A Necessary Distinction

In the midst of the turmoil which controversy creates, it is always refreshing to encounter an irenic, yet firm response in the midst of a variety of hasty and conjectural surmises.  That irenicism was, of course, the response of Mike Robinson, who many will know from his books and posts on a variety of subjects related to apologetics. When his response was brought to my attention, I was excited to see that he had commented on the situation.  Unfortunately, his post was in response only to the initial statement, which was intentionally designed to bring attention to the general issues at hand, and was intended from the first to be followed up with a post detailing the disagreement further when I felt a suitable example of the problem at hand was made in response.  That initial statement contained the basics of the disagreement at hand – that we believed Sye’s application of his methodology was overly focused (even more so than Bahnsen’s was) on one subject, to the seeming exclusion of all others.  I will begin by reproducing his introduction, as it is a model of charitable interaction.  I tend to be blunt, at times, so I found it to be a helpful reminder that a bit of gracious introduction will often blunt the “edge” that others may feel at criticism.  As I posted on my Facebook page the day prior to posting the letter to Sye,

I am more and more convinced that one of the most important attributes of a Christian apologist is the ability to deal with criticism in a balanced way. The Spirit’s work of sanctification in us is, of course, the only way we are changed into such a man. The primary means He uses, as a complement to the preached word convicting us is the iron-sharpening influence of spiritual mentors, godly friends, and loving family.

In the spirit Mike models, I will attempt to be as gracious as he is, and respond to this criticism similarly.

Dear Fellow Apologists

Greetings in Christ:

It has come to my attention that selected men from the Presuppositional Apologetics (PA) wing have questioned various aspects of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s apologetics ministry–the content, method, and application. Some of the fellows are respected among intellectual circles and others are godly blog writers.

Interestingly enough, in the past, I have been edified by everyone involved. However, I disagree with the specific public admonition of Sye Ten Bruggencate by Joshua at Choosing Hats. Many of my readers have asked me to express my opinion on the matter.

After much prayer and ruminating, I offer a defense of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s apologetics ministry. One initial matter: If Choosing Hats did not contact Sye before posting their disagreements, in my estimation they should have. Perhaps they did and Sye did not respond or they were unable to locate a means of private communication.

Yes, Sye’s ministry is public so men who feel he has stumbled have the right to confront public error publicly. Perhaps, they could have gone the extra mile and contacted him privately at the outset. This might have been wise since not all Presuppositional apologists agree with Choosing Hats’s evaluation.

I will send this response to Choosing Hats if I can locate a means to do so. Since the public admonition has already gone forth, I will offer an open defense Sye’s ministry before I have the chance of communicating with the fine staff at Choosing Hats.

Below is RazorKiss’ almost complete letter divided in sections with my response under his charges. Joshua’s (RazorsKiss) censure will be in blue font and my response will be in black.

I would just like to note, to begin with, that my letter to Sye, and the subsequent unpacking of the issue, is not meant to be a critique of his ministry as a whole.  His ministry, obviously, consists of more than his apologetic method.  Mike does make the differentiation later, but I wanted to be clear, as there have been a large number of responses that seem to conflate the two, and assume that I am rejecting the entirety of his ministry on the basis of this criticism.  That is simply not the case.  There is a distinction between his evangelistic method, and his apologetic method, I submit to you.  I am not concerned with, or, really, interested in commenting on his evangelism, other than to say it certainly sounds as if he is committed to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I will assume, as I had for the purposes of my earlier posts, that he preaches the Gospel fully and well.  Thus, his ministry as a whole is not what is in question.  What I am questioning is whether his apologetic is of the same gospel he preaches, and of the same Christianity he believes.  This is, of course, a charge of inconsistency, which is an element of an internal critique.  I have not had much reason to comment on or about Sye, other than to make comments in passing about the same issues I have addressed, and to give suggestions on what would be a proper contrast.  Most of his previous work has been in multimedia formats, or found in his website’s famous flowchart.  I am familiar with this work, of course, but it might be helpful to make a note, at this point.  Most of my work is written.  As such, it remains difficult to reference his work, given my typical format. It is nearly impossible on my podcast, since it is recorded while driving!  Further, I would also point out that the subject matter of the majority of his work is such that someone else has said it before in print.  As such, I have never had much reason to refer to Sye’s work, given that his chosen subject is mostly atheism, and that is by far the subject most inundated with presuppositional content regarding it. I frequently make the injunction to folks wanting to deal with atheism that given the quite large amount of material we have assembled on atheism, that it might be far more beneficial to deal with other subjects – especially ones more relevant to the situation in which you find yourself.  Atheism is the epitome of foolishness, and it is, in most respects, low-hanging fruit.  I highly appreciate that Mike engages on a wide variety of subjects.  The friend and apologist I respect deeply, Dr. James White, often comments that the way to keep a proper balance, and to avoid the “lest you become like him” injunction, is to keep yourself rooted in a variety of areas, to force yourself to think systematically, and to engage the entire text.

One initial matter: If Choosing Hats did not contact Sye before posting their disagreements, in my estimation they should have. Perhaps they did and Sye did not respond or they were unable to locate a means of private communication.

Yes, Sye’s ministry is public so men who feel he has stumbled have the right to confront public error publicly. Perhaps, they could have gone the extra mile and contacted him privately at the outset. This might have been wise since not all Presuppositional apologists agree with Choosing Hats’s evaluation.

If I might respectfully disagree with Mike here, where does the “should” outlined above derive from?  If this were about a private sin (which he affirms it is not, shortly thereafter), then I could understand this. It isn’t outlined why this should be the case, so I’m not sure this is relevant.  Several of our contributors were, in fact, invited to be members of his private facebook group discussing presuppositionalism, and we discussed these same issues in that forum, which was by invitation only, so he has heard these same issues in a private setting previously, if that is somehow a concern of anyone, for whatever reason.

For us, the issue is precisely that – public.  We believe that what is taught is problematically narrow.  While it may have a laudable adherence to much of the Biblical teachings on epistemology, the focus on that subject seems to be to the exclusion of a defense of the rest of Christian doctrine.  It’s indisputable, of course, that not all presuppers agree with what we teach.  It is likewise indisputable that not all presuppers believe what he teaches, or for that matter, what Mike teaches, which seems to be likewise different from that which Sye teaches, in that his scope is far wider.   It isn’t really relevant, I don’t think, that not all presuppers agree with us.  What is relevant, I think, is that this is consistent with what we regularly teach.

As we move into his critique portion, I will leave off my original comments, for concerns of space, and only refer back to them as necessary.

