Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts From Prov 19:11

Prov 19:11
The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.
This passage hit me like a ton of bricks on Tuesday, and yet instantly removed a great burden from my shoulders!

As I've been reading "The Potter's Freedom" I've gone from being offended to being insulted to being impatient to being down right angry! Not with the author's position at all. My response has not at all been like he portrays his detractors. I'm not offended at God's Sovereignty or His Authority or His Power or anything like that.

If you've been reading the series "The Debater's Potter" then you know I've been offended because everything the author accuses his chosen opponent of he does himself. That after all the pages of praise from his peers (and fans?), very lengthy introductions, and 4 chapters the author has yet to have produced an argument for his position, a convincing argument against his opponent, or even given me any serious pause to think. Momentarily the author made an interesting argument which caught me ever so briefly. I'll be covering this in the next article because I have a serious question for everyone reading to answer. Your answer will, I intend, show you how you yourself perceive and determine truth. The introduction for the work is haughty, insulting to those who hold the view I do, and promises much. At this point I've been feeling like reading the book has been a complete waste of time, and writing a series on it a complete waste of effort.

On Tuesday I was particularly frustrated with the author and was beside myself when my dear friend showed up for our weekly prayer and fellowship meeting. I knew I shouldn't have read in the book before the meeting... when my friend showed up I was upset and embarrassed for being upset, AND for having been foolish enough to get myself in that state before he came over. Thankfully, he was graceful.

Anyway, later in the evening I had opportunity to be reading in Proverbs briefly. Prov 19:11 stuck out, and God spoke to me through that verse with clarity. I don't need to answer everything in The Potter's Freedom, and I don't need to show every bit of poor behaviour he demonstrates in the book. I really don't need to do that... what's more it is probably better if I overlook most of it.

So in light of this revelation, I'm going to be changing course on the series. My next article will cover chapters 2 - 4, and will focus on the 3 or 4 discussions worthy of comment. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 4 - Chapter 1

If you're just coming to this article directly, please go back and start at Part 1. These articles are tending toward the long side and I will not have space here to go back over the previous material covered.

These articles are my immediate, (almost) real-time, reaction to what I'm reading in Dr. James R. White's The Potter's Freedom. I am not writing a rebuttal, though I may interact with some of his text in such a way that may read as though I am writing a rebuttal. My purpose is to record how a non-Calvinist-non-Arminian reacts to this book.

So far I've covered the title, quotes of praise for the book by like minded theologians, the preface, the forewords, and the introduction. This time we're going to start into the book proper.

As Dr. White was closing out his introduction to the book he said that we would "now turn" to exegetical arguments from the Scriptures. Keeping that in mind, here is how he opens Chapter 1.

Chapter 1

The Vital Issue

Unter the subtitle "The Vital Issue" Dr. White begins his first chapter, and apparently his argument proper, by explaining what the Roman Catholic founder of the Jesuits believed. White quotes Ignatius of Loyola riling against the "heresies of the Protestants" and then explains:
"One of the charges Loyala made to his followers involved the danger of allowing the Protestants to so emphasize the power of God that the "freedom of man" would be eclipsed." 
What does this have to do with Geisler? Or his book Chosen But Free? White then talks about "middle knowledge."
"...the idea that God knows what free agents will do given certain circumstances, but their actions are still "free" in the sense that they are not fixed. The entire reason why the concept was developed was to "get around" the preaching of the Reformers that emphasized the sovereignty of God, the freedom of God, as ultimate in all things. The "heretics" were preaching that God is the Potter, men are the clay, formed as He wills, not as they will." 
Why does White put "quotes" around "get around"? Is this a quote from Chosen But Free (CBF)? No it is not.

Is White really starting the first chapter of his book by calling Geisler a Roman Catholic because Ignatius of Loyal had a similar view on a particular part of the subject at hand? Is White suggesting that Geisler has adopted his view to "get around" God's sovereignty? Is White seriously doing either of these? Is this the "vital issue"?

It was at this point in reading the book that I decided to write these articles. As I admitted from the start I am offended by White's chosen tone, argument, and behaviour. I'm actually quite calmed down about it now, but the issue is nonetheless the same. So far The Potter's Freedom (TPF) is little more than an annoyance with a haughty title.

White goes on to state:
"Such a system could speak often of grace as long as that grace was merely a necessary aid but never an efficient power that saves. As long ast he ultimate "control" of salvation was kept out of God's hands, all would be well. Sadly, to this very day, nominal "Protestants" embrace Molina's desperate attempt to get around God's freedom." 
White then says that the very first written debate of the Reformation was focused on the very same thing. We looked at this part of TPF way back in Part 1 of this series. White argues that the Reformation wasn't about the things that I have been taught it was about, and that you have probably been taught it was about. White argues that The Great Reformation was about Determinism, which White equates with the Sovereignty of God.

