I have received some criticisms that I consider interesting enough to add to the site. I am not interested in hiding from the critics, as I believe that I can answer them. I also appreciate that some have taken the time to try to "correct me". The first one recorded here made me alter a point on my page. The following are excerpts, followed by my response.
Dear C.J. Schmidtz:
The only thing that really might offend my sensibilities is where you liken Dr. Horton to Adolph Hitler (a reference I would use only on myself, as I consider myself every bit as much a wretched sinner as Hitler). You say he is "using the same tactic as Adolph Hitler," but then you fail to give an example of what you have titled "The big lie." Ad hominem is never a good tactic when trying to prove a point, as it has no point but to belittle someone (a tactic every bit as reprehensible as the very lies you are denouncing). I fear you are advocating love, but then you are burning
Michael Horton's name, literally, in effigy. Is this the love you speak of? I understand your zealousness for truth, and I even appreciate it, but out of the same pen seems to come blessing and cursing. I fear I have run out of time, but I do have other issues to discuss with you via e-mail if you wish, and I really am most interested in hearing your response.
I appreciated your letter tremendously. Yes, I do receive a lot of heated mail, but very little can also be called "thoughtful." I enjoyed your letter so much that, with your permission, I just might make a page of criticisms and put segments of yours at the top. I'd like to address some of your concerns, the most important of which were the comments relating to Hitler. I humbly apologize if I gave the impression that I was comparing Horton to Hitler personally. That was a dreadful oversight on my part. My point was simply that Horton was using the fallacy known as the Big Lie, which has been used by many and defined by Hitler, who excelled in its use. The idea is that:
"It is a paradoxical thing that the more wild and damaging the charges, the more likely they are to be believed. People seem to reason that nobody would say such a terrible thing unless it were true, partially at least. Hitler made a famous analysis of this phenomenon when he wrote Mein Kampf" (Fallacy, 1959, Prentice-Hall, Inc, Fearnside and Holther, p.103)
As a result of your rebuke, I thank you and will add clarification to my page.
8/15/ 99 The Love I speak of does correct and rebuke, but I do not want to exaggerate my accusations. I consider that he is burning his own name. I am helping people to see the flames.
Following is from the same author:
How interesting to come across your web-site today. I'm sure you must get a lot of heated responses from people with a title like you've given your Michael Horton expose. I am especially interested in it for two reasons.
One is because I have seldom encountered someone who actually thinks about the other sides of these issues as you seem to, and so am intellectually piqued to read your thoughts, and the other is probably because I know Michael personally, although I have no personal opinion as to whether he makes a regular practice of "lying" as you boldly claim he does. I write to you in an honest spirit of inquisitiveness because I yearn to seek the Biblical truth in all things and feel a personal obligation to weigh all sides of an argument equally and then make a scripturally informed decision.
I read through your paper on "The Lies of Michael Horton" (lovely "hell-fire" graphics at the top) and found it to be most intriguing. Although scathing in its hatred for Dr. Horton's supposed lies (it almost seems for Dr. Horton himself), your paper did not cause me to walk away "blushing" as you said I might (being a Calvinist, I admit it, for only a Calvinist can stand to have Calvinistic friends). I would like further documentation for your claim that Dr. Horton has "gone beyond the realm of deception into the land of lies." You give one fairly weak example of a statement made by Horton and call it lies. Horton is quoted as saying, "The first thing we must note about the atonement, Finney says, is that Christ could not have died for anyone else's sins than his own." Then you give a quote from Finney which seems to contradict this (One point for you, zero for Horton). However, is it not possible that the later quote which you skip from Horton's original paper could be seen to support Horton's statement? I refer to the place where Horton says, "He explicitly denied the substitutionary atonement, which " . . . assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt, which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement . . . It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any one" (p. 217)" So either Finney explicitly denies it or he doesn't. Unfortunately, it's right there in Finney's own words. Unless Michael is misquoting p. 217, in which case I wonder why you didn't bring that up? It is a much more tantalizing lie to completely mis-quote someone and then give a page number reference. So then, it seems that Finney is contradicting HIMSELF, not that Michael is lying, or even deceiving us in this case. At worst, he is giving only one of the two contradictory views seemingly held by Finney. On page 197 Finney says the atonement is "a covering of their sins by his sufferings" and on page 217 he says that the atonement "of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone." Either it covers, or it doesn't. You see what I'm saying? I am honestly asking you about this, not trying to attack your paper, so please write me back in regards to these issues.
In Christ's Love,
Stephen Van Dorn
There is tremendous value in debate provided both parties "feel a personal obligation to weigh all sides of an argument equally and then make a scripturally informed decision." With that in mind, I believe I can address the issue summarized in your statement: http://www.dragonfire.net/~fires/st35.htm
" On page 197 Finney says the atonement is 'a covering of their sins by his
sufferings' and on page 217 he says that the atonement 'of itself, does not
secure the salvation of anyone.' Either it covers, or it doesn't."