/I think I have read every known presuppositional apologetics book; I have studied apologetics under Greg Bahnsen’s pupil; I have interacted with many in the field, and I disagree with Joshua’s assessment. Sye’s ministry employs many of Van Til’s ideas—Sye does this while pressing the biblical truth of Romans 1, the Law, and the Gospel. I have watched with a jubilant heart Sye’s ministry in action. I have been edified, convicted, strengthened, and educated by the lectures, sermons, and debates Sye has participated in. Similarly, I have been edified by the men from WTS, Choosing Hats, and other wings of the presuppositional apologetics household.

I do not agree with everything Sye’s says or does—neither do I agree with everything the superb leaders at WTS, Choosing Hats, and other expressions of presuppositionalism teach and do. Understandably, all of the formerly named would not agree with all of my work and ministry. Still, I rejoice in their flawed, but beneficial ministries.

Mike is indeed well-read, as is evident when reading him.  I am puzzled by his comments to follow, however. We are not disputing that Sye employs many of Van Til’s ideas.  We are not disputing that Sye often presses truths of Romans 1, the Law, or the Gospel in regard to the epistemological questions that arise.  The dispute is whether he is, in fact, pressing the antithesis of Christian Theism vs ~Christian Theism, or whether he is pressing only (at least in the almost overwhelming majority of instances) the antithesis of Christian Epistemology vs ~Christian Epistemology.   Chris Bolt, an Emeritus contributor for Choosing Hats, once wrote a helpful explanation of the “magic bullet” saying you often see expressed about presup.  In that post, he mentioned the difference between local, and worldview level transcendental argumentation.  He makes the point, in response to the “attenuated” approach, that “[p]articular theistic transcendental arguments are every bit as present in the traditional Van Tilian account as they are in the attenuated one. Logic might be the topic of discussion, or personal identity, or rationality, or any number of other epistemological concerns central to intelligible experience, but only one at a time.” With me so far?  We argue particular transcendentals within the greater, worldview level transcendental.  As I explained in the “Stained Glass” post, “[t]he overarching arguments are seen as above, but you have probably figured out by now that every transcendental incorporates a host of subargumentation, that subsists within the transcendental, and presupposes it. Most generally, this is the transcendental argument that all subsist within – All things presuppose CT. All things, therefore CT. It is also true, however, that ANY thing included in “all” – namely, any thing whatsoever – presupposes the existence of God. Pick one. Let them pick one. Or, as we have been taught by Bahnsen and Van Til, use the one they object to Christianity with.”

What we are attempting to point out is the difference between not seeing connections which could be made, (which if I thought it was an important or relevant example to use, I might use of elements of Mike’s argumentation – not as an “attack,” obviously, but as an example, or an illustration) when one has an otherwise systematic apologetic, and on the other hand, the lack of a systematic apologetic.  What we are actually saying is that by Sye’s focus on, and I would argue identification of presup with one particular local transcendental, he is actually practicing a “blockhouse” method in that it does not defend the entire worldview, that is, all of Christian Theism, as a system!  While it is better than classical or evidential apologetics in most, or at least many ways, there is at least one significant area in which it is actually worse.   When you are forced, or when you decide to make every conversation about the same subject, apologetically, you cannot, as Sye teaches you should, seamlessly switch to evangelism.  You have to make your switch to evangelism via means of the epistemological concerns you just exclusively dealt with.  While the nature of divine simplicity, and the resultant systematic, and perhaps even simple nature of theology (in the sense of simplicity – and only in a very particular sense) makes that easier to do here than it would be for someone who embraces a classical method, it still introduces a problematic narrowness into the “switch”.  The second problem is, your evangelistic concern cannot, and should not, be solely with the epistemological nature of their rebellion and sin!  Since this is the case, how they know that they are sinners, that they know they are sinners, why they know they are sinners, and etc. is the proper parallel, were what Sye has just practiced consistent with what he will proceed to preach.  It is not only important that they know they are sinners, but that they are sinners – that this is the nature of their existence, and that regeneration, the work of the Spirit in changing the nature of men, and granting them newness of life is necessary in order that they might believe. The ontology of the thing is just as important as our epistemology of the thing.  It is not only important that they know God, but also that God is there to be known!  As is often attributed to Spurgeon, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”  There is much that is laudable about seeking to address this issue of epistemology.  The problem arises in that there is more to be defended than just this issue.  I am not saying that is all that Sye says. I am saying, however, that apologetically speaking, this subject is what he considers to be all that is necessary to defend.  I am not alone in thinking this to be the case.  Those who are defending his method, almost to a man, are insisting that a biblical apologetic wholly consists of, or is comprised solely of, an epistemological transcendental – to wit, a local, solely epistemological transendental.  Thus, is it not merely that I am insisting that he teaches this, but those whom he has taught are likewise insisting that he teaches this!

//To me, that appears to be an unfair and deleterious characterization.

What I have observed in Sye’s ministry: He exposes the begrimed hearts of wicked men who loathe God and His law.

“Paul sets forth the attitude to which the defender of the faith must be committed: ‘Let God be found true, but every man a liar’” (Greg Bahnsen).

The truth can hurt and is often difficult for unbelievers to hear. Is Sye perfect in his delivery, content, and method? No. But, besides Jesus, who is? Moreover, Jesus almost unceasingly offended people.

“It is not kindness to tell patients that need strong medicine that nothing serious is wrong with them” (Cornelius Van Til).

Yes, we should not be belligerent, but too many in the church are too indulgent and soft. Today, there are expressions of Christians that are too offensive and others that are too pleasant. My assessment: In the Western world, the great majority of the mistakes are found in Christians being too soft. I say to Sye, press on. Imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus.

First, I think it is important to note that the quoted portion he is responding to does not contain the reference to which stained glass window is meant to refer.  It says, contextually; I have spent a great deal of time explaining this method, the power of it, and the sheer exquisite beauty of it.  I have demonstrated it, and all of the other contributors here demonstrate it on a regular basis.  What Sye does, unfortunately, is shatter that stained glass window into shards, and use a particularly pointy one to stab his opponents with.  Sure, it’s effective – if what you want to do is perforate people.  That isn’t, however, what we are called to do.

