, the audience of the Dividing Line knows your assertion is erroneous.

When you prepare for a debate, I’m sure you read everything your debate partner has in print. If so, good for you. Why not do the same for the many fine men you have critiqued of late?

Be specific, Richard. When I place their very words on the screen, circle phrases, make notes on the text—do you seriously think someone else did the reading and research?

Why the drive-by comments on your show and Twitter, many based on tweets, then calling that substantial interaction and discussion?

I reject the characterization of my response as “drive by,” of course, and again, anyone who has actually taken the time to follow the discussions knows you clearly have not. You, Richard, are the king of drive-by snark on Twitter, so I really wonder how you could write these words without breaking out in gales of laughter! I will put my timeline, and its seriousness, up against yours any day! But again, this is hardly relevant: when the authors of the books tweet summaries of their positions, are you saying they should not do this, or are you just objecting to my responding to them?

Speaking of discussion, several months ago, a good friend of mine offered to pay your way to CA to sit down with some brothers to discuss divine simplicity. You turned down his offer. You said you don’t travel to blue states.

I do not recall any monetary issues, but the fact is I was invited by Chad to walk into a private meeting heavily weighted on only one side. Why would I do this? I do not travel to California, and I will not waste time going over the lawlessness of that state, the corruption of its governmental officials, etc., in this context. I get to choose where I travel, and I reject the claims of anyone over my time and ministry priorities who would claim otherwise. My counter proposal has, itself, gone unheeded and uncommented upon. I have said that we should have a conference, far enough in the future to allow all the key individuals to be involved. Papers would be written and presented, publicly, not in back rooms. The proceedings should be live streamed for the benefit of the many who could not travel to attend. If helpful, I could see a formal debate as part of the proceedings. In any case, the issues are not personal, they are theological and relevant to the entire Reformed Baptist movement. My proposal has not even been commented on, as far as I know.

On top of that, your tech assistant claimed my friend was not acting in good faith. He even said my friend intended to create a Reformed Baptist tribunal in order to kick you out. I pushed back on his uncharitable claims but he would not recant.

I have no idea what a tech assistant is, or who you are referring to, nor who your “friend” is, so once again, this kind of vague commentary is unhelpful, and cannot be responded to meaningfully.

He’s the same brother who claimed Steve Meister and I were swimming around in the Tiber. I pushed back on that too but he would not budge.

I recall some discussion between Rich Pierce and yourself regarding tradition and your (for a while) incessant use of “sola scriptura” as a punchline for a joke. That was simply beneath you, Richard, and I pointed that out to you. I see no reason to say otherwise. No responsible minister should respond mockingly, “But sola scriptura!” You did it for weeks on end. You know it.

Please rethink the purpose for your show. It could be very helpful to many. I fear it has become a dividing line for the wrong reasons.

I am truly thankful that anyone interested could, if they had the desire, go back in the huge archives of the program (I think they go as far back as 1998, I am not sure), and find program after program where I was presenting the sufficiency of Scripture, discussing tradition, going over how we derive our doctrinal positions, defending our views from Roman Catholics, Orthodox, etc. I haven’t changed, and the purpose of the Dividing Line has not changed, either. I have moved through different periods of emphasis, mainly due to debate opportunities, my global travel between 2005 and 2019, the writing of various books, etc. But one thing is unquestionable: what I am saying today, what I am warning about even in the above definition of biblical hermeneutics as involving “confessional tradition,” I have consistently spoken against, and about, for multiple decades. While the Dividing Line has not changed, I have had to begin addressing topics that I never, ever expected to have to address, for these imbalances are appearing in my own back yard. I have listened to the arguments of those pressing for this “resourcement” and the like and have found them wanting.

If I am doing nothing but exegeting tweets, Richard, it is time for your side to stop wasting your time with snark-tweeting and produce accurate rebuttals. The “Neo-Socinian” absurdity of the past few days is only one example of how the pile of smoldering straw-men seems to know no limits.

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