Remembering Steve Hays

Posted by David Gadbois

The prolific Christian apologist and blogger Steve Hays died earlier this month. While most people probably knew him from his usual beat at Triablogue, he had a presence in the combox of this blog in earlier years, and often took the fight against unbelief to the “streets” of Facebook.

I always assumed I would meet Steve Hays in person, at some point. And sadly, I was wrong. Though he had been generous with his time in corresponding with me, as was the case with many other saints he corresponded with, he remained a faceless, online friend until the end. I literally did not even know what he looked like, although I imagine he must have seen pictures of me and my family on my Facebook profile. In any case, it was easy to recognize the intellectual firepower he had on deck, all guns blazing in defense of the Gospel. Tirelessly, ceaselessly. And for many years I had tried to take advantage and pick his brain on the tough subjects I was wrestling with, although there was no shortage of chat about lighter issues that we mutually found compelling.

He was certainly a strange duck. While he had a rare intellect, he never parlayed this into either a flashy or lucrative career. He was never a keynote speaker at whatever Reformed conference du jour. No public, oral debates. No Youtube clips of him lecturing. Apparently he wasn’t interested in any academic credentials beyond his M.A. He was never a professor. He was never even an elder or deacon at a church, at least the last time I asked him about it. And very little of his work was ever published in academic journals or dead-tree books, although he self-published e-books for free distribution. Non-stop blogging on Triablogue was his primary outlet, with a healthy smattering of Facebook debates on the side. And this was all semi-anonymous, he never used a picture of himself in his avatars. His posts were just marked with “Posted by steve”. Lower case “s”!

I can’t remember exactly when I started following Steve at Triablogue. From 1997-2002 I was earning my engineering degree, and providence led me to the Reformed faith, by means of multiple and sometimes unexpected channels, during these college years. Besides Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, I’d have to credit John Frame’s “Doctrine of the Knowledge of God” as one of the pivotal books that set my course from that point forward. Whenever I found Steve’s writings, it must have been a few years later, I realized I had found a kindred spirit whose theological and apologetic orientation dovetailed with my trajectory. As Steve was something of a Frame protege, he served as a helpful bridge out of the surreal Toon Town of pop-presuppositionalism and introduced me to thinkers like Greg Welty, James Anderson, and Paul Manata. There are many other fellow-travelers that I could mention that Steve introduced me to (or, for some, re-introduced me to), from many different fields and orientations: the whole staff of T-Blog, Jonathan McLatchie, the McGrews, Vern Poythress, Michael Kruger, C. John Collins, Richard Hess, and on and on.

As an engineer I really connected with the way Steve thought and wrote. The way he organized his thoughts and broke things down in a bullet point-like format. Exhaustive, yet clear and orderly. And this certainly influenced and improved my own writing. Again, I think we have John Frame to thank for this feature in his writings. His manner, at least in the printed word, was often rather curt, or abrupt. Again, as an engineer I sort of appreciated this, although it no doubt rubbed many others the wrong way. Part of this is that he didn’t believe in wasting time with verbal kid gloves for those whom he saw as culpable proponents of destructive falsehoods. There would be no quarter for those targets, rhetorically speaking.

Steve was like a nuclear reactor, pumping out daily content that was amazing, both in its quality and quantity. In contrast I felt more like the Drinking Bird toy that Homer Simpson employed, that nearly melted down the nuclear power plant. Comparatively, I’m just a “weekend warrior” apologist, but his tireless effort encouraged me to always stay in the fray, in whatever capacity I could.

He was wildly eclectic, in practice, in defending the Christian faith. While he was at his core, still some species of presuppositionalist, one would almost never know it from the diversity of approaches and tactics he employed. He borrowed freely from thinkers of any and all backgrounds; if it was a good argument, he wanted it in his arsenal.

His areas of apologetic interest were also also immensely diverse (he once mentioned that this was why he didn’t care to advance into a more specialized, advanced degree). Of course he covered the usual topics one would expect: defending the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the resurrection, the deity of Christ, Calvinist soteriology, predestination, dealt with both proofs and objections to the existence of God (including many valuable points on the Problem of Evil), evolution/Intelligent Design, along with no small amount of ink tackling Roman Catholicism and various cults. My guess would be that atheism and Roman Catholicism were his biggest targets, if one were to go by cumulative word-count over the years. But he also addressed topics that were off the well-beaten path: modern miracles, philosophy of time, and paranormal phenomena. He was also interested in current events and the culture wars. And he always stayed abreast of the latest biblical commentaries.