It may well be unkind to say that what someone is engaged in is akin to a stabbing. Unfortunately, I do actually believe this is true, so let me explain – and why the text not referenced is important.  I don’t think this is an intentional slight on Mike’s part, of course, but it is important, nonetheless.  The important part is not “I” in the previous sentences, obviously.  The important parts are power, and beauty.  While what Sye does might have power – so does any “almost right” over “wrong,” on the main.  The issue is not whether it works.  Not, at least, in a formal sense.  The issue is, is what is being worked, what we are commanded to work?  Is it enough, to satisfy the Biblical command, to equate the defense of the faith to epistemological argumentation?  Further, can all offenses against the Gospel be answered solely by an epistemological challenge?  I would submit to you that just as not all objections are epistemological, so all answers are equally not epistemological.  In reference to beauty, can you see the glory of a sunset through a keyhole?  Can you wonder at the night sky looking through a mail slot?  That is our charge, that to reduce the defense of something as glorious as our faith to only epistemology is to shatter a stained glass window in order to carry a shard more handily.  I was cognizant that the image was harsh – it was intentionally jarring, so as to convey the image I wanted to express.  A stained glass window, left intact, sheds glorious light onto every occupant of the room.  It is aesthetically designed to not only pass through the light, but to complement its beauty.  When the window is shattered, each individual shard will still pass light, it will still complement that beauty – but at the cost of a far greater, far more glorious beauty that is far above that of the shard.

When I view Sye’s apologetic encounters, and his interactions with brothers and sisters in the faith, there is a jarring reductionism that strikes me as similar to the shattering of stained glass.  Instead of using whatever the unbeliever gives him (although it must be said that due to his typical choice of interlocutors, they often give it to him – sometimes, but not always – by means of his directing the conversation to his chosen topic) he has chosen to use only the particular shard that he has picked up.  Think of that stained glass as double-paned.  One side being his gospel preaching, and the other his defense of that gospel.  One side has been shattered, so that he might use his chosen instrument more readily – or so that the task might be made more “simple” or “accessible”.   The other side is left intact.  In conversation, he is often repetitive, tends not to answer direct questions asked of him, insists, on the other hand, that all of his own questions be answered, and is rarely willing to discuss any topic other than his chosen subject.  The “stabbing” reference was meant to convey his repetitive, combative, shotgun, rapid-fire ideal.  It is singular in topic, repeated, and quite often gets there via insisting his interlocutor answer his own questions, while failing to answer the objectors’ in any meaningful sense, if at all.  I’m not saying he never answers questions, but I am saying that I suspect that anyone could document a great many cases (if not the majority) where the above scenario plays out. I haven’t tried to document it, but I can attest to seeing many such examples personally.  In my own study of his methodology, that stands out as practically a hallmark – especially of his interaction on social media, but also in his debates and ‘street” interaction as well,  This isn’t to say that there aren’t many times he doesn’t act in such a fashion, or even that he is gracious more often than he is not – but it is still all too common.  While I understand that we can’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked, having a single rail upon which travel is ever allowed to proceed seems tailormade to produce an offense in its hearers in addition to that which the Gospel will already produce. We will look at this more a bit later, but remember this point.

//The first sentence it too ambiguous to answer (Bahnsen’s debates were scripted, but Joshua evidently doesn’t mean merely a written text). I think Joshua is conveying that one should not “turn every encounter into a carbon copy of the last.”

Thus far, Sye’s debates and lectures are not “carbon copies.” But Joshua’s hyperbole appears to demand: The apologist should not present mostly the identical ideas in excessively consistent formats.

I disagree. Although a plurality of illustrations, arguments, and subjects can be an effective means of public apologetics ministry, Jesus taught the basics of the Sermon on the Mount on more than one occasion. Van Til’s various books are littered with almost “carbon copy” assertions, arguments, illustrations, and applications. Sure, may Sye and all apologists seek to be relevant, winsome, interesting, and biblically engaging in presenting disparate, yet profound theological subjects. But people learn by hearing the same truth taught on many occasions. I  am a voracious reader, but I truly enjoy Sye’s teaching.

I think the context removes the ambiguity, read as a whole, as Mike seems to point out directly thereafter.  I would, however, argue that it is indeed the case that Sye’s encounters all seem aimed to discuss the same topic – epistemic justification.  Again, I’m not the only one who thinks this is the case.  Virtually every person I have encountered who “got their start” under his methodology has the mistaken impression that the local transcendental from epistemology IS TAG.  Perhaps I am just meeting all the wrong people, and perhaps I am simply mistaken, and the ones who tell me precisely that, straight out, are the exceptions.  All I can tell you is that from memory, I can only think of a few times where the discussion has been anything but a means to get to the end of epistemic certainty and/or justification.  The issue isn’t merely that he repeats himself, (although one Amazon review title comes to mind; “How to Annoy the Fool“) but that he rarely, if at all, talks about anything else apologetically. Once again, I make that emphasis, because obviously, he speaks of other things when he “switches” to evangelism. It is not merely saying it more than one time – it is saying the same thing successively, and many times.  I have 6 children.  Any of you who are parents can testify to the fact that one of the most annoying things in creation is one of your children repeating the exact same thing over and over and over again in succession.  Perhaps it is just me who finds this annoying, but I am fairly sure that this isn’t the case. There may be a few, limited situations where such seemingly needless offense is unavoidable, but the frequency at which this conversational gambit is employed seems to be far in excess of common, and nearing ubiquity.

Further, when dealing with objections, he often does not seem to give a meaningful answer to the objection itself. A common mistake we fall into is the assumption that if we attempt to undercut the foundation for their ability to question, that is all the answer necessary.  I have personally seen this assumed multiple times by Sye in dialogues with other presuppositionalists.  If the answer they give to his series of questions is, in some way, something to which he would object, the reply was that they had no foundation for knowledge, and therefore, he answered their question.  Unfortunately, in the cases I witnessed, Sye was actually misunderstanding the nature of the answer, and what it was intended to convey. I wish I could say that the attempts to clarify matters in these conversations ended well, but they did not.  What else is bothersome is an attempt to get Sye to define what he means, precisely, when he makes statements that are vague, or possibly ambiguous.  It is simply unhelpful to answer such questions by restating your answer in the same words.  That is, of course, a tautology.  All that has been accomplished is a reinforcement of the ambiguity. As for myself, I am not laboring under the assumption that the root issue with Sye’s disagreement with me is his epistemology.  On the main, we seem to agree, for the most part, although I have argued that he could perhaps delve a bit more into the “complication” of man’s noetic status. That’s really a side issue to this, but it does relate to the needless offense he seems to give others, and what I called him to repentance for.  I believe that the majority of Sye’s issues in dealing with his fellow apologists, and with unbelievers, even, stem directly back to his method.

//This is an unjust comparison. One should be more gracious and charitable in one’s characteristic of an orthodox brother’s ministry.

