The Saare-Turner Debate

Part Two

Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism.” Keith Saare affirms; Allan Turner denies.

Saare’s Second Affirmative (posted11/05/06): I wish to apologize straightaway to Mr. Turner and our reading audience for being a few days late. I am realizing my own frailties keeping up.

Although I prefer exegeting Scripture, to my disappointment it is more urgent now to address Mr. Turner’s persistent disregard for grammatico-historical hermeneutics. In spite of his claims, it is increasingly conspicuous just how un-literal his concept of literal interpretation is. No doubt the reader will agree with me upon this further investigation.

Turner the Grammarian

Since literal interpretation is the grammatico-historical method, Mr. Turner cannot claim literal interpretation when he is incompetent handling the first element of the grammatico-historical method, i.e. grammar. Whereas I repeatedly support my arguments from grammar, syntax, morphology, etc., he refutes me with just one sweep of the broom and says (paraphrased): “The Bible teaches no such thing!...Keith is wrong because he is going against the majority of Greek scholars…no Greek scholar believes what Keith teaches…Keith’s claim is just bogus, nuff said!” Inextricable. Who would have thought that Mr. Turner had more than ample opportunity to personally interview every Greek scholar in the world? He must rub shoulders with them everyday.

It is though we are playing a game of cards. And after I have pulled out my three aces (the principles of grammar), he trumps me by saying “The Bible teaches no such thing of Keith’s doctrine!”

Only Mr. Turner could produce logic like this.

I am increasingly convinced Mr. Turner does not understand the principles of Greek grammar (syntax, functions, etc.), because he makes no attempt to address the cruces of my arguments based upon these things. Far be it from me to display the slightest trace of academic snobbery, but there are substantial reasons to doubt his expertise as an authority of the Greek language.

Wrote Mr. Turner: “The basic words for faith in the New Testament are the noun pistos and the verb pisteuo.” He is wrong about pistos. Pistos is an adjective—the noun is pistis. Now I will grant Mr. Turner the possibility this could have been a typo. Even I make typpos. If this is the case, my argument is nullified. However, the matter gets grossly worse. Read on.

There is his endless crusade to equate eis aphesin hamartiōn in Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38, though I debunked his approach by demonstrating no rule of Greek grammar exists to substantiate his dogma. The preposition eis can take on multiple meanings in different contexts, even when it stands in same prepositional phrases elsewhere (e.g., eis ton huion tou anthrōpou in Luke 12:10 means “against the Son of man,” but in John 9:35 it means “in the Son of man”).

Whereas he justifies his doctrine because of similar vocabulary, I could likewise follow suit and claim that baptizō eis in Acts 2:38 must mean “baptism because of,” since this is the meaning of baptizō eis in Matthew 3:11. Same vocabulary, right? Mr. Turner has already confessed that eis in Matthew 3:11 means “because of.” What he failed to recognize in Matthew 3:11 is that eis (‘because of’) is connected to baptizō just the same way as in Acts 2:38. To be consistent, he should allow the meaning “because of” as a possibility for  baptizō eis in Acts 2:38 because of baptizō eis in Matthew 3:11.

Clearly, settling the matter of Acts 2:38 is inconclusive if one wishes to find justification elsewhere—a la Mr. Turner’s hermeneutics—be it in Matthew 26:28 or 3:11. The sword cuts both ways. But Mr. Turner is unwilling to yield himself to the authority of the Greek text. Hence he concludes a non sequitor.

Before he can be trusted as an authority of Greek grammar, he will need to correct his faltering understanding of English grammar. One must master his native tongue before moving on to others. Because his error in this regard is so great, it is worthy of its own section to which I now turn my attention.

Turner the Debater

In his first denial of this proposition, Mr. Turner made a major argument against me by setting up a straw man argument. For those unaware, this is the technique whereby a debater makes a straw man to attack instead of his true opponent. That is, he concocts a misrepresentation of his opponent’s view in order to refute this false view and not his opponent’s true position. In his major section subtitled “Repentance And Believe Are Not Synonymous,” while abandoning the rules of “honorable debate,” he unfairly misrepresents my view as follows:

I want to comment on his [mine, KS] argument that repentance is “synonymous with belief”…Keith wants to define it as being synonymous with belief…along with his Calvinist cohorts, [he] must somehow accommodate this concept, making it equivalent to faith/belief. Thus he equates repentance with belief….But this in no way argues that belief and repentance are synonymous, as Keith claims….Belief and repentance mean different things. Thus they are not synonymous, as Keith claims.