To my knowledge Steve never married. As his parents both died before him, I dearly hope he had some extended family and church brethren to give him comfort and company in his final days. Apparently his fire never dimmed until the very end, I see that his final post was June 3rd, 2020, only 3 days before his death (a critique of various Roman Catholic apologists, it happens). I suppose for selfish reasons, I sure wish he had sought treatment for his maladies. Of course I was not privy to the trade-offs and probable outcomes of such treatment, so one can’t judge about those hard decisions. While it is hard to say that anyone who lives to 60 has been robbed of a full life, in our modern era it is still on the young side to die at this age. Sad, especially since he retained all his faculties and mental acuity, as evidenced in his final writings.

He never told me, nor most others, of his terminally failing health. I suspect there was, perhaps, an impish impulse on his part to just “ghost” all of us, in the urban dictionary sense. That is, to disappear without warning or salutation, so as to go unnoticed. I don’t think he wanted the sentimental attention, no matter how sincere and understandable. No, as long as he could still pound out a blog post on a keyboard, he was going to load up the big guns and send out a final volley or two. Like the gigantic, WW2-era battleships firing their 16″ cannons one last time on their way to mothball. It is quite clear that he wanted to make the most of the precious few, final days at his disposal. And my best guess is that he saw grief and pity from others, no matter how understandable and legitimate, as an inordinate tax on this quickly-diminishing share of time. That’s my best guess, anyway, knowing him in the limited capacity that I did.

I could say much more, especially concerning our e-mail correspondence. He provided personal encouragement and guidance at important junctures. Very recently, we talked about our mutual love of the use of boys choirs in sacred music. A few months back we had an interesting exchange on the recent UFO phenomena with Jason Engwer. His last direct e-mail to me was on April 19th, although he jumped into some Facebook conversations over the subsequent month. I’m actually not sure why he was so open and seemingly eager to correspond with me. I could only take, and had little to give in return to someone like him. I think he was more than a little curious about the aerospace biz…but other than that I can’t say.

Lord, this is a tough one. By your mercy, dress us all in the White Robes of Jesus Christ, that we will all be re-united one day in glory. Amen.

Deaths and Resurrections

This post will be a sort of work in progress for me as I think through my position on Revelation 20 in relation to the two deaths and the two resurrections. My position might easily change, but this is what I currently think. I have found, through emailing Dr. Fowler White, that this is the Augustinian position. My understanding of it has definitely been shaped by Dr. White’s own work.

There are two deaths. The first death is the death of the body, and the second death is the death of the soul while both body and soul are in agony in Hell (this needs to be qualified by the fact that the unbeliever’s soul is always dead throughout life, death, and the resurrection of the body). There are two resurrections. The first resurrection is of the soul (this is identical to regeneration, which Paul describes in Ephesians 2 with resurrection language), the second resurrection is of the body, reuniting the body with the soul (though not automatically specifying which eternal destiny results).

The first death (of the body) that Adam and Eve brought upon themselves in the Garden of Eden established a link to the second death, in addition to securing the perpetual death of the unbelievers’ souls. For natural unsaved humanity, the first death leads to the second death. That link is what Christ came to break. Jesus simultaneously established a link between the first and second resurrection while breaking the link between the first and the second death. This new link is a guaranteed link, and it guarantees two things: it guarantees the second resurrection and, even more importantly, freedom from the second death (this is what Revelation 20:6 is talking about, according to Augustine). At the second resurrection, of course, believers are freed from the first death as well. So the first resurrection frees us directly from the second death and, through its guarantee of the second resurrection, frees us indirectly from the first death.

Lastly (and this is most directly influenced by Dr. White’s work), both resurrections have a certain irony to them. The first resurrection has this irony for the believer: it does not free him from experiencing the first death. It promises eventual emancipation, but not immediate freedom. The second resurrection has a mirror image irony: it does not free the unbeliever from the second death.