As I have already noted, I wasn’t objecting to his ministry.  Perhaps this might strike some as pedantic, but I did not mention the term “ministry’ in the piece that is being responded to.  I certainly wasn’t saying his method was identical to a Jehovah’s Witness’, either.  the preceding context of the cited section reads turn every encounter into a carbon copy of the last. It is also worthwhile to note that Mike says “This is an unjust comparison,” yet the very text he is responding to says, specifically, This isn’t to say that Sye is comparable to a Jehovah’s Witness, but to illustrate what I mean about scripts.” Perhaps Mike inadvertently missed this, and I expect he did.  It is clear that I do specifically note that this is not a comparison, yet the reply is that it is an unjust comparison. I think it would have to be demonstrated that what I said is, in fact, false, and that it is, further, unjust.  The “script” of Sye’s method is to get the unbeliever to the topic of epistemology, attempt to show an inconsistency via internal critique, and therefore demonstrate that they have no place to stand.  I get it.  As I said earlier, however, that is not necessarily the answer to the objection actually made. As I have stated previously: “…whatever the ‘real concern’ that someone has, Scripture has a response we both can and must offer to it. Dodging this very real doctrinal truth typically has disastrous consequences, so by no means should we ever do so.”  It is all very well to say that they can’t justify the objection; but can we justify not answering it?  In Scripture, there are famous objections.  What is the answer to the following: “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”  Do we end with “who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”  The text doesn’t, so we must not.  It continues: “The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” There is a reductio made. Further, it continues on, and in referring to the OT, asks whether the Potter indeed has right over the clay.  It then asserts that the Potter forms both vessels of wrath, and vessels of mercy.  It continues further, and exegetes other OT texts, to explain the nature of Israel’s stumbling, and the inclusion of the Gentiles, grafted in to the tree.  Paul answers the objection.  He does address the illegitimacy of the question, but we are not disputing that you should.  Paul also answers the objection!  I don’t believe Mike fails to do so – but I do believe that Sye fails to do so regularly, and has misunderstood the “two step” approach even at the level that Bahnsen introduces it.  To wit: “The first step is to lay out the Christian worldview in terms of which human experience is intelligible and the objection of the unbeliever can be contextually defeated. The second step is to show that within the unbeliever’s worldview, nothing is intelligible – not even objections to the Christian’s viewpoint.” -Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic – Readings & Analysis, pg. 268, Note 22.  Note – he doesn’t say that step 2 is the sum total of the method.  He doesn’t say that it is sufficient to use step 2, and that is all that is necessary.  In fact, there is a step previous to that, and it involves laying out the Christian worldview.  It cannot be merely assumed.  It cannot be merely stated that Christianity renders human experience intelligible.  Further, I would say that it is necessary to answer the objection from the Christian worldview!  As a bonus, you can explain that from the Christian worldview, the objection assumes that you have to deny what you actually believe. You can also explain how the objection betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of Christian doctrine, and of the Scriptures themselves.  All objections will. You must, however, lay your own cards out on the table.  To not do so is to leave yourself open to charges of evasion. You will not, however, find this often, if at all, in Sye’s work.  We call it reductionistic not only because he limits himself to epistemology, but because he limits himself to one step!  As I explained in this post:

If we, as apologists, are also teaching the doctrines of Christianity as we make our argument, in my experience we will also be disarming the majority of unbelieving objections in the process. Our solution to the charge of obscurity is that we typically do far more teaching than we do arguing. That’s just fine with us. If someone wants to call that needless obscurity, there’s not much we can do about their opinion. Most objections are either to unbelieving misconceptions of Christian doctrine – or objections to bad doctrine.

 

// I have not viewed all Sye’s teaching and debates, but the two dozen I have viewed do not go in that direction. Many times in Sye’s debates, unbelievers have been befuddled, alarmed, stunned, and some have had their mouth stopped up. Sye, in his imperfections, is consistently biblical and Presuppositional—he edifies and equips the saints. He has blessed me on numerous occasions.

At the risk of endangering the irenic tone here, Mike – so?  I don’t recall ever saying that unbelievers haven’t been befuddled, alarmed, stunned, or their mouths stopped.  I also haven’t disputed that there is edification and/or equipping going on.  What I’m addressing is the quality of the aforementioned.  However, I made some specific points concerning the scripted nature of his method, and even explaining how this script is manifested in his work, and this seems to be your only response to them.  Pragmatism can’t be a proper response here, can it?  I don’t think you could argue that this is what you just presented. Call it a testimonial, if you’d prefer, but it seems that the response to the substantive points I made, even in this initial attention-getting post, were largely ignored by each and every response given, including yours, despite the admirably irenic tone of it.  I don’t mean to be combative, but it’s highly frustrating that what I identified as my central concern has been left virtually untouched.

// Okay. But Joshua that is your opinion. I would advise Sye to ponder your corrections (“A wise man loves rebuke” Proverbs 9:8) and keep doing what he has been doing—proceed in the ministry while studying and praying to grow as an apologist. But then again, that is what we all should do. We all should be accountable to a godly group of Elders and a Bible-based church as well as like-minded apologists. I do not see the need or the justification to reprimand Sye publically. His imperfect ministry is commanding, effective, and scripture-based.

Brother, if I thought it was only my opinion, I would not have issued a public rebuke/critique on the subject.  One’s opinion is not sufficient grounds for rebuke, nor would I ever issue one on those grounds.  While it may be your own opinion that what I expressed is a mere opinion, I would have to have an argument to demonstrate that it actually is such before I would consider it an objective criticism.  Since there is an necessary antithesis concerning each and every fact, the mere assertion that X is “your opinion” is not sufficient to the task.  Further, if what you said were true, then wouldn’t it seem to be the case that he would have no particular reason to ponder my corrections, or even to consider them corrections, or a rebuke – but merely, as he has called them on multiple occasions, a “smear?” As such, I don’t see why he would have any reason to take your advice.  While this may not be your intention, it seems that you are not taking what I say as intended, or as expressed.  There seems to be an assumption that I have a motive other than the motive our ministry has demonstrated over time – the explanation and demonstration of Covenantal apologetics. As you have read our material on CH, Mike, I hope you have recognized that what I am expressing about this subject are things that I have taught for years, and are not merely subjective opinions.  Unfortunately for your response, there is no direct rebuttal.  It is asserted, several times, that what Sye is doing is that which Scripture teaches, but with no argument that such is the case.  There certainly doesn’t seem to be any meaningful counter-argument to that effect.  To be an effective response, it would need to address the substance of my concerns.  It would need to show that what he engages in actually does fulfill the Biblical injunction to give an answer for the hope within us.

