22 September 2008

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. . .

by Phil Johnson

Found in my e-mail out-box

If I had a nickel for every e-mail like this I get . . .

(First posted Tuesday, September 13, 2005)


From: Phil Johnson
To: Andrew M______
Subject: Re: Logical fallacies in "Defeating Darwinism"

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for your message. You wrote:

> Dear Mr Phillip Johnson,
> I have read with interest your book
> called "Defeating Darwinism"

That's not my book. I'm Phillip R. Johnson. The book was written by Phillip E. Johnson, who teaches law at Berkeley. The starting point of my bio at the Web site where you found this e-mail address explains all of this in careful detail.

> Your book was not able to cast
> the slightest doubt in my mind
> that random evolution is and has
> been the primary creative force
> operating on this planet.

I do not wonder at that fact, assuming you read the book with no more care than you took in ascertaining whom you were writing to.

Too bad. It's a pretty good book and would definitely make you think--if you were given to that kind of thing. I recommend you read it again.

Phillip R. Johnson
The Spurgeon Archive

Phil's signature


W. Ian Hall said...

Nice straight honest reply.

Rick Frueh said...

I was saved still believing in evolution. It took maybe 2 years before I was changed. I find the argument basically unproductive, the issue is Christ, the rest can come later. The New Testament does not seem to make that an issue.

Are we attempting to persuade the unregenerate? If I had been approached with an anti-Darwinian argument representing some appendage to Christianity I would never have listened. As it was, I heard the gospel which was what I needed.

Rick Frueh - free from primate bondage!

Rick Frueh said...

One other note - In 1980 or there abouts I attended a debate between a teacher from Henry Morris's institute and a fairly well known palentologist. The paleontologist was lucid and demonstartive and in tow hours, even though he embraced a lie, he had won the debate and probably convinced all but those believers who could not be convinced.

We had charted a bus and on the way home I stood and addressed my group. I reminded them that the Word of God is the standard, and that no one ever discovers evolution and is freed from heroin, or whose marriage is put back together, or who ever is given eternal life.

In my opinion debates are unproductive at best and counter productive at worst. Speaking from experience, it is astounding to hear paleantological evidence for evolution and find the argument water proof, and then hear the same lecture after conversion and find it foolishness.

Darkness to light.

Carrie said...

I wouldn't be too hard on the guy, Phil. He descended from a monkey, how much can you expect?

FX Turk said...

Let me say, as I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes at reading this, that this is why I love Phil Johnson.

He wrote a great book against Darwinism.

James Scott Bell said...

Phil, I, too, in the past, have confused you with someone who is, I think, John Piper's assistant. This blog has helped clear that up. Do you like being a retired law professor? Are you keeping busy? Thanks for the book!

Quintin said...

to Rick Frueh:

Amen brother! Trying to convict without Christ is a perilous act! Only when someone is willing to submit to scripture alone do we have a leg to stand on. We are not called to challenge scientific communities, but rather spread the gospel!

Ken Abbott said...

Gentlemen: Our priority is to preach Christ and him crucified. But the same apostle who championed that gospel also exhorted us to tear down strongholds and "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."

It's not an either-or proposition; it's a both-and.

Darwinism is constructed upon a philosophy of naturalistic materialism that is stubbornly set against the God of the Scriptures. It has to be shown for what it is--a doctrine of demons.

Ed Franklin said...

Rick Frueh has expressed succinctly the concerns I have about what passes for "apologetics" in this day and age. Engaging in debates and other intellectual exercises -- to what end? If we "win" do the losers convert? If we "lose" must we forsake our Lord? So many of these battles are fought absent the Sword of the Spirit; Christians engage the enemy armed only with their intellect, determined to score debating points.

Ken Abbot quotes 2 Cor 10 regarding the directive to "pull down strongholds" I call your attention to the preceding phrase which says that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (including our intellect).

DJP said...

Which one's the one with the hair?

Ken Abbott said...

Mr. Franklin: How do you propose to handle arguments, opinions, and thoughts if not with your renewed mind? How are you going to give a reason for the hope that is within you without your mind? How will you love the Lord God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength if you relinquish the use of the mind? We who possess the mind of Christ are given it not to set it aside.

Ed Franklin said...

See, here I am already!...outscored by a superior intellect!

In my feeble way, I intended to make the point that we are not to depend upon our intellectual prowess, which is not the weapon of our warfare, but the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. I missed the part where I "relinquished" my mind......

You win.....

donsands said...

"In my opinion debates are unproductive at best and counter productive at worst."