White continues with this interesting attack on any who would disagree with him.
"...but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love." 
Is this what Geisler is arguing against in CBF? Is he arguing that God doesn't have the right or the power to do what He wills without asking men? Does Geisler even argue that God "consults" men in making His decisions or doing what He wills? NOT AT ALL. Over and over again in TPF White complains about how anyone who just read CBF would not find out about all the arguments for Reformed theology.  Isn't it strange then that White himself would write a response, or attempt a rebuttal, of CBF and so sorely change Geisler's argument to something more preferable?

It gets worse however.
"The Christian loves God as He reveals Himself. The non-Christian seeks to conform God to an image that is less threatening to him in his rebellion." 
I would that more Christians would accept that God is as He has revealed Himself. Yet do you see the False Dilemia built here? Either you agree with White or you're not a Christian.

We are then treated to:
"Whether the work of salvation is perfectly accomplished by God for His own glory or is dependent upon man's cooperation and assistance is the watershed issue that separates biblical Christianity from everything else." 
While Geisler does write of cooperation with regard to justification he does not mean it the way that White is presenting it. Geisler does not argue that God need's man's assistance or permission. He means that from man's point of view the sinner is freely believing the Gospel that God has revealed through the work of the Spirit. John 16:5-11 Geisler isn't saying that God need's man's help, but that both the will of God and the will of man are in operation at the same time. 
Next up there is another interesting statement.
"The writer of this work has absolute confidence that the Reformed proclamation of the Gospel will never pass from this world..." 
You mean since the Reformation right? What about before that? Well explaining why White goes on to say:
"Why? Because God's Word will never fall." 
I could go back to faulting White for his high view of the work of men, but one thing I can give the guy is that he is awfully confident of his position.

We then get another promise about the book:
"Because of this conviction, this work will focus primarily upon biblical issues." 
Perhaps this would have inspired me before reading the first 4 chapters, but now it reads like another one of those grab your attention but say nothing one liners. ie "This is a Christ centered church." What exactly do they mean by that? What does White mean by focusing primarily upon biblical issues?

A Necessary Definition
"What are the "doctrines of grace," and why do they matter? Such is like asking, "What does the Bible teach about the very heart of the gospel, and does it matter one way or the other?" 
Oh boy... well he goes on to say that they are "biblical teachings" which define the goal and means of God's perfect work of redemption. He then asserts that they separate the Christian faith from the works-based religions and away from ourselves to solely God's grace and mercy. Well, except when it comes to assurance of Salvation. That's when the Reformed theologian ensures the person will look very very closely at themselves and their works. See Testing the Test and 'But' Theology.

White then gives definitions of the "doctrines of grace" which are commonly referred to as TULIP. You can read my testing of Total Inability here, and a less scholarly work on all 5 points of TULIP here.

White explains that the history of the debate between determinism and everything else, can be traced back through history well before the Reformation. He even says:
"...the issue can be found clearly addressed in the New Testament itself..." 
One wonders why that hasn't been the focus of the book thus far then. If the NT is so clear on the subject, as White has thus far stated twice, then why are we reading about Roman Catholics who have nothing to do with the book he is attempting a rebuttal of?

White says that because of sin man constantly wants to insert himself into the work of Salvation and:
"That is one reason why I do not believe the common "five points" listed above is enough for today. There is a sixth point, one that lies at the head of the list, that must be firmly proclaimed and defended today: the freedom of God." 
John Piper, whose work White praises as having no need of defense, says he's actually a 7 Point Calvinist.  Piper's 6th point is similar in that he calls for Double Predestination (or God actively choosing people not only to go to Heaven, but also to go to eternity in the Lake of Fire) and a 7th that God is making the "best of all possible worlds."

I'm always amused at the battle stance of Calvinists. How dare you question John MacArthur!?! Or John Piper!?! Or RC Sproul!?!?! Or James White!?!!? Or Calvin!?!?! Or Augustine!?! Their works need no defense! They are profoundly biblical! They have been gifted by God to express the truths of the Gospel! Yet, if you compare the works of these men you find that they OFTEN have SIGNIFICANT disagreement between them.

New Reformed, Calvinist, 5 Point Calvinist, 4 Point Calvinist, Modified Calvinist, I ask you this. In your praise of the works of the Puritans, do you ever consider why you don't run your assembly of Believers by Puritan standards? Is their doctrine "profoundly biblical"? Why then do you not continue in their work? If it is not profoundly biblical then why do you say that it is? I'm confused.