Part of the problem is that “commanding and effective” are, on the main, pragmatic concerns.  Whether it is Scripture-based, of course, is the issue being raised.  Would you accept it if, in response to one of your own critiques, someone merely asserted that on the contrary, they had a perfectly reasonable explanation, and that by asserting such, you were obviously wrong about the whole affair?  For instance, take James White’s response to Norman Geisler’s Chosen but Free.  When James contacted Norman, he sent in a scripture tally of all the citations of John 6 in the entire volume, and asked whether there was an error where his exegetical work on John 6 had been mistakenly cut from the manuscript.  Giesler’s response was that he had “exegeted it fully.”  Such was not the case, of course, but should James have taken Geisler’s assertion as obviously true, because he made the assertion?  While I grant that you might not understand the need or justification to reprimand Sye publicly, I haven’t seen any reason given that justifies your position that he is not in need of a reprimand, aside from your failure to see a reason.  This is a subjective statement, yet the discussion is about doctrinal issues, so there doesn’t seem to be much relevance to mere statement of opinion on the matter.  Since there seems to be only one argument on the table – namely, mine – then it seems that the issue is still in plain view.

//Who disagrees with this? Nonetheless, in any exchange one only has an allotted time. And God, the ontological Trinity, is the central subject one is to erect one’s apologetic on. The Christian worldview is exceedingly expansive, but one can refute unbelievers by declaring God as the authoritative starting point. An apologetics debate (or lecture) is not to take the place of congregation-based discipleship. The church and its leaders must disciple its members in doctrine, apologetics, theology, etc. A short debate is not meant to take the place of the ministry of the local church.

Sye does disagree.  That is my contention.  He doesn’t agree that our defense of the faith must be of the whole faith.  I fail to see how a defense of the Gospel is wrapped up solely in the unbeliever’s ability to justify his own epistemology.  The Gospel is not the gospel of epistemology.  Again, brother, while I appreciate your winsomeness, this doesn’t actually respond to me.  Here’s a question, since you brought it up.  Does Sye defend the ontological Trinity?  Does the internal critique from epistemology suffice to fulfill that mandate?  If your answer is yes, then I also disagree with you.  The issue is not whether apologetics replaces the teaching of the church, but whether the apologist’s work actually defends the teaching of that church, or has, in effect, become a TAGified “minimal facts” approach.  I’m not talking about merely debates, in any case.  My debates are a small fraction of my own work.   I’m talking about the body of the apologetics work of any one of us. I’ve read enough of your material to know that you bring a decently wide swathe of Christian doctrine into play to give an answer to the unbeliever.  That is precisely what I believe Sye does not do.  Again, you seem to mistake what I am saying.  I am saying that the man engaged in the apologetic task cannot stick to one subject and be a faithful apologete.  There are no one trick ponies.  Take this quote, from Christian Apologetics:

There has been in the disciplines [of biblical studies systematic theology practical theology church history] a detailed
and comprehensive statement of the truth. There has been in addition to that a defense of every truth at every point. Is
there then no place for apologetics? It would seem so. Yet perhaps there may be the work of a messenger boy. Perhaps
the messenger boy can bring the maps and plans of one general to another general. Perhaps the man who is engaged in
biblical exegesis is in need of the maps of the whole front as they have been worked out by the man engaged in
systematic theology. Perhaps there will be a more unified and better organized defense of Christian theism as a whole
if the apologist performs this humble service of a messenger boy. Then too the apologist may be something in the nature
of a scout to detect in advance and by night the location and if possible something of the movements of the enemy. We
use these martial figures of speech because we believe that in the nature of the case the place of apologetics cannot be
very closely defined. We have at the outset defined apologetics as the vindication of Christian theism. This is well
enough, but we have seen that each discipline must make its own defense. The other disciplines cover the whole field
and they offer defense along the whole front. Then too they use the only weapons available to the apologist; namely,
philosophical and factual argument. It remains that in apologetics we have no well-delimited field of operation and no
exclusive claim to any particular weapon.
The net result then seems to be that in apologetics we have the whole field to cover. And it was this that was included
in the analogy of a messenger boy and a scout. This does not imply that the messenger boy or the scout must leave all
the work of defense to the others so that he would have nothing to do but carry news from one to the other. No indeed,
the scout carries a rifle when he goes scouting in the historical field. Then too he may have to and does have to use the
large stationary guns that command a larger distance.
We have just now employed the figure of a fortress or citadel. We may think of the apologist as constantly walking
up and down on or near the outer defenses of the fortress. This will give the other occupants time to build and also enjoy
the building. The others too must defend, but not so constantly and unintermittently. The apologist too must rest and
must enjoy the peace of the fort but his main work is to defend and vindicate.
In this connection we must guard against a misuse that might be made of the figure of the fortress. It might be argued
that this seems to put Christianity on the defensive. Is it not true that Christianity was meant to conquer the whole world
for Christ? Yes it is. We have already said that we think of Christian theism, when we think of Christianity. That covers
the whole earth. If we can successfully defend the fortress of Christian theism we have the whole world to ourselves.
There is then no standing room left for the enemy. We wage offensive as well as defensive warfare. The two cannot be
separated. But we need not leave the fort in order to wage offensive warfare.

Are we to leave ontology, metaphysics, ethics, and each and every doctrine of the Christian faith undefended, except by the lone cannon of epistemology?  In my previous post, I cited someone saying precisely that – and from what I can tell, that is also Sye’s contention.  If all facts are truly God’s facts, then all facts are “fair game” to be argued transcendentally, in our endeavor.  I explain this further in my comments later, and will expand upon this when i respond there.

//Again I do not agree with Joshua’s characterization, it strikes me as a bit overdone. In actuality, there are not many people “singing Sye’s praises.” The Reformed church is only a very small part of Evangelical Christianity. Presuppositional apologetics is embraced by a limited sector of the Reformed church. If Sye wanted to be popular, he would be an Arminian evidentialist or classical apologist. Perhaps, Joshua may want to disavow such overly harsh rhetoric.

Well, as someone with quite a bit of interaction with those taught by Sye, I disagree, respectfully.  I’m not especially concerned with whether evidentialists or classicalists are laudatory of Sye, and neither is Mike.  I don’t think it is even relevant.  Obviously, I’m speaking of those who embrace presuppositionalism.  Within this camp, there are a significant number who seem to think Sye is on the right track.  I was told, by Sye, that I am critical because I am envious of his popularity, as the following context reveals, and as you failed to address.  If I wanted to be popular, I wouldn’t be making a critique of one of the “rising stars” in the Reformed camp, would I?  Perhaps it might be best to examine the context more carefully before denouncing my comments as “harsh rhetoric?”

It grieves me to read Joshua’s letter and the wrongful denunciations placed on an earnest imperfect brother—frank yes, but Sye is a loving also. He loves God and his fellow man. That is what I have observed in Sye’s work. The ministry God has given me is flawed. Choosing Hats ministry is flawed. K. Scott Oliphint’s ministry is flawed. And yes, Sye’s ministry is flawed. Let us all press on to Heaven’s mark. A presuppositionalist brother should not prematurely offer severe criticism of another presuppositionalist brother in the public.