I like a good debate. As long as the person speaking the truth in love is rooted and grounded in the truth, and full of the Holy Spirit: Someone like James White.

I believe he edifies the Body of Christ, and simply speaking the truth in love will manifest the Gospel, and bring glory to the Lord.
As far as the saving of the souls, that's the Lord's responsibility.
We are to speak the truth. And we are to love others as Christ loves them.

There surely are those who give the Church a black eye as well.

Chad V. said...

Dear Philip Johnson;

I think the buildings you design are unsound and ugly. They are likely to fall over at any given moment and I wouldn't step foot in side of one to get all the works of John Owen for free.

Please hang up your drafting pen and take up something like preaching, you're much better at that.

Wes Walker said...

Interesting how carelessness in that "little" area does seem translatable to the manner in which he reads his books. But he was still gung-ho enough to try to refute you.
As to referencing evolution/creation in apologetics: if the assurance that evolution is legitimate is serving to "innoculate" people against seriously listening the the Gospel, how would casting doubt on that 'fortress' be a bad idea?

I realize that it is the Holy Spirit that convicts, not skilled debate, but He tends to use diverse methods. Why discard any that He might use convincingly?

Travis said...

Praise God that no one has to become a creationist before becoming a believer! Still, evolution is not simply scientific theory, it is a philosophy, and Christians should respond when given the opportunity.

I greatly appreciate all of Phillip E. Johnson's books, as well as other articulate critiques of evolution. Like the one that Phillip R. Johnson edited - Battle for the Beginning.

BTW, my limited intellect is unable to make any sense of Ed Franklin's two comments.

SolaMommy said...

Thanks Phil, I needed a laugh this morning :D

DJP said...

Rick Frueh — I'm searching my memory... is there some area of God's world in which you think the best thing a Christian can do isn't just to hide in church and wait for Jesus to come back?

Anonymous said...

Like most unbiblical retorts, that sure was fun =)

Anonymous said...

Snicker, snicker, snicker...gotta love it.

Anonymous said...

On that note, I can't help but notice that the words you preach so forthrightly on the internet seem to contradict the bulk of your career history:


This personal authorship of yours doesn't seem to square with the theology you posit on your blog; thus do I find neither very persuasive.



~Mark said...

LOL! Sometimes you just gotta get to the point. Despite some people's disagreement with the style I find in "real life" that this is often a very effective tool at peeling away the nonsense and getting to the real deal.

Fred Butler said...

I find the argument basically unproductive, the issue is Christ, the rest can come later. The New Testament does not seem to make that an issue.

The NT doesn't make creation an issue? John the apostle doesn't think so (John 1:1-3) and the apostle Paul seems to make origins and creation an issue too (Colossians 1:16). The very person of Christ is directly tied to the debate over creation.

greglong said...

Phil Johnson, self-professed "Life Extractor" and member of the band "Roadside Attraction".

The Rev. Dr. C. Phillip Johnson, D.Min, TH.D, RAS, BCETS,
CDAAC, CAS, is the Founder, Organizer and Presiding Bishop of New Prospect Family Praise & Worship Center, Inc. of Washington, DC and Martinsville, VA, Lagos and Bayelsa States, Nigeria and Ghana, West Africa

Rev. Phil Johnson, Senior Chaplain of Dwight Correction Facility, Dwight, IL.

Dr. Phil Johnson, "The Firestarter", igniting your passion to do the impossible, with customized speeches that sizzle, seminars that stick, and consultations that click.

Phil Johnson, President of PJA Marketing Agency.

Talk about leading a double life...

Have YOU ever seen any of these "Phil Johnsons" in a room together?

Stefan Ewing said...

Okay, the superficial connection with motivational speaker Dr. Phil Johnson's self-branding is uncanny....

Rick Frueh said...

Dan - a typically demeaning reply. I am sure you do not know me or my outreach in Africa. BTW - I have never had a discussion with an unsaved African (or Latin American) about Darwinianism, the conversation usually centers on Christ.

OK, time to go hide again and wait for Jesus to come back if that is what you need to think.

FX Turk said...

Ed Franklin:

So you're saying that Phil ought to take the credit/blame for someone else's work? Or that in not taking the blame, he ought to spend more time considering his argument by a factor of 10 than the person lodging the complaint?

Here's what I think:

People who view Phil's response as too strident or brawny are people who have never had any contact, for example, with evolutionary religionists and strident atheists. Phil's answer to that e-mail was exactly as much as the person e-mailing him about a book he never wrote deserved, and if your concern is that Phil was too unloving, to un-Gospel-y, my opinion is that you should see Jesus' response to those who thought he shouldnt be seen in public with prostitutes and tax collectors.