The Free and Proper Kingship of God

White explains that "since" most of us don't bow to a king we see little reason why we should bow to God.  Oh yes.. that's why I think your Lordship Salvation view of the Gospel is wrong. I am just not used to bowing to a king.... Did you get this argument from Richard Dawkins?

White asks:
"How can anyone read the Bible and not hear its constant testimony to the unfettered, unlimited, undiminished authority of God to do as He wishes with His creation?.... God truly can do as He pleases without getting permission from anyone including man... "

Who is White arguing against here? Seriously, he is not arguing against Geisler so who then?

White (finally!) offers the following passages to support his view.  I'm so tempted to steal the wind from my next article at this point. SO TEMPTED! Remember that White's view is Determinism, not that God accomplishes what He wills. White's view is that God actively determines every choice and happening from the smallest particle interaction to every fleeting thought in the minds of men, for all of History past, present, and future.
Psalm 135:6; Isaiah 14:27; Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 33:8-11; Isaiah 41:21-23; Prov 21:1; Daniel 4:34-35; Jer 18:4-6
These passages DO speak of God being free, and powerful, to do anything He chooses. What they don't say is that God decided I would have the TV on while I'm writing this article. Or that I would include that statement in this article. Or that you would react the way you just did to my including that thought. What is clear from Scripture is that God raises up people into positions He chooses and uses them as He wills. God is able to make a person choose to do what He wants them to do. He is free to do so.

Geisler never once argues against that. Geisler says that God does such within the nature that God has revealed He has.

White says that God didn't have to ask permission of Israel to reform it. He says that the "clay" has no inherent rights.  White then quotes the NIV version of Isaiah 29:16. Shame he didn't include the context which we find revealed in Isaiah 29:15-16. Not that even quoting only vs 16 alone give credence to the idea that God determines your every choice.

The Decrees of the King

Read this closely.
"The conjunction of God's absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of God's Decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe." 
It is the "conjunction" of Determinism and that God is Creator that results in the unique view that God has decreed everything that happens in the universe for all of time. Not the Scriptures, which we are told are so clear and plain on the subject, but one's view of Determinism and that God is Creator.  Why can White not say that the Decrees of God are from the Scriptures, or exegetical? Because they are not found anywhere in the Scriptures, nor are they alluded to anywhere in the Scriptures, nor are they required by anything that IS written in the Scriptures. They truly are merely a fabrication used to explain how God might accomplish Determinism.

How extensive are "the decrees"?
"This extends not only to inanimate objects... but to every aspect of human history, personal relationships, and most importantly, to the life of every man, woman and child." 
Why did Lance Armstrong win the Tour De France each time? God decreed it. Why did that commercial break get really loud? God decreed it. Why did you get pimples the night before your first dance? God decreed it. Why did your daughter smile when you told her she was pretty? God decreed it. Why did your daughter get raped? God decreed it.

Is it possible that God could decree all of these things? Yes of course! Could God do this? Sure He could. The question that Geisler asks, and seeks to answer, is not COULD God do these things, but WOULD God do these things. Not is God Sovereign, because as Geisler is ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY CLEAR, God IS and fully so. Absolutely free to do exactly as He chooses. But what WOULD the God of the Scriptures choose?

*UPDATE* It is plainly true from the Scriptures that God ALLOWS these things to happen, if He himself is not the instigator. From Satan asking permission to sift Peter, to God suggesting Job as a target for Satan. A Biblical view of God's sovereignty is that He has the power to interviene, He has the final say, He determines limits, and instigates as He chooses - yet morally free agents make their own choices and God uses them to accomplish His will.

*UPDATE 2* This may seem over the top, but Norm Geisler's If God, Why Evil? A New Way to Think About the Question is a very strong work on the "problem" of evil in the world.

Several times now White has said that the Scriptures are plain enough, and clear enough, that simply presenting either them - or the "truths" of them will be compelling enough to make his case. However:
"One of the most striking evidences of God's sovereign control over the affairs of men is hidden from a cursory reading of the Scriptures."
He quotes Isaiah 10:5-7 and explains:
"But, God is clear: the woe He is announcing is on the very instrument He is using to punish Israel! Assyria is not a willing party to the punishment of Israel: they do not intend to be involved in God's work, "but rather it is its purpose to destroy and to cut off many nations" Assyria had one purpose, God another, and all in the same historical events." 
White goes on to quote Isaiah 10:12-17 to explain that God will punish Assyria for its intentions. What's the problem here? How does Geisler disagree with this? Assyria didn't want to help God accomplish His will, it wanted to accomplish their own will. God used them and their actions to accomplish His will.

Yet, I have to ask of White's theology, how is a Just God to punish Assyria for the intentions that He decided it would have? Could He do this? Is He powerful enough? Sovereign enough? Yes, absolutely. It is not COULD He do this, but rather WOULD He do this?