Shame on Mr. Turner. This is not what I wrote, nor anything close to it. Let the reader review my opening remarks for this proposition in my first affirmative. What I wrote is this:

“Secondly, the faith I shall affirm is saving faith (not dead faith from James 2 or other similar passages), has repentance as an integral part, and is synonymous with belief.”

Saare Chart

I do not know why Mr. Turner has such a hard time understanding my statement if not for the sake of his marred comprehension of English grammar. The subject of the sentence is faith. It has a compound predicate to define it:


1.      “is saving faith”

2.      “has repentance as an integral part”

3.      “is synonymous with belief”

Yet Mr. Turner repeatedly accuses me of claiming that repentance and faith are synonymous. No, Mr. Turner, I have written: “Faith…is synonymous with belief”! And “Faith…has repentance as an integral part.” But you have got me all mixed up with your ramblings. In spite of your false accusations, I have never written that faith and repentance are the same thing. I might have mentioned them as “two sides of the same coin”—in context, a coin of responses unto salvation—but you would have the readers believe I said “the same side of the same coin.” This is most certainly unfair of you to do.

As the readers will agree, I have sought whenever possible to be very precise and clear with my definitions. There can be no legitimate confusion where I stand. In my own words:

·        On belief: “It is the act of believing, understanding in the heart, placing one’s confidence in, and trusting the Lord.”

·        On repentance: “from the Greek metanoia, a change of mind resulting in a change of lifestyle”

·        On faith: “the corresponding noun [to belief]” & “is synonymous with belief”

Oddly Mr. Turner has agreed several times with my definitions, but when it suits his convenience, he jumbles my words.

Truth be told, I don’t have any problem with Keith’s definition of pisteuo, which he defines as, “...the act of believing, understanding in the heart, placing one’s confidence in, and trusting the Lord.” I believe this is an accurate description of pisteuo when this word is used in reference to saving faith.


As Keith has correctly pointed out, the English word “repentance” is from the Greek word metanoia and conveys a change of heart that ultimately leads to a change in action or conduct.

But then…

“Belief and repentance mean different things. Thus they are not synonymous, as Keith claims.”

He is consistently inconsistent in his hermeneutics. As with English grammar. Much more in Greek. For this reason, I cannot stress the importance enough for our readers to learn the biblical languages for themselves in order to identify charlatans like Mr. Turner. It was this issue of baptism and salvation which drove me to study Greek when I used to worship with the San Diego Church of Christ. As a result I became a Baptist.

Turner the Theologian

As I predicted, so it is, Mr. Turner has utilized the red herring approach to refute my proposition with James 2:24, which states that man is justified by works and not by faith alone. This technique derives its name from an idiom of the late 1800’s which alludes to a smoked red herring dragged across a trail to divert attention of tracking dogs away from a scent. It figures the introduction of irrelevant material.

Mr. Turner’s tactic in this regard is to obliterate the distinction between justification and forgiveness. Take note of his words with his original emphasis: “This shows, convincingly, that justification and forgiveness are one and the same.

How audacious that he condemns me for supposedly making repentance and belief synonymous. “Physician, heal thyself!”

I erroneously assumed that Mr. Turner, an expert of law and criminal justice, would understand the forensic term justification. Yet he wants to equate justification and forgiveness as one and the same, though the Greek terms, as with English, are radically different (dikaioō vs. aphiēmi). Now I readily admit that justification and forgiveness can happen at the same time (as they can at separate times), but they most clearly are not the same thing. One refers to the remission of sins, the other a declaration of righteousness or a vindication.

If Mr. Turner wishes to reconsider his position, I will gladly let him recant and not hold it against him in the future. However, I can easily demonstrate that justification is a declaration, rather than forgiveness, in full harmony with the consensus of Greek scholars (to use Mr. Turner’s m.o. for his sake, not mine).