His earnestness and/or imperfectness are not at question. What seems to be in question, brother, is the argumentation you are presenting to demonstrate that he is right, and I am wrong. I am well aware that we all are flawed.  Does that mean that pointing out flaws in argumentation and approach is off-limits?  I am really wondering why this is even being presented.  It doesn’t seem to be relevant in the slightest.  If this was “premature”, when would it be mature?  Waiting another few years before finally offering it?  As I have explained previously, I waited a significant time before offering it.  It is hardly premature, is it? It is an attempt at constructive criticism.  “Here is how you could do better.”  I’m sure that could be offered prematurely, but I hardly think that it applies in this case.

They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not weep.” But wisdom is justified by all her children (Luke 7:31-35).

The main toolbox is God’s word and the apologetic that flows from it should be simple, yet potent. Presuppositional apologetics is not merely for intellectuals. I have taught my children presuppositional apologetics since they were toddlers. Our Sunday school class teaches young children presuppositional apologetics. Indeed, reach academia as a sort of mission field, but most of the world is not reading old dusty journals with 400 footnotes. Most novices in apologetics do not understand Van Til and Poythress. Many do understand Sye’s teaching. One ministry is not better than another—merely different. Each has an important place in the field of apologetics.

Obviously, I think we have a difference in opinion about the dividing line between “simple” and “simplistic”.  Nobody is saying that only upon reading and understanding a ginormous list of Reformed authors, having an encyclopedic grasp of the entirety of the presuppositionalist authors, can one properly engage in presuppositionalism.  What I am saying is that part of teaching is understanding the material sufficiently, and explaining it properly.  Sye is a student, and a practitioner, yes – but he is also teaching. Teachers have a higher standard.  Teachers should, in fact, know more than their students.  If what is taught is not sufficient, they are accountable for this, yes?  That is the concern being raised.  I’m sure he is a wonderful, gracious person who wants to do his best.  That isn’t the issue.  The issue is, is what he is teaching sufficient?

If, might I suggest, Mike were to follow his own advice previously, he might want to tone down the rhetoric.  Nobody is insisting that anyone who isn’t reading dusty old journals with “400 footnotes” isn’t doing it right, or academically enough.  I’m not much of an academic, after all.  I don’t recall even recommending any “dusty old journals,” either.  If someone would like to point to a single instance of this being true, I’d appreciate it.   A cursory reading of the basic presuppositional literature tells us that Sye isn’t doing it right, to be blunt.  I’m quite confused as to why this is being considered some sort of “revenge of the intellectuals” or some such.  It’s the very basic first step of Bahnsen’s two-step that is the issue here.  It is the very basic assertion of Van Til’s insistence that each and every fact can be a transcendental argument that is the issue.  These are not “dusty old journals” – these are the bread and butter of our training material.  I’m quite aware that not everyone understands Van Til, or Poythress.   That’s why I put a good bit of effort into explaining Van Til, and why Bahnsen and others did before me, and continue to do so.  Nobody is saying everyone has to be encyclopedic.  I’m saying that the fundamentals aren’t right.  If the fundamentals are right, the rest can follow rightly.  If they are wrong, the rest follows wrongly.

Selected parts of Joshua’s objective seem to be Sye’s apparent lack of theological depth and/or that a robust theology isn’t grounding Sye’s apologetic. I disagree. Sye is Reformed and a Presbyterian. One can find essential theological elements in his expositions. More Systematic Theology, certainly, but God and revelation of truth are always there—that is what grounds Sye’s apologetic.

Well, I disagree in turn.  Lots of people are Presbyterians.  Lots of people are Reformed Baptists.  Is RC Sproul right on apologetic method because he’s Presbyterian?  Why even bring this up?  It seems fairly irrelevant.  The lack of a robust theology confessed isn’t the issue.  The lack of a robust theology being expressed is the issue.  Where is step 1?  All I can do is point you to the problem.  The problem is that whatever Sye confesses as a church member, it doesn’t seem to be taught, presented, or explained in any depth, per step 1 that Bahnsen lays out.  We cannot, should not, must not skimp on or skip this step.  I continue to insist that all Christians are responsible for apologetics.  I further insist that all Christians are responsible for knowing the contents of the faith they profess to believe.  Only on these grounds can a robust defense be undertaken.

//Again, I disagree with the inimical depiction—often the simple has the utmost power and influence. Concerning presuppositional apologetics, in our church, I have seen formerly evidential students take weeks before they “get it.” Frequently, it’s as if a light goes off and they exclaim, “Oh, now I understand. Wow that was actually very simple.” However, it took them six presuppositional sermons and eight presuppositional Bible school classes before this discovery struck them.

I didn’t use the word simple.  I used the word “simplistic”.  Simplistic is treating complexity as more simple than it actually is – naivete.  That is far different than the term simple.  To be simple is to BE uncomplicated.  My contention is that it really is more complicated than simplisticaly reducing every personal encounter into an epistemological nail, which, by virtue of being reduced to such, will require the local, epistemological version of TAG as the hammer.  Every. Single. Time.  Brother, I tried to choose my words with care in what I wrote.  If it was unclear, I apologize, but I don’t know if I could describe the issue by a better term.  The very problem with what Sye does is that it is simplistic.  Yes, if you teach someone to do a particular thing well, they can do that particular thing well indeed.  On the other hand, Godzilla’s left pinky toe, while quite devastating even on its lonesome, isn’t nearly as terrifying as the entirety of Godzilla – nor does it have anywhere near the same scope or power as the whole of him.  Nobody is disputing that Godzilla should prefer to keep his left pinky toe attached, or that it is quite an excellent left pinky toe.  What we are saying is that Godzilla in his massive entirety is far preferable to only his left pinky toe.  Even though his left pinky toe can smash a bus.

They often describe the result, after an arduous process, as “simple.”

Sure, but if I might point something out – are we making some sort of distinction between what we learn, and what we are to defend?  If so, that’s directly contrary to what Van Til said.  We defend Christian Theism as a unit.  With, I might add, the unit of Christian Theism.  The defense uses the exact same contents as that which is being defended.  That’s why they accuse us of circularity.  Yet, does Sye use in defense all that he believes he is to defend?  No, he does not.  None of us are exhaustive in our defense, obviously, regardless of how much we might desire to be. First, because we have to use one thing at a time; Second, because conversations are limited in duration; Third, we are limited in both scope and interconnectedness by our inherent finitude.  However, we should strive to be systematic and as exhaustive as we can manage, given the constraints above.  Sye does not.  Every conception of unity, in his apologetic, is in relation to epistemology.  That is the unifying thread.  His practice is inconsistent with his principle.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4: 13).

