A Diplomatic Review of "A Boisterous Polemic"

[Updated 5/8/2023, see footnote 3]

For whom did Christ die? A "5-point" Calvinist will answer, "for the elect only". A "4-point" or "moderate" Calvinist will answer "for everyone, but especially for the elect." "
A Boisterously Reformed Polemic Against Limited Atonement", by Austin C. Brown, looks at the evidence for each answer and comes down on the side of the moderate Calvinist.

For the sake of brevity, I will use "5P" and "4P" to refer to the respective five point and four point positions.

My first observation, which should not be controversial, is that there is a typo in the Kindle version on page 190/191: "This happened to me twice. Once during the examination process
to be become a deacon in the RPCNA and during my examination...". My remaining observations, save the penultimate, will be in areas where I think Brown could present a stronger argument. The next to last observation will be in the way of personal application.


Paternal Grandfather

I have written several times about my paternal grandfather (here, here, here, and here). I came across this picture of him today while cleaning files from my laptop. Click for a bigger version. He is standing in the living room of grandmother's house. It's grandmother's house because my grandfather, while sharing my birthday, died not quite six months after I was born, so I never had the chance to meet him.


3M Datavision D-8000


The 3M Datavision D-8800 was a character generator for the television broadcast industry. It existed circa 1977-1986 and very little information about it exists on the web, outside of mentions in trade journals. There is a Wiki for character generators, but the entry for the D-8800 is mostly empty. A semi-technical marketing presentation can be found here1. A description of the product and its price2 is here3. A comparison of features between various brands of character generators from 1983 is here4. Several ads from the trade journals can be found here5, here6, here7, and here8. An article featuring a D-8800 in a studio is here9. Want ads from 1985 for people with D-8800 experience are here10 and here11. A used D-8800 was offered for sale in October, 1990, here12.

I worked on the software for the D-8800 from circa 1978 to possibly as late as early 1981. Memories fade after 45 years. But I kept the following material among my memorabilia:

The D-8800 was powered by two Intel 8080 microprocessors. One controlled the keyboard, floppy, and possibly other peripherals. The other managed the fonts and the character layout and attributes for display by the video hardware. "Suds" designed the 8080 boards (which, if memory serves, were 18"x18" wire-wrap boards). Steve designed the video hardware. 3M contracted with Xener Corporation, which was a small consulting firm in Springfield, VA at the time, to write the software. "Duffy" M. wrote the intial software and I took over for him later. The software was written in assembly language, developed on an ISIS-II system. Two ICE-80's were used to load, run, and debug the code.

The keyboard was a "beast". Not only did it have a QWERTY keyboard, it had a number of buttons for selecting fonts and colors, and for starting various operations such as roll (scroll multiple pages of text up or down) and crawl (scroll a line of text across the screen). There were lights that could be turned on, off, and flashed for operator feedback. There were four seven segment LEDs above the numeric keypad. Files were stored on floppy by number, 0000 (?) to 9999 and the LEDs were used to display that number to the user. There was an LCD screen for user instructions and feedback.

The two computers communicated via DMA. The video system had an interrupt for vertical sync which, if I remember correctly, was the only timer the system had. Because the display CPU had the timer, as well as the need to keep the video system fed in conjunction with vertical sync, it constantly told the system CPU what it needed and when. It would also ask the system CPU if the user had done anything it needed to know about. This caused one of the more interesting problems in my career. The system would lock up, but so rarely that the problem could never be reproduced. After a year and a half I discovered that the DMA register that contained the amount of data to transfer would not have the value that was written to it. So one CPU would wait forever for a transfer to complete. Suds then found that if the system was doing everything all at once that the voltage might drop below nominal levels causing the malfunction in the DMA register. Fixing the problem was easy - the length value would be written, then read back, until what was read matched what was written.

As this screen shows, the D-8800 had WYSIWYG editing and display of proportionally spaced fonts before this was made popular by the Macintosh. But we were too focused on the broadcast industry to think about printers and documents.

All tech products have a lifecycle. In 1984, 3M announced their BFA system, here13. But this at least was three years after I had moved on.

[1] Excerpted from the 1978 Proceedings of the "
31st Annual Broadcasting Conference" of the NAB", pages 30-33.
[2] In all of the years I worked on this product, I never knew how much it sold for. $28,990!
[3] Excerpted from "
Video Images, 1982", page 134.
[4] Excerpted from "
BroadCast Engineering's Spec Book, December 15, 1983", page 48
[5] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, March, 1977", page 41.
[6] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, January 1979", page 21.
[7] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, March 1981", page 145.
[8] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Management/Engineering, October 1983", page 120.
[9] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Management/Engineering, December 1985", pages 83-84.
[10] Excerpted from "
Broadcasting, April 22, 1985", no page numbers.
[11] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, December 1985", page 128.
[12] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, October 1990", page 117.
[13] Excerpted from "
Mix, November 1984", pages 132, 143.