Phil is a light touch compared to the judgment of the Lord of Lords.

DJP said...

So Rick, you weren't the "Politics? Ahhh! No! Run!" And other issues? That wasn't you? You're not the "Oh no, hide!" guy? Well, except on the central, pan-Biblical, hot-button issue of creation? The issue because of which my Dad was ridiculed out of professing faith in Christ, in part because his similarly "Ahh! No! Hide!!!" Church of Christ upbringing had him completely unprepared for evolutionism in college?

I admit, I don't keep you all as straight as Phil does.

But I think I'm not wrong.

If I am, I'll apologize.

Tyler said...

oh SNAP!!!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Since reading Phil's book on Defeating Darwinism, my protruding brow has become less protuding, my knuckles don't drag behind me nearly as often, and I find myself able to resist bananas to an extent unimaginable in the past. Anyone know what's going on?

Defeating Darwinism - so easy, even a cave man can do it!

Solameanie said...


You've got a church of Christ background, too? How did I miss that?

Hail and well met...LOL. See what makes me so snarky?


Keep it up and soon you will be a "meanie." Hear, hear! That was perhaps the best stiletto response I've seen in a while, and indeed well deserved.

Rick Frueh said...

That is not me as you characterized it. I have perspectives as do all of us, but even when the perspectives of others do not align with mine does not mean those people are the target of my personal caricatures. In all things conviction, in all things God's Word, but in all things grace.

How can iron sharpen iron if there is only one axe? I have never said one word against any writer here, and I find much that is good and edifying here. My comments on this thread did not accuse anyone of being anything. They were on topic.

"I admit, I don't keep you all as straight as Phil does."

I am not sure what that means and how it applies to what should be Christian dialogue.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Maybe you wouldn't seem as imposing if your avatar weren't a lion. A lion implies something like the king of the beasts, lion of Judah, Aslan, or some other grandiose thingamabob. It kind of tees people up to expect the writer to have an attitude of superiority, even if (as in your case) they don't have.

As you can clearly see from my avatar, I view myself as a fat, mooching, hamburger fetishist. You don't have to go as far as that, because I have abnormal self-image issues. But if you tried a bobcat, a cheetah, or even a very large tomcat as your avatar, people would be less likely to ascribe things to you that you didn't say. Just a thought.


Rick Frueh said...

stratagem - that Lion is supposed to represent Christ. My avatar would be more like a sickly old man, saved by grace, and without any wisdom except His. And even then I am prone to mess it up.

Thanks for your words. :)

PS - If you come to Valrico Florida I will gladly buy you a hamburger on Tuesday!

Pitbull78 said...

That was a great post, totally cracked me up. When I came home on my lunch break I shared it with my wife who found it as amusing as I did. Nice work Phil.

Stefan Ewing said...

We may laugh now, but when the apes take over the world...

Oh, sorry: had a lapse into Boulleanism there.

DJP said...

Rick f -

1. So I do have the right person? Okey doke.

2. "I admit, I don't keep you all as straight as Phil does" simply means that Phil seems to have an almost photographic memory for every comment that every commenter has made. I, by contrast, get commenters mixed up. As in, "Uh, ___? Is that the one who...?"

As in, "Rick Frueh? Isn't that the guy who says 'Hide!' wherever the Biblical worldview clashes, toe to toe, with the world's worldview?"

DJP said...

Stratagem - it's more of a grandbackground, in my case. Dad was raised that way. He'd long-since left it before starting our family. But I was forced to attend a few times, when my dad's dad visited. When I was saved at age 17, it was about five years after Pop (Grandpa) died. So I never had any meaningful conversations with him, to know where he was coming from spiritually.

Except Dad used to chuckle that CoC prided itself on being the only true church. All the others were just "denominations." So it was the only non-denominational denomination.

Rick Frueh said...

"As in, "Rick Frueh? Isn't that the guy who says 'Hide!' wherever the Biblical worldview clashes, toe to toe, with the world's worldview?""

Almost. I am the guy who says "gospel" wherever the Biblical worldview clashes, toe to toe, with the world's world view. Your word "hide" represents a label about someone with whom I am unfamiliar. Different perspectives do not necessitate personal carcitures about a brother's spiritual walk, especially when it is false and applies to a complete stranger.

Come to Tampa and we will go to Clearwater beach together in outdoor witnessing and passing out tracts. I offer that in sincerity and with grace.

DJP said...

Rick: in reverse order...

I'd love to.