Great.  I have nothing wrong with uneducated, common men. I “are one.”  What, however, does this have to do with a critique of his methodology?  I didn’t make a critique of him being common, or uneducated.  I pointed out that his appeal to what he teaches as something that works “on the streets” is actually neither as uncomplicated as he believes, or as effective, given the artificial restrictions it introduces.  You must see that there is a significant difference, no?

It has been my understanding, if anything; many presuppositional apologists make simple things much too complicated. At times, I am guilty of such blunders (I annually reread the children’s apologetics book I wrote to help remind me how simple presuppositionalism and God’s word are).

I’m sure they do.  We are to avoid obscurantist arrogance.  On the other hand, it is neither obscure nor arrogant to insist on consistency.  The issue isn’t that he uses epistemological internal critique.  It is that it is nearly impossible to find him doing anything else, or talking about much of anything else while engaged in apologetics.

“I hold that belief in God is not merely as reasonable as other belief, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else” (Cornelius Van Til).

But that must be balanced with his insistence that we defend along the entire front, must it not?

Sye rests upon the ontological Trinity as he demonstrates that the unbeliever is utterly deficient a foundation for knowledge. He dismantles their ultimate presuppositions and calls them to repent and believe the Gospel. Even under heavy fire, loaded with vicious profaning from atheists, I have observed Sye exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit.

While I’m sure he does rest on it, does his argumentation reflect it?  Does he defend the aseity of God as zealously as he undercuts the false knowledge of men?  It is very well to stand there – it is another thing to show that you do.  I find it difficult to find him defending our doctrines, let alone elucidating them.  I find him always on the offensive, attacking the same hill in every single engagement – while the rest of the front is neglected.

I have been on the streets witnessing to prostitutes, gang members, and addicts; I have been blessed to evangelize at universities and in academia; I have found presuppositional apologetics can be communicated in simple and powerful ways to anyone. And Sye is proof of that. For various people, Sye’s method has been successful, fruitful, and encouraging.

I have found it to be quite excellent as well, and that it is quite amenable to communication to all and sundry, obviously.  I wouldn’t do what I do if I thought otherwise.  Our goal, after all, isn’t to demonstrate and explain covenantal apologetics only to intellectuals!  The question is, do we communicate our teaching systematically, so that it is understood clearly, and in relation to our theological commitments, or do we communicate them as less complex, and less connected than we should, so that they are easier to digest?  I agree that the method can be learned by anyone.  I disagree on where Sye decides to stop teaching.  Complex things can be taught simply.  They have to be broken down into digestible chunks, then you have to demonstrate how they all fit together.  I have taught Charnock’s Existence and Attributes of God to 1st-6th graders. Much of that work is very complicated, as any discussion of the attributes of God will entail.  I started with simplicity, in order to show how everything about God relates to everything else.  I went on to monotheism, then to the Trinity.  I then began to connect each successive doctrine I taught to those, and to every other doctrine, as they came into view.  The result was quite astonishing – and gratifying.  Children can understand theology.  It isn’t too hard.  We are often too afraid to teach difficult things, because we are worried that either they will not grasp the particulars, or that we are not up to the task.  I was young, and didn’t know certain things “just aren’t done” – but God provided the means.  With all due respect, it is far easier to communicate one subject repeatedly, to the exclusion of all else – but it is neither better, nor more suitable.  I was excited when you responded, because you don’t do that.  I was disappointed with your response, because you are defending something that you refuse to do yourself.  Do you see my conundrum?

I’ve seen teens as well as housewives rebut professors and others using simple presuppositional apologetics. Not to refute them just to refute them, but to see them repent and trust Jesus.

I have seen the same.  Simple presup is not the same as simplistic presup.  I do want to make sure you know that I do understand that each has their own measure of grace given.  I want to emphasize, however, that it is an exceedingly simple step to explain “and what you can do with knowledge, you can do with anything at all.” That is essentially my point, Mike.

Sye is educated by Scripture, books, and experience on the streets. For me, although I did learn a lot at Bible College and Seminary, I have learned more on the streets and campuses witnessing.

Well, when I asked Sye what he meant by “on the streets”, I was only given a tautology.  It seems that in his view, you are only really engaging in the task if 1) You are in front of a camera and 2) You are in front of a crowd of people.  I did try to get clarification on this point from him, but he isn’t especially wont to answer questions, as we have already pointed out.  I was repeatedly asked for video evidence of my encounters, but I know only a handful of people who have a camera following them around.  I don’t think this is true of you, or I would likely have seen a video of you by now – so I don’t know how he would regard your own opportunities for witness.  That aside, experience does give you additional insights.  I have immediate family who are ex-JWs, and have had a good bit of experience with them.  I am never short of opportunities to share my faith, as well as defend it.  The question is, however, not whether, but how?  Is it enough for me to challenge a Jehovah’s Witness on how he knows what he knows?

I never went to college either.  I just study on my own, learn from past giants, and engage in apologetics whenever opportunity presents itself – which happens even in my current job!  I’m not saying we make things more complicated. I’m saying we explain it as a system.  Something which you’d almost certainly agree with – but I’m not sure Sye would.

//Comparing Sye to Schaeffer and Clark is wholly unwarranted. This comparison exposes your unfair and captious mindset. I delight in your work at Choosing Hats, but from what I have understood, it looks as if you are profoundly mistaken in your analysis of Sye’s ministry.

“To reject revelational epistemology is to commit yourself to defending the truth of autonomous epistemology” (Greg Bahnsen).

I don’t think it is is, or that it does.  So, given that you merely made an assertion, I am now even with my counter-assertion. By the standard you seem to have applied to me regarding Sye, are you now guilty of attacking my ministry?  I would also point out that your use of “captious” would be cause for repudiation by many of the folks who have critiqued me for my “academic focus”, whatever that is.  Were you going to ask me why I said the above?  In context, I think it is clear.  They are two well-known examples of folks who oversimplified things and ran into problems as a result.  I don’t think that’s captious, I think it’s illustrative. Don’t some of his adherents compare him to Schaeffer?  I started with Schaeffer.  I like him.  I just don’t think he took the entire method and applied it.  The same applies to Sye, for the reasons I’ve given.

