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.

Turner’s Second Negative (posted 11/19/06): I want to thank Keith for noting that if my calling pistos a noun was a typographical error (after all, the “i” and “o” are right next to each other on the keyboard), then his argument about my alleged ignorance of the Greek is “nullified.” But he doesn’t intend to let a typo get in his way of building a case for my supposed ignorance of the Greek, so he resurrects his ol’ saw concerning my alleged misunderstanding of the various uses of the Greek preposition eis. Nevertheless, and I suppose he hopes no one will notice, at issue in this debate is not my alleged misunderstanding of the different uses of eis (uses to which I have readily admitted), but his insistence that the exact same prepositional phrase—namely, eis aphesin hamartion—should be translated differently in Acts 2:38 than it is in Matthew 26:28.

My argument has been that Keith insists on translating these exact same prepositional phrases differently because of his Calvinistic presuppositions and not the demands of the Greek grammar involved. In fact, the Greek authority Keith cited during the first proposition admitted that he thinks eis in eis aphesin hamartion in Acts 2:38 should be translated “because of” not because of the grammar involved, but because the subject has to do with baptism and that eis in that context could not be “for“ or “unto” because this would make baptism essential to receiving the remission of sins and his doctrine, which is Calvinism, prevents any such interpretation.

So, not only are Keith’s barbs concerning my supposed ignorance of the Greek couched within the context of a supposed expertise, which says, “I cannot stress the importance enough for our readers to learn the biblical languages for themselves in order to identify charlatans like Mr. Turner,” but they are coupled with the citation of an “expert” who admits to favoring a translation based not on the actual grammar being used in the text, but on a doctrinal position he believes to be true. Ironically, this is precisely what I’ve accused Keith of doing throughout this debate. Thus, I see nothing in Keith’s approach that is, in any way, compelling. Further, and unlike my opponent, I make no claim to being either a Greek or English grammarian. Nevertheless, I do have access to what the experts have said and written over the years. Therefore, for the so-called exegetical “crime” of consulting the published works of accepted experts, I plead guilty.

The Keith Saare Wiggle

In his effort to wiggle out of the exact Greek prepositional phrase being used in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 26:28, which is a fact quite significant to this debate, Keith brought up Matthew 3:11, a verse where I admitted that eis conveys the idea of “because of,” at least in my opinion. How does he treat this admission? He does so by saying:

What he failed to recognize in Matthew 3:11 is that eis (‘because of’) is connected to baptizo just the same way as in Acts 2:38. To be consistent, he should allow the meaning “because of” as a possibility for baptizo eis in Acts 2:38 because of baptizo eis in Matthew 3:11.

But even if one were willing to admit to the possibility of which Keith writes, it would not be long, with diligent study of the New Testament, before one would discover that such is not the right “possibility” at all, and this because of the other passages I’ve cited in this debate which teach that baptism saves us or washes away our sins. Again, the issue in this debate is not whether eis can mean “because of,” for I have already admitted that in some cases it can. At issue is why Keith thinks eis aphesin hamartion ought to be translated “for the remission of sins” in Matthew 26:28 and “because of the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38. So, although Keith keeps trying to wiggle out from under this rock, I’ll continue reminding him that it’s still there.

My Supposed Faux Pas

Okay, now, let me make sure I understand just what Keith is alleging my extraordinary error to be (follow me on this, now): Keith affirms that when he is talking about faith, he is talking about saving faith, which has repentance as an integral part of it, and all this is synonymous with belief. But repentance, he now argues, which is, after all, an integral part of saving faith, or “faith alone,” as he likes to call it, isn't at all synonymous with belief. Are you still with me on this? Now, add to this the fact that Keith argued that belief and repentance were actually flip sides of the same coin, and remember that the “coin” he’s talking about is “faith only.” To this, interject that Keith now claims when he’s talking about “faith only” that he’s really just using shorthand for belief and repentance and you will understand why I may, in fact, be confused about what Keith actually said about repentance, faith, and belief. But if I’m confused, I suspect a lot of others folks are as well. What I really thought he was saying—and please go back and read what he actually wrote about this—was that all three of these were what he meant by “faith only” or “faith alone.” If so, why am I accused of unfairly misrepresenting him when I thought he was actually trying to say that faith and repentance were somehow synonymous with belief? But it gets worse.