The context of the passage on page 217 is a discussion of whether the atonement is limited or general. If Horton holds to the view that the atonement is only for the elect, I have no doubt that he believes it automatically secures their salvation. Finney, however, believed in a general atonement, and that it secured the salvation of those who respond to the Father when he draws them. It does "cover," but only for those who repent and believe. I am sure that you are aware of all the issues involved. In this sense, the atonement "of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone." The preaching of the Gospel, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repentance, faith: all of these are a very real part of God's plan of redemption. In context, Finney points out that those who believe in a limited atonement believe that it automatically secures the salvation of the elect, and universalists believe it automatically secures the salvation of everyone.
If believing in a general atonement is a denial of the atonement, Horton is not only charging Finney with heresy, but most of the Church, and should make his point clear. However, as he made no reference to that debate (limited general), it seems to me that he was trying to mislead the reader into thinking that Finney was denying the atonement altogether. While I encourage debate, this seems more to me to be a serious misrepresentation, at the least. Horton is not leaving the matter open for discussion; rather, he is speaking in an authoritative manner and making charges based on his own conclusions. It could be said that I am fighting fire with fire, but his fire is an illusion.
I hope to here from you again.
Hello! Been away from the computer so I haven't been able to write back to.
It's not that I've forgotten you. Have you amended your web-page yet? I haven't checked it out lately. Anyway, I definitely want to respond, but it's about two in the morning, so perhaps another time. I will say that it seems to me that Finney actually misunderstood the term "general atonement." There are three views of the atonement, of which I am sure you are aware.
One, that Christ died for all the sins of all the people (THIS is general atonement, and means he also died for the sin of unbelief, which means everyone is going to heaven), Two, that Christ died for all of the sins of SOME of the people (LIMITED atonement, as Michael Horton believes), and
Three, that Christ died for none of the sins of any of the people. So, from this perspective, it's a matter of semantics, and Finney, then, believed actually in LIMITED atonement, right? If this is the case, then Michael and Finney agree, and I'm sure Michael wouldn't be very happy about that :-)
Anyway, gotta go. I'll write more soon.
My friendly guess is that you spend most of your time as a Calvinist debating Calvinists. I have to admit that I would have stated some things differently in my earlier letter If I had known that the issue brought up in your last were so significant to you. I had assumed that, beyond semantics, our views of the nature of the atonement would not be an issue.
There are three points that I would like to make:
1) The issue of semantics is a common difficulty. I believe it is not helpful to use definition b to discuss person a and definition a. If we are to criticize anyone, we need to compare their own definitions and explanations to the Bible. I don't think we can get around this because there are different views and categories, and as a result people will use terms differently.
The difficulty that I see is in classifications. For example, the three views of the atonement you expressed can be broken down into other constructions . . . . to express other aspects. Finney discussed the nature and extent of the atonement separately, while in your three views they are a package.
2) Saying there are only three views of the atonement is inadequate, as there are many. To express both Finney's and Horton's as limited doesn't adequately represent where the differences do exist. This noted, your letter expresses a false dilemma. The statement implies: here are the choices - you have to pick one. It is false because they are not the only choices.
3) Before we express definitions and explanations we need to understand what is plainly taught in the Bible. I am sure you would agree, but it seems to me that none of the three positions above can be considered consistent with Biblical teaching.
4) Finney believed Christ died for all of the sins of all of the people. However, he differed in describing the nature of the atonement. Finney was aware of the issues involved as they are discussed in the chapter. It seems that he did not feel compelled to use terms in the sense that you expressed. While I believe Christ died for all sins, including the sin of unbelief, I do not believe that all are going to heaven. Therefore, I can either create new terms or use them in a sense that is compatible with the Bible. Finney denied the Calvinist explanation of the nature of the atonement and the limited description of the extent of the atonement (no word pun intended). He did not believe that Christ paid the penalty for our sins in such a sense that those He died for would have a right to be "going to heaven". He did not view it as an action of "exact justice". He considered that the atonement would be accepted on our behalf as a gift of grace on condition of faith. This was touched on in the previous letter, and as a result he could believe in a general atonement without believing that everyone is going to heaven. For a detailed description of why, see his Systematic Theology , specifically his chapter on the atonement.
Enjoyed looking at your web pages and found them very interesting
Just thought I'd share with you an occasion about 12 months ago whilst engaging in a discussion with some calvanists on the Theology Discussion List. The argue ment against Finney was raised that he never wrote an actual theology - basically following Horton's arguement. I pointed out that Finney had in fact released a series of lecture which have been published under the title "The Heart of the Truth" and which was a companion work to his better known Systematic Theology. I supplied them with the complete list of context.
This simple point caused considerable problems for those opposing Finney and they quickly attempted to avoid the issue once again. I maintained that clearly Horton had carried out a flawed investigation on Finney and this was demonstrated by his failure to recognise a work which he claimed (either in error or a lie) never existed.
I look forward to visiting your site again