Fifth Plenary Address: The Bible and Evolution (Rick Phillips)

Did science correct the Bible in the case of Galileo? Or was the interpretation of Joshua incorrect? Does evolution correct our interpretation of Genesis 1-2? Even advocates of evolution will admit that if Genesis is teaching literal history, then it rules out evolution. The species in Genesis were created by God according to their kind. People who advocate evolution posit a non-literal reading of Genesis 1. Are we saying that Genesis 1 teaches science? No, but it DOES teach history. Objections from the Biologos crowd will be that Genesis 1 is poetic. Genre analysis tells us that Genesis 1 is a classic example of historic Hebrew narrative, NOT poetry. It does not have parallelism, but vav-consecutive. Does the supernaturalism of Genesis 1 rules out the possibility of historical narrative, as Keller says? No. Even the presence of more highly exalted language does not rule out historical narrative, as Hebrew poetry itself shows us, since Hebrew poetry can still legitimately refer to historical events. The same objections made against the historical narrative of Genesis 1 could be made against John.

Do Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 conflict? No. Genesis 1 is a wide-angle lens, whereas Genesis 2 is a telephoto lens on day 6. The hermeneutics of the Biologos crowd subordinates the authority of the Bible to the higher authority of secularist science. On the one hand, we have fallible scientists, who have mixed motives, and mixed intellectual capacities, working with limited data. On the other hand, we have God, who has no fallibility, completely holy motives, absolute intellectual capacity, and working with ALL the data. Which authority is higher? Surely it is God.

Another casualty of this Biologos perspective is the doctrine of man. Man is no longer unique, but is on the same level as the animals. But when God made the animals, He created them by fiat. When He created man, He used His own “hands,” forming Adam personally from the dust of the earth. Psalm 8 does not say, “You made him a little higher than the animals,” but rather associates us with the higher beings, “You made him a little lower than the angels.” Modern secularism directs humanity (already having problems with self-loathing!) to their association with the animals. This is not calculated to solve the problems of despair so rampant in today’s society. Evolution is compatible with racism. Evolutionists are not necessarily racist, but evolution is compatible with racism, because a logical conclusion of evolution is that there are inferior strands of DNA that need to be weeded out. Can anyone say Final Solution? Furthermore, sin will need to be redefined as a form of imperfection, rather than transgression of God’s law.

The Bible says that death is the result of the Fall. Evolution says that death is the mechanism of improving the gene pool. According to evolution, then, death is good, and part of the world which cannot be eliminated. Death is no longer the intruder that the Bible says it is. Leviticus law says that death is bad. Life is part of the camp, and death is to be outside the camp. If Jesus conquered death, how can evolution be true, when evolution says that death is how progress comes to the world? Revelation 21:4 tells us explicitly: death shall be no more. One possible answer is that the Fall is only resulting in spiritual death, not physical death. This is inconsistent with Genesis 3 compared with Genesis 5. The refrain “and he died” is a reflection on the curse of the Fall. Revelation tells us that the first death and the second death are related, but for the grace of God. Christianity says that physical death is wrong! When will you get over the death of your loved one? Ultimately, the RESURRECTION! Christianity is never reconciled to death. If evolution is true, then God pronounced death good. This is absolutely blasphemous!

The problem with wanting to be respectable in society by believing in evolution is that the resurrection of Christ, the miraculous nature of the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ are all equally distasteful to the secularists as creation.

The Devil in his Redemptive-Historical Context

(Posted by Paige)

Here is a pair of theological questions related to the “fear of death” topic and deriving from the same pair of verses, Heb. 2:14-15. One of my curious laypeople asked about it in our Hebrews study:

In what sense did the devil ever hold “the power of death”?

How was this power altered by Christ’s defeat of the devil?

We are looking for a way to speak accurately about the “Before” and “After” of the devil in redemptive history. Any insights?

The Hebrews verses again are:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Slavery to the Fear of Death (Heb. 2:15)

(Posted by Paige)

Here’s a theme that I would like to develop into a written piece sometime; I thought I’d toss it out to you here to gather some of your good thinking, and thus expand my own. See which of these questions sparks ideas in you…

1) In what ways have cultures (and individuals), from ancient times to the present, told stories and pursued actions that reflect slavery to the fear of death?

2) In what ways has this universal fear of death been exploited by the powerful?

3)Would fear of death have at all influenced the lives of OT saints (up to and including Jesus’ disciples, pre-resurrection)? In other words, was OT revelation sufficient to remove, or at least mitigate, this universal fear of death?

Here is the text from Hebrews 2:14-15 (ESV):

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Thanks in advance for your ideas!