Calvinistic Obfuscation

If repentance really isn’t faith or belief, as Keith now seems to be claiming, and is, in fact, a “condition” that must be met in order to be saved, then are not he and his Calvinist cohorts really being disingenuous when they teach that one is saved by faith only? And am I to understand that Keith is now ready to repudiate the position he has agreed to defend in this debate, namely, “that unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone”? I don’t think so. So, what’s this charade all about? Obfuscation (i.e., clouding the issue), pure and simple. Keith’s “faith only” cohorts are notorious for arguing deceptively that one is saved by “faith alone,” citing proof-text after proof-text where only faith or belief are being mentioned in connection with salvation, claiming that this proves, conclusively, that man is saved by faith alone. In fact, this is exactly the line of argument Keith made in his First Affirmative.

But isn’t it blatantly dishonest to argue this way if you really believe repentance is an actual condition that must be met by every believer in order to be saved, and this when none of the passages cited to justify “faith alone” included repentance? Actually, it takes real chutzpah to argue as Keith has done, but I continue to believe the prohibitions of Romans 12:17 and 2 Corinthians 8:21 teach us that such an approach cannot be right. So, although Keith and I remain in disagreement over whether certain terms are actually synonymous or not, there should be no doubt that chutzpah and honesty are two words that are, particularly in this case, totally unrelated.

The Matter of Romans 5:9 And The Blood Of Christ

Notice that Keith did not deal directly with what I argued Romans 5:9 says about being justified by Jesus’ blood, namely, that this would have to be referring to forgiveness/salvation, and not just a “declaration of righteousness,” as he claims. I think it ought to be clear why he didn’t, for if the primary meaning of “justified” (dikaioo) is simply the legal pronouncement of something that has already occurred, as Keith asserts, instead of rendering one righteous, as I have argued, then such would clearly denigrate the blood of Christ in Romans 5:9. If I had been Keith, I would have at least tried to deal directly with this verse, and I believe the guidelines of meaningful debate obligates him to do so. Consequently, his silence on Romans 5:9 is telling.

Yes, there are passages where the term “justified” means “to proclaim,” as in Luke 7:29, where the Bible says that the people, upon hearing what Jesus had taught about John the Baptist, “justified God” (KJV). This cannot mean that the people rendered (or made) God righteous. Instead, and in this context, the people were pronouncing (or declaring) God to be righteous. Thus, and based upon Keith’s arguments in other places, the clear indication is that the meaning of this word can differ depending upon the context in which it is found, and this due to its primary and secondary meanings and the demands of the grammatico-historical method. However, and this was the point of my argument concerning its usage in Romans 5:9, a mere proclamation does not appear to be the meaning of “justified” in this verse, which appears to equate justified with being forgiven or saved. In other words, God justifies sinners by forgiving them and not holding their sins against them. This is accomplished through Jesus’ blood, which represents His death on the cross. As Christians continue to meet the conditions of God’s grace, this justifying blood continues to cleanse them of their unrighteousness (cf. 1 John 1:5-10).

So, it seems to me that here we are once again on that same ol’ Keith Saare merry-go-round. In Matthew 26:28, Keith admits that eis aphesin hamartion means “for the remission of sins,” and he does so because he knows that Jesus’ blood was, indeed, shed “for the remission of sins.” But in Acts 2:38, he wants to render the same Greek prepositional phrase differently, and this not because the grammar actually demands it, but merely to accommodate his doctrine. Yet, he calls me a “charlatan” because of what he alleges to be my “consistently inconsistent” hermeneutic. However, and as I’ve already pointed out, chutzpah is not a substitute for cogent argumentation or integrity. So, if Keith intends to refute my argument concerning the term “justified” in Romans 5:9, he must at least take a stab at exegeting the passage, or so it seems to me.

He didn’t do so, I think, because he knows to admit I am right about Romans 5:9 would seriously hamstring his definition of justified, which would, in turn, negatively impinge upon his misinterpretation of James 2:24. In other words, he wants to explain James 2:24 away, claiming that works have nothing at all to do with forgiveness/salvation, and he does this by arbitrarily claiming an exclusive definition of dikaioo that does not square with what the accepted experts of the Greek are claiming. So, Keith, why don't you tell me and the readers plainly whether you believe the primary meaning of “justified” in Romans 5:9 is to pronounce or declare one to be just and righteous, or to render one just and righteous?