In attempt to answer these obvious questions White seems to contradict his previous assertions.
"Assyria has one purpose in heart: but it is God's purpose that prevails. Yet God is perfectly just to judge on the basis of Assyria's sinful intentions. Assyria acts in accordance with its desires, and yet, what is done is the fulfillment of God's decree." 
White then referes to the more well known passage of Gen 15:19-21.

Momentarily ducking the obvious questions about his application of Isaiah 10, White decides to attempt an answer of this one instead.
"One might ask, "But if God decreed that this event would take place, how can He still hold Joseph's brothers personally accountable for their actions?" Even if we did not have an answer to this question, it would not matter: God makes it clear that He does hold men accountable. But it is clear that they are judged on the basis of the intention of their hearts." 
That God decreed something to happen for His purposes, and made it happen, is not at all offensive to Geisler's point of view (or mine for that matter.) The issue is whether God causes someone to choose to do evil or not. WOULD God do that?
"We dare not think that Joseph's brothers were forced against the desires of their hearts to commit the evil... They desired to do this: indeed if God had not intervened it is sure they would have killed him outright.... but God preserved Joseph's life..." 
Are we still reading the same book? We dare not think that God would force them to do something? Had God not "intervened"?

If God determines everything that happens as White explained in detail above, then God did force them to intend, and to do, them and the Assyrians, and my fingers writing this article right now.

What strange words to say about the Potter. We "dare not think" that He would do something? Is this not the same author who spoke of the plain absurdity of the Clay questioning the Potter?

If God determines everything that happens as White explained in detail above, then God CANNOT "intervene" for He has foreordained, previously decreed every event to happen. He cannot "intervene" to stop something from happening because He has previously determined exactly everything that would happen.

Going on as though he has somehow made his point at all, White says the greatest example of God determining everything is the cross work of Christ.
"Surely no one can suggest that the cross was an after-thought, a desperate attempt to "fix" things after all had gone awry." 
"Yet, these Christians knew something that man today have forgotten: what took place at Calvary had been predestined by the sovereign decree of God."  
Seriously, who exactly is White arguing against? Does Geisler once say in CBF or ever in his ministry even that the Cross was "God's desperate attempt to "fix" things after all had gone awry."?  I could argue that the Cross was by Covenant between the Father and the Son, not Decree. But, is White saying that Geisler doesn't think that Christ was "crucified from the foundation of the World"? Rev 13:8; Heb 13:20-21

The Vital Conclusion

After quoting Jonah 2:9 White offers:
"The most fundamental difference between the God-centered Gospel of the Apostles and of the Reformers and all other viewpoints is summed up in these few words. Is salvation a work of God and man, a cooperative effort? Is it something that God "sets up" like a cosmic multi-level marketing program where we "work the numbers" and gain eternal life as a the final prize? Is it a grand and beautiful design that simply awaits man's turning of the key, so to speak, to work? Is salvation of the Lord, of men, or a mixture of both?"
Again, who is he arguing against? Further, the "salvation" that Jonah was talking about was deliverance. If one reads Jonah 2:1-10 we find that Jonah was in the belly of the fish, and that his heart fainted and he gave up. That's when he remembered the mercy of the Lord, and he prayed to Him. Jonah says that he will sacrifice and pay what is due - he'll do what the Lord told him to do and go to Nineveh to preach. He recognizes that deliverance, his situation, and theirs, is of the Lord. It is His to save.

Jonah is not saying that God made the decision for him, or that God regenerated Jonah's heart so that he would have a new nature that would be obedient to God (which is going to be the argument White uses in the next few chapters). Jonah believes that God is merciful, knows that in order for him to be delivered from the belly of the fish that he must agree to do what God has told him to do.  Just quoting Jonah 2:9 by itself, and then explaining it through the eyes of Reformed theology seems to be a strong case. Except that the Reformed view doesn't hold up to a reading of the chapter the verse comes from.  God had a fish eat Jonah to get Jonah to do what God wanted Jonah to do. God did not regenerate him, or give him repentance, or give him faith, or anything like all the various things White argues. God put a situation into play that God knew would cause Jonah to do what God wanted to accomplish.

In the last paragraph of this chapter White seems to tie its content to Geisler saying:
"Many, including Dr. Geisler, speak of the sovereignty of God. But what do they mean? Dr. Geisler's position is unusual---almost unique. Since he claims it is in harmony with a "moderate Calvinistic" view, we need to understand his presentation and how it differs from the historic Reformed position." 
So the "vital issue" and the "vital conclusion" are supposed to be about Geisler but have nothing to do with his theology, or his work in CBF. What exactly is this book supposed to be about? Who cares if Dr. Geisler's position is different than the historic Reformed position? I thought White was against tradition and religion...

