teaching tradition and truth simultaneously, mixing law and grace

Dear Contra & Diction
These guys teach tradition and truth simultaneously

January 4, 2007

Dear Contra and Diction,


First of all, thanks for coming to my home on New Year’s Eve. Our visit together is one of the highlights of my year. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without seeing you guys and having all the laughs we do, and this year was no exception.

I’m writing this letter to both of you, so that you don’t think I’m picking on any one of you. I’m picking on you corporately!

I promise you that I didn’t intend to bring up the theological discussion that blossomed in our living room. I had planned—after much thought and soul-searching—to give you my book, The Really Bad Thing About Free Will. I believe that God made the living room conversation go the direction it went in order to bring some important issues to light.

If you believe in eternal torment (which you do), and if you make the people who go there responsible for it—i.e., "it’s their own fault they’re going to burn in hell forever"— (which you do), then you cannot avoid the corollary, which is, "it’s my own credit I’m going to heaven." Do you believe it’s your credit? If you truly believe that those people in hell deserve their punishment, then you cannot avoid believing—maybe not outwardly but deep in your heart—that you deserve your salvation. This is known as self-righteousness. It is also known as salvation by works. The whitewashing of it is known as hypocrisy, or phariseeism.

You protest. You say that you really do believe that Christ saved you apart from anything you did. Very well. Then the time has come in your Christian walk to be honest and face the corollary that those people you believe are going to suffer in hell for eternity are going there through no fault of their own. If you become honest enough with yourselves to acknowledge this, then congratulations (not), you’ve become a Calvinist. Ready now to escape Calvinism? Excellent. Believe the truth of the eventual salvation of all.

I know you don’t want to think about any of this, but I think it’s time for mature analysis. You want to be good stewards for Christ, but how can you be when you try to believe opposite things about salvation? How can you be when you attempt to hold mutually exclusive doctrines about the cross?

Please consider the following contradictions you casually set forth New Year’s Eve.

Contra, you said these two opposing things:

"I am powerless."

"I am able to respond to Christ’s call."

And these two:

"God is in total control."

"I have free will."

Diction, you said:

"God predestined me."

"I determine my own destiny."


"It’s not my credit I’m going to heaven."

"It’s those peoples’ faults they’re going to hell."

What puzzles me is that you’re both so intelligent in non-theological matters. You don’t abide fools from any other field who talk out of both sides of their mouths. If a man of science were to say, "It’s true that the earth is round, but it’s also true that it’s flat," you would ridicule him; you’d call his statement absurd. Yet you made equally absurd statements in the realm of theology and expected to get away with it.

May I tell you politely that you’re caught in a trap? The trap is this: You promote the traditions of men and the truths of God, simultaneously. This is why you contradict yourselves. If you would let go of the traditions, your contradictions would disappear. It’s that simple. Get rid of each of the second statements in the four contradictory couplets above (the second statements are the traditions of men) and—bang!—your contradictions would vanish.

The thing that bothers me the most is that you think that contradicting yourselves in theological matters is somehow acceptable, even spiritual. You think it’s justified because, since God’s ways are not man’s ways, God operates on some foreign principle so different from ours. Well, He does—but this supports my view, not yours: God never contradicts Himself! God Himself says, through Paul, "The supervisor…must be able to entreat with sound teaching as well as to expose those who contradict" (Titus 1:7,9). I know you are both supervisors in your church. Well, if I may say this as politely as I can: you’re unqualified. The contradictions listed two paragraphs above are the opposite of sound teaching, and I am exposing you.

When I began exposing these contradictions on New Year’s Eve, you did what all double-minded people do when things get hot for them: you pulled out the "God Isn’t Logical Card," otherwise known as "The Mystery Card" (see page 67 of my book). The Mystery Card defense basically states: "When in danger of being exposed as either a hypocrite or a double-minded person, simply say, ‘All this is a mystery! God cannot be counted on to make sense!’"

A more common name for it is: COP-OUT.

I have noticed over the years that people are perfectly willing to speak logically about God up until the time someone maneuvers them into a theological corner and spotlights their trouble. Then the rules quickly change. Rather than admitting either that they’re confused or that it’s possible they’re compromising a truth of God in order to cling to a human tradition, people will play the infamous Mystery Card and—voila!—discussion over; the pride survives to fight another day. Playing The Mystery Card is like turning on a fog machine. Things getting a little tight? Engage the fog! Hand caught in the "God-is-in-control-and-I’m-also-in-control" cookie jar? Obscure the argument!

I know that you would like to continue having your cake ("It’s not to my credit that I’m going to heaven") and eating it too ("People go to hell due to their own spiritual negligence") but you can’t be hypocritical on so foundational a topic as salvation and at the same time be of any practical help to sincere seekers. We are expected to be able to give an intelligent defense of our faith, not hit the fog switch whenever we haven’t done our homework.

None of this is a mystery; it’s Salvation 101.

I hope that my book will help you grasp the sovereignty of God, understand the proper role of the human will, and introduce you to the God—your God—Who is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers (1 Tim. 4:10).

In love,