In addition, whether or not I understand “the forensic term justification,” as Keith calls it, is not the point here. The Greek authorities inform us as to what the primary meaning of being justified means, and that body of work does not substantiate Keith’s contention that it means only or simply the pronouncement of a fact that has already occurred. Again, such a view, if held consistently, would force an interpretation of Romans 5:9 that would denigrate the blood of Christ. So deal with it, Keith, or everyone will know you are just “bobbing and weaving” on this point.

Concerning those things Keith claims I must think about Abraham, let me just say that Paul makes it clear in Romans 4 that the father of the Jews was justified by faith, not by his perfect doing. Then in James 2, the writer makes it clear that the kind of faith Abraham was justified by was not “faith only,” but a faith made perfect by works. By such faith, Abraham was, and remained, justified, for such is the meaning of saving faith. In other words, everything I read about Abraham implies the faith that resulted in his justification was not just present at those times mentioned by Paul and James, but from the day he was first called by God until the day he died.

Alleged Double Mindedness & Incoherence

In Keith’s soliloquy entitled “Will the real Mr. Turner please stand up?,” he identifies my “rhetoric” as being “blatant statements of an incoherent nature.” He goes on to characterize this as “double-talk, speaking out of both sides of the mouth, ‘John Kerry syndrome,’ flip flop, etc.” This is, of course, a serious charge. If I’m guilty, then my credibility is destroyed, or at least questionable. But before one rushes to judgment on this, observe closely Keith’s proof, which is that I have 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), and that I do not see this verse as teaching what Keith Saare claims it teaches, which is that a man is saved by “faith only.” I gave my Scriptural reasons for believing this. So, because I don’t agree with Keith’s interpretation of this passage, then “Abracadabra!,” I’m a double-minded man, in the James 1:8 sense of that expression, and should be considered “unstable in all [my] ways.” In other words, Keith wants to paint me as a sinful man because I disagree with his interpretation, and all this while it is his interpretation of this and other passages that forms the crux of this debate. Therefore, I’m supposedly wrong for no other reason than I disagree with him on his interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9. Of course, this isn’t really proof at all, and Keith will have to do much better than this if he hopes to convince me and others that he actually has the truth on this subject.

Keith’s Methodological Babblings

But while we’re on the subject of incoherence, I seriously doubt whether anyone has been able to follow Keith’s babblings about the so-called grammatico-historical method of interpretation—a method he has continually accused me of violating. Thus, I find it necessary to take the time and space to define, as succinctly as I know how, what I understand this method to entail:

I believe it is possible to discover the true meaning of a given text of Scripture by following the rules of grammar and syntax combined with the literary context and style of the passage and the historical, cultural context of the author. I believe there can be only one correct interpretation of a text which faithfully expounds what the author was saying, and this means that all other interpretations are wrong.

Consequently, if my definition does not accurately reflect what is generally understood to be the grammatico-historical method, or if my exegeses of various passages do not correctly and consistently employ this method, then Keith should be able to point out exactly what principle I have violated and why. This should be preferred over Keith’s ubiquitous charge that I have consistently violated this method—charges which I claim are trumped up due to Keith’s capriciously conceived rules and arbitrarily applied regulations.

In other words, instead of just claiming I’m violating the accepted rules of the grammatico-historical method, as Keith has done over and over again in this debate, he is obligated to prove it by showing where and why I have done so. But I want to remind him and the readers that such a method has consequences. What I mean by this is that it is not permissible for Keith to just make the claim there are flaws in my interpretation. He is, instead, under compulsion to prove it. That such a challenge is only right and honorable ought not to be questioned by Keith or anyone else. Therefore, he ought not to get huffy about it, as it is only under the obligations of such a method that we can hope to engage in anything that comes close to meaningful dialogue.

With these parameters firmly in place, I challenge Keith to offer proof of my alleged infractions of the grammatico-historical method of interpretation. This means the onus is on Keith to either “put up or shut up.”

Keith’s Claimed Prerogative

Finally, although Keith claims to have the “prerogative” to define the proposition we’re debating “however” he pleases, I want to remind him that words have meaning. This means he is not free to subjectively define words any ol’ way he pleases. Therefore, when one argues that the unregenerated are “saved by grace through faith alone,” there is absolutely no room in such a statement for repentance as a condition for salvation. If there is, as Keith is now claiming, then words no longer have objective meaning and this whole discussion becomes an exercise in futility. So, with the ball squarely in his court, I challenge Keith to either defend salvation by “faith alone,” as he originally agreed to do, or else tell us plainly that he really doesn’t believe one is saved by faith only after all.

Saare’s Third Affirmative
Back To Saare’s Second Affirmative
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