I almost stopped reading the book altogether during this chapter several times. The man seems to have an agenda to discredit Geisler even if he has to use everything except Geisler's work to do it. So far, this is not the book I expected to read. I will continue however.

Thanks for reading! I'm sure we'll get to more Biblical arguments soon-ish.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 3

As I continue to read Dr. James R. White's The Potter's Freedom,  I'm feeling conflicted with how I will continue this series of articles. I want the articles to be interesting, factual, and helpful if at all possible. At this point I've read the first three chapters of the book, and I haven't found that it has grown much from what we've already covered.  I'm going to finish the author's Introduction in the very same fashion as I've been covering it so far. I expect that when I get to the actual chapters of the book that I'll be a bit more organized. I'm beginning to understand what are the fundamental errors that form the basis of White's disagreement with Geisler. We'll get to those starting in Chapter 2 I suspect.

If you have just come to this article directly, please start in Part 1. Thanks! Well that's enough of an introduction, I'll assume everyone has read the previous articles and continue where I left off last time. That would be a little past half way through the Introduction to the book by Dr. White himself.


Silence Speaks Volumes
"In what is advertised to be the "definitive" work on the subject of divine sovereignty and personal responsibility one would expect to find full and fair discussions of all of the key passages that have been used to press the claims of both sides." 
"For example, one of the strongest passages in all the New Testament that plainly asserts the Reformed belief in the sovereignty of God is John 6:37, where the Lord Jesus says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." The words are so clear and compelling that surely there must be some lengthy attempt in CBF to explain how the Lord can assert that all that the Father gives Him will come to Him." 
White then complains that Geisler merely uses John 6:37 (among several other passages) in his discussion of both the drawing of God and the believing of the sinner. It is unfortunate that while White  is so forceful in his rebuke of Geisler for not discussing the passage further, White himself ignores the point that Geisler was making and himself ignores the other passages that Geisler used to make that point.  Perhaps White's own silence "speaks volumes"?

Instead of discussing the actual argument that Geisler makes White just restates his own, and asserts that  the verse contradicts what we are told is Geisler's position.

An extensive discussion about John 6 can be found in the comments of a previous article here at OMW; Testing TULIP: Total Inability

*UPDATE* It should be pointed out that it is entirely possible that White will discuss Geisler's arguments later in his work. However, if we are to give that understanding to White, then it should also be given to Geisler that the Reformed view of John 6 has been exegetically discussed, and I would say refuted, elsewhere.  White does not mention other non-Reformed theologians who have taken on that work any more than Geisler mentions the Reformed.

Poor Exegesis
"The Reformed position is nothing if not rich in the most in-depth exegetical work..."
"Calvinists are known for writing entire books on short passages of Scripture, and preaching entire series of sermons on just a few verses." 
After his high opinion of Reformed theologians is restated (yet again) White offers something that he apparently thinks is a good thing. Yes, Calvinists ARE known for doing this. I would not personally say that such is always, or even often at all, a practice worthy of praise. I remind the reader of how John Owen, a Reformed theologian who White calles a "Great Christian scholar", expressed the "sense" of John 3:16
"God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave His Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved"
Clearing the Confusion
"Deep-seated traditions are hard to dislodge, as the Apostle Peter discovered." 
Having read Geisler's Chosen But Free, I can tell you that he does not appeal to tradition in his book. Having read White's The Potter's Freedom up to Chapter 4 (so far) I can tell you that tradition has consistently been White's first and strongest argument. What he calls, over and over, "the Reformed faith" seems to be his foremost concern as far as I have read thus far.  Pot, meet Kettle.
"While I am grieved at the confusion that books like CBF cause, I am confident that the Word is so clear, so plain, and so compelling, that the mere presentation of its truths is sufficient for the child of God. And it is to that we now turn."
This is a very important paragraph in the author's introduction to his own book. Notice that while the author claims to believe the Scripture is "clear" "plain" and compelling, that it is not the Scripture that he will "now turn" to the presentation of - but what he believes are the "truths" of that Scripture. There is, at the very least potentially the honest reader must admit, a very important difference to be aware of.

My sarcasm will show plainly here, but, having been treated to such high praise for "exegetical" works, and promises that this book will be "exegetical" it will be most interesting to see if what we will "now turn" to will be exegetical or not.

Of course, before he can begin his argument proper, it is only right that he offers up his description of the format it will take.