First, according to Psalm 51:4 and Romans 3:4, God is justified in His words. It would be blasphemous if we assume God is being forgiven of sins as Mr. Turner wishes to equate justification. The justification God receives is a declaration of His righteousness, or a vindication.

“Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge” (Ps 51:2, emphasis mine).

Secondly, Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac up on the altar (James 2:21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?”). Does Mr. Turner believe this is when Abraham was forgiven of his sins because he was justified at that time?

If we study the life of Abraham in Genesis, we can only conclude that his justification was nothing more than a declaration of the righteousness which he previously possessed for many years before offering Isaac on the altar. Genesis 15:6 states that Abraham was credited with righteousness the moment he believed: “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” It was some 25-40 years later in his life when he finally offered Isaac up on the altar in Genesis 22, thus demonstrating his righteousness which he already possessed for many years.

Since Abraham was justified by offering Isaac on the altar, Mr. Turner would have us believe he got saved at that time. But this is because Mr. Turner has abandoned literal hermeneutics and sought to fill the gaps with his presuppositions.

Will the real Mr. Turner please stand up?

Throughout his rhetoric, there are blatant statements of an incoherent nature. These might otherwise be known as double-talk, speaking out both sides of the mouth, “John Kerry syndrome,” flip flop, etc. Notice the transitions in his thoughts:

I readily acknowledge that salvation “by grace” means that it is, as such, totally unmerited. Thus, salvation is not something that can be earned. This means I have absolutely no problem affirming that one is saved by grace through faith and not by works (or man’s perfect doing), lest anyone should boast (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9). Even so, it is clear that this verse does not teach what Keith Saare claims it teaches, and this is that a man is saved by “faith only.”


            I have absolutely no problem affirming that one is saved by grace through faith

and not by works….Thus, it is clear that, in a broad sense, even faith (and all this

in direct contradiction of what Keith believes and teaches) is a work.

Concluding Thoughts

In closing, I offer some short thoughts.

·        Because I addressed John 3:5 in my first affirmative of this proposition, Mr. Turner accuses me of going “completely out of order.” Let him read this proposition again—addressing the issue of baptism is completely in order for this discussion because it is explicitly part of my proposition. I believe John 3:5 teaches sola fide in support of my proposition while denying it refers to baptism. The “water” in John 3:5 is the Holy Spirit, not a reference to baptism.

·        Mr. Turner employs unusual meanings for belief. In his system it includes baptism, though Mark 16:16a seems to distinguish the two verbs from each other if interpreted literally: “He who believes and is baptized.” Mr. Turner must think this means: “He who ‘exercises faith, belief, repentance, baptism,’ and is baptized…”

·        My opponent unfairly uses the condition of repentance as an argument against my proposition, as though I somehow do not accept it. I clearly allow repentance as a condition, yet he wants the reader to think I am against repentance so he can refute me where there is no conflict between us (another straw man). He is ignorant that evangelicals, such as myself, regularly acknowledge repentance as a condition and that we simplify our view down to “faith only,” understanding that repentance goes without saying. If he is unhappy that I include repentance in how I define the proposition, I am sorry, maybe we should rewrite the proposition. But I have the prerogative to define it however I please—just as he can for his own propositions to affirm.

·        Mr. Turner has labeled me a “Calvinist” several times now. This is problematic. First, he has not defined what a Calvinist is. This could mislead our readers. Secondly, the label “Calvinist” without additional modifiers is mostly reserved for those who hold all five points of TULIP. Since I reject limited atonement, I do not call myself a Calvinist. In fact, one Calvinist friend labeled me an “Arminian” because of this. Thirdly, I have never read Calvin’s Institutes. Fourthly, one may understand Calvinism as a spectrum. There are extreme, hyper-Calvinists, and I even heard the term Calminian for the other end of the spectrum. Merely labeling me a “Calvinist” does not adequately define my faith. Mr. Turner if free to label me one if he chooses, but our reading audience needs to understand these things, and Mr. Turner has not been very helpful to them in this regard. For the record, I hold to about 4.88 of the five points of TULIP.

Turner’s Second Negative
Back to Turner’s First Negative
Back To Saare’s First Affirmative
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