Would we agree that "the Gospel" isn't only about "How can I go to Heaven fifty-seven years from now, when I die?" That it is issued on the authority of a foundational command whose premise is "all authority has been given to me in Heaven and on earth" (cf. Matthew 28:18-20)? That His word literally revolutionizes the way we see everything — God, ourselves, others, our world... our world's history, values, priorities, and politics?

Agreeing that, then, would we be prepared to bring the Word of God to bear in every location and at every point when it clashes with the world's anti-God faith? In loving and bold confrontation? In every arena? As friends, relatives, churchgoers, neighbors, coworkers, subscribers, readers and citizens charged with the stewardship of a participatory government?

Would we point, together, to the mind, work, character and Lordship of Christ in every square inch of God's world?

In other words, would we agree with David Wells that, to explain the Gospel to our PoMo culture, we have to start — not with John 3:16, but — with Genesis 1:1?

Rick Frueh said...

Thank you for your words of grace. Phil, we agree on all the essentials and disagree on 1% of the rest. We both agree with that the gospel is the only message to effect eternal change.

Thank you, brother, I love it when brothers in Christ end in peace. :)

DJP said...

By "Phil," do you mean "Dan"? A common mistake, and in my favor, thoiugh to Phil's detriment. Or are you talking past me? Also understandable, perhaps even commendable.

Rick Frueh said...

No, I meant Dan, unless it was Phil who posted about the gospel in Proverbs.

No, it was you. Thanks.

PS - I am sorry Phil for the mistake but the words you used to rebuke me via e-mail were over the top!

Phil Johnson said...

Who sent whom a rebuke via e-mail? I don't have any record of an exchange like that.

Are you sure you don't have me confused with one of the other Phil Johnsons?

Rick Frueh said...

I am sorry. It was meant as a joke since I used your name instead of Dan's and the humor was that you were outraged.

I have never received an e-mail from you. Sorry again.

Solameanie said...


While you and Rick are expressing confusion about who's who, you confused me with Strategem. Be careful there. He bites.

(just kidding, Strategem!)

I grew up in the church of Christ, and still lock horns on the subject now and then. In addition to the "one true church" thing, it always amazed me that they could fault the Catholics for baptismal regeneration then turn around and teach practically the same thing.

Pierre Saikaley said...

In response to Rick Frueh...

You said: "I was saved still believing in evolution. It took maybe 2 years before I was changed. I find the argument basically unproductive, the issue is Christ, the rest can come later. The New Testament does not seem to make that an issue."

The Bible begins not with proof of God but with the presupposition of His being. It is from this platform of presupposing God and His Truth that we go on to argue consistently for the truth of creation, thus setting the background of general revelation for the more specific revelation of Christ. But we should take this approach with secular materialists/atheists who do not presuppose the truth of God or Scriptures. See Acts 17:22-32.

The Christian worldview is sufficient to counter all the false philosophies of the world, and is basic to all knowledge. Even to those who do not know God, their reasoning is rendered foolishness because of the self-evident truths of God and creation.Romans 1:18-24.

So, it's not unproductive to debate and persuade with sound doctrine, provided the arguments are solid. But given the poor state of 'teaching" in much of modern Evanglicalism today, alot of Christians cannot use sound arguments, based on Scripture and all of God's general truth from nature to mount an effective witness for the Gospel.
Also, don't underestimate the deadness of man in sin and the inability of the natural man to understand Gospel or Creation truth.


Jmv7000 said...

Next your going to tell me Pastor MacArthur and Patton were not involved with World War II.


bean said...

Haha, I think the funniest part is that it took only until the second comment for this to turn into a debate about evolution and apologetics...

I must not be sober-minded enough. I thought it was a funny letter.

Pierre Saikaley said...

That's true Bean. I think Phil Johnson orignally posted something...lol.


Stefan Ewing said...

This is a propos of nothing, but this thread is so confusing and in light of Jason Vaughn's comment...

There's a MacArthur Boulevard in Orange County. I found myself wondering recently if it was named for John MacArthur, Douglas MacArthur, or had something to do with MacArthur Park....

In all likelihood, it has nothing to do with any of those.

DJP said...

Solameanie -

Most. Confused. Meta. Ever.

Daniel C said...


Magister Stevenson said...

But are you THE Phil Johnson, the TV mega-star on such programs as Way of the Master?

James Joyce said...

gMy new issue of Creation Magazine came in the mail last night.
It's a great magazine. The gospel is presented in almost every article.

I think that the important thing to remember about the creation/evolution debate is that it's value is only as a springboard to the presentation of the gospel. Being able to give an answer enables us to stop debating and move on to the issue of salvation.