The Format

White speaks of days past when theologians would write volumes in response to each other, and notes how modern publishers are wary of such practice. Yet White counters:
"The Reformed tradition is rich in honest dialogue and debate. Those who love truth will not be offended by honest, direct refutation and interaction." 
I most certainly agree with the latter sentence. I don't have enough experience to properly evaluate the first. Yet, I have not found the modern Reformed movement to largely be inline with his assertion.  Dr. White quotes Dr. Geisler making a statement that I don't think any honest lover of Truth could find issue with.
" must be lovingly but firmly maintained that it is better to be divided by truth than to be united by error." 

Seemingly at odds with the title of the book, The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free, Dr. White lowers the reader's expectations. Expectations which may have been built up by the many quotes of praise, and the Preface, which which also seem at odds with White's following statement:
"This is not meant to be a presentation of the Reformed view so ably accomplished by others: my positive presentation will be limited to establishing facts that are not in evidence from a reading of CBF." 
I could consider this a preemptive way to ensure that if someone disagrees with White about his Calvinism after reading the book that the disagreement can be easily explained as the person not knowing the fullness of White's position.... I'm not convinced that is the purpose, but given what we have read already isn't this statement by him very out of place?
"Instead I will be demonstrating that the biblical argumentation provided by Norman Geisler is in error." 
As we continue to get into The Potter's Freedom, I hope the reader will remember that the work is supposed to be about what White believes Geisler has presented in error in Chosen But Free, and that it is to be exegetical in nature.

I've posted these first three articles in rapid succession because while the tone of White's work is set, and I believe the foundation of his argument has been set, the liners from like minded theologians, the preface, and even the introduction are not the actual book. They are merely the setup.

So having been set up, I hope you are enjoying the series so far. Until next time I trust that the Lord will lead you in His grace.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 2

This series of articles are about my experience, as a non-Calvinist-non-Arminian, reading Dr. James R. White's book The Potter's Freedom. If you're just starting here, please start with the introduction in Part 1, thanks! These articles are being written AS I READ THE BOOK, so they are almost real-time reaction to it. I may change my opinions as I go. I may be persuaded. I may be offended, as I already have been with regard to White's treatment of Dr. Norman Geisler.

Why am I writing these articles? Well for some strange reason people tend to take interest in my opinions about Calvinism. Why do an as I go sort of real-time thing instead of just a wrap up after I read the book? Because, otherwise, I may not ever finish the book. I'm finding it tiresome already. I suspect that if I am writing that I'll be forced to finish it.

I DO NOT INTEND TO OFFEND ANYONE WITH THESE ARTICLES. I am reacting as I read his book. I suspect I am far from the only person who has or will react in similar fashion.

These tend to get long... so I'll skip any more introduction and just jump right back into the book from about where we left off last time.

Foreword to the Second Edition, October 2008

White writes that in comparison to Chosen But Free (CBF) that:
...this book's primary essence is exegetical. It opens the Scriptures and lets them speak. It is not a work of philosophy. It is not even a work of systematic theology per se. 
In a later paragraph:
...and all I have to do is get out of the way and let the Scriptures do their work to see true followers of Christ respond to the Spirit-breathed words of the Bible.  
Such may turn out to be the case as I continue to read. Perhaps once I am done the book I will agree that looking back over the work as a whole that being primarily exegetical was true of the majority of the text. However, as of yet that has not been the case.  I chose the title of this series of articles to be The Debater's Potter because this book, at least as far as I have gotten so far, reads like a popular debate. White is defining the argument in terms which he believes he has a strong argument against, is painting his opponent in the worst possible light, and (as we'll shortly see) is tying his opponent to a system or point of view which is most clearly wrong - as though that were Geisler's view, or even the foundation for Geisler's view.

White shoots an early shot across the bow of Geisler's ship which I am sure resounds with his personal audience of followers.
"I am able to provide a strong contrast between the man-centeredness of reducing the work of Christ to "Jesus made us saveable" and the God-centeredness of the simple proclamation, "Jesus saves." 
We'll see I suppose. However, this is not how I would characterize Geisler's position at all.


It is most entertaining to me to find White being shocked at the following statements he attributes to Geisler:
The system is contradictory. Proponents go through exegetical contortions in order to make a text say what their preconceived theology mandates it must say. The Bible is seriously lacking in verses that support some of the main elements of this system. These people misuse texts of Scripture. The God worshiped by these people is not all-loving. Central aspects of this system are shocking. The very heart of the system is a hideous error." The system at its heart is theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant. 
White asks his readers to consider if these are about Mormonism, the Watchtower Society or possibly Roman Catholicism. Given how White will use Roman Catholicism in his first chapter I find that he includes it here most amusing. Then he states:
No... All of these phrases are used of simple Reformed Theology, the theology of Calvin, the Westminister Confession of Faith, the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Francis Turrentin, the Puritans, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Cunningham, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, J. Gresham Machen, B.B. Warfield, Hermann Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, John Murray, Edwin Palmer, John Gerstner, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. 
Surprised? I certainly was when I first read Chosen But Free... 
Well hey all of THOSE people couldn't be wrong could they? I guess that seals the deal.