I don’t reject revelational epistemology. I’m fairly confident I’ve spoken of it every bit as much as Sye has, if not more.  I reject talking of nothing but.  Further, it is only a shadow of the sum total of revelational epistemology if you only speak of the unbeliever’s inability to have it.  It is not sufficient to merely focus on man’s inability, for instance, without complementing it with the contextual basis for saying so in the first place.  It is not enough to dwell interminably on step 2.  It simply is not.  How are we to invite them to internally critique our worldview, if we do not present it?  How are we to externally critique theirs?  I used “minimal facts” earlier by intention.  Inadvertently, I argue, the adherents of Sye’s teaching seek to “get the job done” solely by internal critique.  By doing so, they either, by intention or neglect, leave the “target area” for the unbeliever small.  How, with this minimum of information about the worldview of the believing apologist, is the unbeliever to place himself upon our position, for the sake of argument, as we do concerning their own worldview?  Is not the invitation mutual, as Bahnsen emphasizes repeatedly?  If it is genuinely to be mutual, the believer must, in fact, lay his cards out on the table.  He cannot play poker, and bluff his way through the hand.

// I wish this were not the case, but as one who enjoys your ministry, Joshua, you did go off the rails. I will pray for you. If you need outside counsel, you can email me or call me. I feel a bit befouled every time I read your letter to Sye. I may be missing something. Conceivably, I may enjoy Choosing Hats and Sye’s ministry too much to be impartial enough to draw accurate conclusions, but it rightly appears you are wide of the mark in this case.

Unfortunately, and I say this with much respect, it is not enough to simply assert that I went off the rails.  I’m sorry you feel “befouled”, but at least listen to what I am trying to lay out for you, and get past the emotional response to the meat of my argumentation.  I suspect that what you are missing, in your genuine attempt to defend Sye, is that there is more to this than a knee jerk “attack”.  I really do have serious misgivings and problems with the methodology he presents.  I most certainly have concluded that what he teaches – more precisely what he doesn’t teach – is dangerous insofar that it exposes those who do not neglect the areas that I have laid out as lacking in Sye’s material to unnecessary ridicule and scorn that, in many cases, could have been avoided by a more robust attention paid to the material he has said he is familiar with.  I want to head off future criticisms of inconsistency.  I want to, most importantly, try to be a Biblical friend to both Sye and those who he has taught ,and warn them of the pit they have dug for themselves – and into which the unwary will continue to fall.  This is a necessary distinction.  It is necessary because each and every one of us has to deal with the fact that apologetics, although diverse in application, is unified in theological necessity. That necessity comes from Scripture, and the Scripture most definitely teaches about more than epistemology.  If we don’t make this distinction, the unbeliever will make it for us.  Not now, and probably not even in the near future, but they will, eventually.  Discipline starts in the house of the Lord.  Not just punishment, but correction.  While I fully expected to have negative comments headed my direction, that doesn’t mean I am immune to disappointment in the necessity of defending my actions, which the Scripture lays out for us, as teachers.

Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. (Pro. 27:5)

If I think he is wrong, and that his misunderstanding of the method leads not only to problems, but to causing people to repudiate what is, actually, the properly Biblical method, should I stay silent forever?  Can I, Biblically? There is a time to keep silent.  There is a time to speak.  Shall we not reprove one who has understanding that he might gain knowledge?

//Sye is accountable to godly men—you should have asked him before you publicly rebuked him—a public rebuke for something he is not guilty of. When Sye is not being recorded he says and teaches various things the viewer misses, including much of what you assert he lacks.

Overall I think Joshua offers less than even a superficial assessment. I believe that his appraisal of Sye’s ministry is erroneous. If I have missed something, let others reveal to me the lapses in my reasoning. May this be, so I may properly serve my wonderful and stupendous Lord Jesus.

My point, as many seem to have overlooked, was not that he is not under church authority – but that his accountability doesn’t seem to extend to what he says to others online, or in his engagement in ministry. This post, for example, won’t go up until all of the contributors agree with it, for example, and it in many ways will be speaking for our entire ministry.  We do this with many controversial posts.  This isn’t just about me, and it shouldn’t be.   If his overseers approved his toilet stunt ahead of time, for example, I would submit to you that they need to examine their own discernment.  If Sye can impugn with… impunity… the motives of those who disagree, and accuse them of sin without evidence, I find that to be indicative of a lack of oversight, don’t you?  You didn’t address that in your post.  I suspect you read right past it, and that is easy to do.  I didn’t spend much time on it.   I’m not the only person he has done this to, and, I might add, it is irrelevant to my central point as far as motivation goes.  The reason he behaves the way he does is because his methodology is flawed, not the other way around.  When you concentrate on certainty to the extent that he does, and in the way that he does – and when you come to believe that only your critiques are what apologetics consist of, you have lost all ability to accept or even recognize critique of yourself as such.  Let me expand that out.  If someone insists that one may only know that which he is certain of, and when even other Christians are subjected to the “are you certain” flowchart any time they ask a question of that someone, how can he meaningfully answer or even categorize a critique meaningfully?  This isn’t about the “envy” comment – that’s merely a symptom.  When someone uses what looks like, on the surface, the exact same methodology you use, but who come to the conclusion that you are erroneous – about something you teach as certain – the problem can’t be the methodology, can it, by this standard?  You are certain, and your only recourse is to “internally critique” the other person.  Unfortunately, if that person believes any differently than you, or you impute some motivation to them, that becomes the basis for the “knock down,” and then you have justified it to yourself.  The problem is, to use his terms, how does he know they have these motivations?  How does he know what they believe, if all he is concerned with is having them answer his questions, flowchart style?  When an attempt to deviate from the flowchart is seen as “dodging the question”, you are in a world of trouble, when it comes to actually finding out what the other person actually believes.  If you yourself are both unwilling to answer direct questions because that is “not TAG”, and are convinced of the certainty of your own beliefs, where does that leave meaningful response or interaction?  In other words, where Sye is standing is not where he thinks he is standing, when he says that.

Please keep in mind – you responded to the initial post – as has everyone else.  Neither you, nor anyone else has dealt with the follow up material that was always intended to accompany it.  Sye’s response, and that of his followers has, sadly, only underscored the importance of bringing this necessary distinction to a public head.  I’m just pointing out – if all you have is epistemology, all you know is certainly true, and the only apologetic outlet is internal critique of others – what other choice is there but to attack the messenger in the event of any and all critiques?  It’s a dangerous place to be, and I am pointing it out because that, specifically, is what I am calling him to repent of.  His personal interactions are only symptomatic of the theological mistake he has made.  I’m bringing it up not because, as he claims, I am envious, but because I am zealous for the gospel, and not willing that it be made a mockery above and beyond that which the unbelieving world will think it is.  I am, believe it or not, saying this out of love.  Not only for Sye, but for others who, like him, sincerely believe that this is enough.  It is not, and thus I endeavor to make this necessary distinction.  It isn’t enough, and insisting that it is brings only problems.  Not simplicity, and certainly not Biblical affirmation.  Thank you for your response, and I hope that any failure in tone or content doesn’t detract from the message I was trying to convey.


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