Ray Comfort has debated evolutionists on many occasions not with the purpose of winning a debate but to present the gospel as many times a possible during the debate.

If someone is clinging to a belief in evolution to prop up their disbelief then no amount of debate is going to change that. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to change the unregenerate heart.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Rick - will take you up on that offer; naturally, I'll gladly repay you on Tuesday.

donsands said...

"Ray Comfort has debated evolutionists on many occasions not with the purpose of winning a debate but to present the gospel as many times a possible during the debate."

And at the same time, we need to present our arguments with passion, logic, and maturity.

So many Christians lack these, and the debate becomes a dull thing, even though one may declare Christ crucified, it may have been better off to not have debated.

If Christopher Hitchens called me and wanted to debate secularism, then i would decline. Yet a Doug Wilson is more than capable, or a RC Sproul. Someone of that caliber.

Carl said...

ed, for whatever it's worth here are my thoughts on Christians engaging in debates. First of all, I wish to distinguish between debates which are structured, formal, with rules, etc. as opposed to "debate" which is just a pseudonym for an argument (think Monty Python's Flying Circus).

I feel the former is constructive for the debater as well as the audience while the latter is vain as Scripture dictates. I feel any Christian who participates in a true debate must prepare if they wish to do well and as a result they, more often than not, learn more that they can pass along to others as a teacher and/or pastor. There really isn't any objective manner in which a "winner" and "loser" can always be determined (unless one participant truly breaks down violating rules, engaging in ad hominem constantly, etc.). However, if the debate is carried out properly and in Christian love, an audience member may leave with information of which they may ponder. If the issue is a difference on essential doctrine (e.g. -- deity of Christ, salvation, etc.) then division should occur (orthodoxy vs. heresy) but if the issue being debated is secondary or tertiary (iow, non-essential) then differences may be maintained without division.

But you probably know that already.

I feel that debate has a proper place in Christianity and is yet another teaching tool for the participant as well as the audience.

strategem said:

Maybe you wouldn't seem as imposing if your avatar weren't a lion. A lion implies something like the king of the beasts, lion of Judah, Aslan, or some other grandiose thingamabob. It kind of tees people up to expect the writer to have an attitude of superiority, even if (as in your case) they don't have.

And then he could be a Detroit Lions football fan. :-)

Frank said:

People who view Phil's response as too strident or brawny are people who have never had any contact, for example, with evolutionary religionists and strident atheists.

Boy, take a sidetrip over to various Christian discussion groups over via Google groups (ex. -- alt.bible, alt.christnet, alt.religion.christian.baptist, etc.) and you'll witness the writings of many vitriolic atheists, agnostics, cultists, nonChristians, etc.

donsands said:

If Christopher Hitchens called me and wanted to debate secularism, then i would decline.

And neither would I. Just as not all are called upon to preach, not all are called upon to debate. I've never taken a debate class in my life but I do study the Scriptures as a layperson and read commentaries, articles, sermons, and lessons by reliable Christian authors which encourage, edify and life me up (I could come up off the top of my head with a third word starting with "e" to be aliterative -- oh well, I just ain't that clever today). Therefore whenever I do engage in online discussion on discussion boards, blogs, etc. on various topics, I can participate fairly properly and well. If the person or persons of which I am engaging are not Christians or take a position contrary to orthodoxy, I am able to present a point of view fairly intelligently with Scriptural support. Contrarily, I do not feel I am able to do as well in a debate setting. Writing gives ample time to check and double-check while debate relies on memory, skill, articulation and a cool head. I am fairly articulate and most times I have a cool head but my memory isn't that good and my debate skills are next to nothing.

So those Christians who are good with debates (ex. -- James White, Norman Geisler) are ones whom I watch from time to time. I don't think I will be participating in debates anytime soon.

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

What a hoot this thread has been. Put a big smile on my face, but then I realized that so many seem to be using the thread to harpoon one another, but in a jovial way!

So I was wondering if Tb And Dp were working out a response where the extent of the atonement was somehow interrelated to the idea that all Monkeys are sincerely loved of the Lord and should be told so, in case they might repudiate Darwinism and enter into the fold with the sheep.

Oops, I am rambling and obsessing about those darn Neo Ameraldians again.

Better take my med's quick!

Thanks Mr Johnson (doesn't your dad own a Hotel Chain?) for the smile you gave me today, it is much appreciated.

Tartanarmy, the mad Scotsman from the Land Down under.....

Brad Williams said...

dOkay, are you guys doing this mistaken identity thing on purpose or what? Because if you aren't, considering the subject matter of the post, this is just brilliant irony. I appreciate irony. Irony is hard.