Now here is what I believe to be an important statement by Dr. White:
"And as an apologist, I firmly believe that the only consistently biblical response to the challenges made to the Christian faith is that offered by Reformed Theology." 
Then he tells us that the works of the men he names above "really need no defense" as I quoted in Part 1.

He goes on to state that CBF will be a source of great confusion and that he intends to offer "five sources of confusion that [he] believe[s] are created by the discussion in CBF." 

Redefinition of the Terms of the Debate
"The first thing that any informed reader discovers in reading CBF is that it presents a complete revision of the historic set of terms that have been used by theologians to frame and explain the debate." 
This seems like a loaded statement to me. What exactly is the authority he is appealing to here? White then states:
"Dr. Geisler chose arbitrarily to identify his position as "moderate Calvinism" and historic Reformed theology becomes "extreme Calvinism." 
If the reader reads CBF they will find that there is nothing arbitrary about Geisler's names. Dr. White is a student of Logic, and language. There is no reason for him to make such a fantastic statement other than to try to control the thoughts of his readers. Unfortunately, he is only managing to alienate this reader.  White completely skips the reasons that Geisler gives for his naming convention and goes on to try to control the reader's impression of Geisler's theology.
"The problem becomes clear when we consider for just a moment that Dr. Geisler: 1) denies Calvin's doctrine of God's sovereignty and decrees; 2) denies Calvin's doctrine of the Total Depravity of man and his enslavement to sin; 3) denies Calvin's believe that God's electing grace is given without any condition whatsoever to a particular people (the elect); and 4) denies, vociferously, Calvin's doctrine of the grace of God that brings new life to dead sinners. One could even argue that Dr. Geisler disagrees with Calvin's doctrine of atonement and with the very foundation of Calvin's doctrine of perseverance as well. If that is true, why should Dr. Geisler wish to be called any kind of Calvinist at all?" 
1) Geisler does not deny God's sovereignty, he denies White's understanding of it. I'm not sure if White holds the same view that Calvin did. I would have to read too extensively in Calvin right now to be sure, and it just isn't that critical to the article.

2) Geisler denies neither. He denies the Total Inability of man understanding of Total Depravity. Calvin did not author TULIP, and based on my study of Calvin, he would not agree with all 5 points.

3) Geisler does argue for a conditional election. Election conditioned on belief.

4) Oooh vociferously is a big word!  Geisler does not deny regeneration. He denies that regeneration happens prior to faith.

Geisler does deny that Christ died only for the Elect. It is absolutely clear from the Scriptures that Christ died for all the world, and that even those who will surely spend eternity in the Lake of Fire were bought by the Lord they deny.

White does however ask a good question. If White defines Calvinism, then why would anyone want to be called a Calvinist of any kind. I have often called my views "Calvinistic" because I believe in Grace, Salvation by Grace through Faith alone in Christ alone, Eternal Security among a few other things that sound Calvinistic. However, if Calvinism is White's to define, then I ought not ever claim the name at all.

Here's the problem. The section's title seemed to indicate that Geisler had "redefined the terms of the debate" as one of White's "five sources of confusion" yet all White did was half-accurately indicate that Geisler disagrees with TULIP. News flash: that's why Geisler wrote CBF! Saying that Calvinism is wrong doesn't "redefine the terms of the debate." However much the many forms of Calvinism disagree with each other the only deadly sin when talking about Calvinism is saying it isn't true. White doesn't even seem to attempt to show how this is supposed to lead to the confusion he is so vehemently concerned about.

Poor Representation
CFB takes no pains to accurately or adequately represent Reformed theology that is it so strongly denounces.
Pot, meet Kettle.
"All through the book the Reformed view of God's sovereign regeneration of the sinner, where God graciously grants spiritual life, faith, and repentance to a person who was spiritually dead, condemned, and incapable of doing anything pleasing in God's sight, is inaccurately portrayed as "force" and "coercion," all in an attempt to make Calvinism look like something it is not." 
OK Dr. White, what IS it then? He fails to tell us what he thinks is wrong about Geisler's characterization. Is it a technical issue? Geisler does not believe that God uses a "force" on people, but he does characterize White's Particular Redemption and Pre-Faith Regeneration as forcing Himself on group of people who don't want Him, while letting everyone else be condemned. Is Geisler wrong? How so?