Critiquing Calvinism

On the strength of David Allen's book "The Atonement", I bought a copy of "Calvinism". The book beings with a critique of the five points of Calvinism, usually known by the acronym "TULIP". Allen wrote the chapter on the doctrine of "Limited Atonement" and I found his work here to be as well done as in his other book. He "steelmanned" his analysis, that is, he looked at the doctrine of Limited Atonement as it is actually presented by Calvinists, instead of assessing a caricature, and did a competent job stating the case against it. In fact, I'm only aware of one additional argument for limited atonement that he did not address1. However, the chapters on Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace aren't as well done. They are target rich environments that, were they to accurately depict Calvinism, would deter me from being a moderate Calvinist. Yet, instead of a lengthy rebuttal, in the remainder of this post I want to address one, and only one, part of the response to "Irresistible Grace" in chapter 4 by editor Steve Lemke. He writes:
... the Remonstrants were concerned about the teaching that God forces his grace on sinners irresistibly. [emphasis mine]
Bending the will of a fallible being by an omnipotent Being powerfully and unfailingly is not merely sweet persuasion. It is forcing one to change one’s mind against one’s will.
God changing our will invincibly in irresistible grace brings to mind phenomena such as hypnotism or brainwashing.
Note the striking contradiction—God will “overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible,” and yet “irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will.” No attempt is made in the article to reconcile these apparently contradictory assertions.

I will try to reconcile these allegedly contradictory assertions. The idea that God forces the spiritually dead to awaken to life in Christ is common in Arminian arguments. But it simply isn't what God does. "Aha!" moments, "Eureka!" moments rise from the recesses of our minds and present to us a new way of seeing, a new way of thinking, and that new thing is so obvious that we wonder why we never encountered it before. Of course we embrace it. Why would we not? It has positively transformed a part of our life.

Lemke asks:

Why would there be a need to persuade someone who had already been regenerated by irresistible enabling grace?

God works through His word: written, oral, or otherwise. He gives sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf (Ex. 4:11). He gives transforming inspiration. Regeneration and persuasion go hand in hand. He regenerates through persuasion and persuades through regeneration.

I am reminded of the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy opens the door of her house and sees Oz in color. Before then, everything was in black and white. The external change of location which brought color into her life is a parallel to the internal change that brings new sight to the Christian. What Dorothy saw on the outside the Christian sees on the inside.


[1] The "marriage" argument. It is argued that Christ died for His bride, the Church, to "sanctify it, having cleansed it." [Eph 5:25-27].

There is an inseparable unity between Christ's death for the church and his sanctifying and cleansing it. Those from whom he died he also sanctifies and cleanses. Since the world is not sanctified and cleansed, then it is obvious that Christ did not die for it.
    – Edwin H. Palmer, "The Five Points of Calvinism".

I don't think this argument survives Isaiah 54:5:

For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; ...
    – NRSV

Which makes 1 Cor 7:15 all the more interesting.


2022 Reading List

1Space ChantyR. A. Lafferty
2The Witches of KarresJames H. Schmitz
3The Wizard of KarresM. Lackey, E. Flint, D. Freer
4The Sorceress of KarresE. Flint, D. Freer
5The Shaman of KarresE. Flint, D. Freer
6The Idea of Israel in Second Temple JudaismJason Staples
7Do Android's Dream of Electric SheepPhilip K. Dick
8Miami BluesCharles Willeford
9New Hope for the DeadCharles Willeford
10SideswipeCharles Willeford
11The Way We Die NowCharles Willeford
12The HobbitJ. R. R. Tolkien
13The Burnt Orange HeresyCharles Willeford
14A Canticle for LeibowitzWalter M. Miller, Jr.
15Gospel CoachScott Thomas & Tom Wood
16SolarisStanislaw Lem
17Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are LostTraci Rhoades
18The Mountain of SilenceKyriacos C. Markides
19He Is There And He Is Not SilentFrancis A. Schaeffer
20The Region BetweenHarlan Ellison
21True SpiritualityFrancis A. Schaeffer
22The Orville: Sympathy for the DevilSeth MacFarlane
23The Word for World is ForestUrsula K. Le Guin
24Believing PhilosophyDolores G. Morris
25The Epic of EdenSandra L. Richter
26Five Ways to ForgivenessUrsula K. Le Guin
26The Westminster AssemblyRobert Letham
27Old Testament Theology in a Canonical ContextBrevard S. Childs
28The Year's Best Science Fiction, First Annual CollectionGardner Dozois
29The Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury
30What Did The Cross Accomplish?S. Gathercole, R. B. Stewart, N. T. Wright
31Howard Who?Howard Waldrop