White then moves on to:
"There is simply no attempt to interact on a meaningful level with the many Reformed works that provide in-depth, serious biblical exegesis and argumentation of the Reformed position." 
Unlike The Potter's Freedom, CBF didn't have the mission to go after a particular person in his work. He is making a mostly philosophical argument, based on the God the Scriptures reveal. I believe that Geisler is right to ignore many of these works, as those which I have read do exactly what Geisler says of them... When I've looked at the best work on Total Inability I found absolutely NO Biblical support for this doctrine. Why would you expect a Dr. of Geisler's stature to waste space in his book interacting meaningfully with works that have no basis? That's Geisler's point of view, and it is largely my point of view as well. It is unreasonable to think that Geisler would do so simply to please men like White. It is absurd to criticize him on these grounds, especially given the nature of CBF.

Then we get back to my wanting to introduce the Pot to the Kettle again:
"And even here, the Reformed material is handled in such a cavalier manner as to make even the effort of citing it worthless. This is clearly seen in the way which CBF will quote as little as a single sentence, and on the basis of this, accuse Reformed writers of "changing" Scripture." 
Then after quoting the section of CBF that he has issue with (I'll quote it for you in a moment) he states:
This citation is from page 214 of Owen's work. Was this great Christian scholar suggesting that we should "retranslate" John 3:16? Is this a fair representation of Owen's position? Not in the slightest.
The constant over the top praise of Reformed theologians does get tiresome. That aside, here's what White quotes from Owen's work:
First, if this word whosoever be distributive, then it is restrictive of the love of God to some, and not to others, --to one part of the distribution and not the other. And if it do not restrain the love of God, intending the Salvation of some, then it is not distributive of the fore-mentioned object of it; and if it do restrain it, then all are not intended in the love which moved God to give his Son. Secondly, I deny that the word here is distributive of the object of God's love, but only declarative of his end and aim in giving Christ in the pursuit of that love, --to wit, that all believers might be saved. So that the sense is "God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved." And this is all that is by any  (besides a few worthless cavils) objected from this place to disprove our interpretation...
I have not yet shared the portion of CBF that White takes issue with yet because I want you to see his full argument first. Here we see that after what seems to match Geisler's description of how Reformed theologians handle the Text that Owen suggests that the "sense" of John 3:16 is, and he offers it in quotations, "God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved."

White is correct, Owen did not suggest "that we should 'retranslate' John 3:16" Now here is what White quotes Geisler from CBF:
Arguably, the best defense of extreme Calvinism on limited atonement comes from John Owen. His response to this passage is a shocking retranslation to: "God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave His Son with this intention, that by Him believers might be saved"! This needs no response, simply a sober reminder that God repeatedly exhorts us not to add or subtract from His words (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:6; Rev 22:18-19). 
Now forgive me for asking, but did Geisler really say that Owen said we "should retranslate John 3:16"? Read his words yourself. For someone who takes such great offense at his theology being "misrepresented" Dr. White seems to have little issue with committing a similar crime. Geisler clearly said that Owen's response to the passage was to retranslate it as he did.

White then goes on in his reply to Geisler on this subject stating:
"As anyone reading the passage in context can see, to charge Owen with alteration of the Word of God is quiet simply ridiculous. He not only specifically says, "the sense is..." (a phrase that would have to be cited on the basis of mere honesty if CBF is serious in accusing Owen of "adding" to the Word of God, but it is painfully obvious that Owen is interpreting the passage in the light of the preceding ten pages of argumentation he had provided." 
So so long as someone provides 10 pages of argumentation they can offer a "sense" of a passage that includes MOSTLY things that are NOT written in the passage? How is providing the sense of a sentence which comes from OUT SIDE of that sentence, and out side of the Book the sentence is written in to boot, EXEGETICAL? How is it that such a provision is not EISEGETICAL? How can such a thing be thought of as anything BUT "adding" to the words of God? Does John 3:16 include the thoughts that Owen says are the "sense" of that verse? Are these hidden in the Greek? Are they hidden in the structure of the sentence? No they are not. IF TULIP or modern Calvinism, which Geisler would call "Extreme Calvinism" because it is more Calvinistic than Calvin was, is true then John 3:16 MUST mean what  Owen says is the "sense" of it. However, John 3:16 doesn't say what Owen says is it's "sense."

How does this twisted claim against Geisler get a pass by White's many enthusiastic readers? I would not let Geisler get away with anything of the kind.

After discussion of other works, White finishes this part of his introduction with:
"Indeed, if all one read was CBF, one would not be aware that there was substantial Reformed exegetical defense of the Calvinistic position." 
Is it Geisler's responsibility to support the Reformed position? I wonder if White will be responsible enough to his readers to include the substantial non-Reformed exegetical defense of the non-Calvanistic position.

Conclusion of Part 2

Well that is as far as I can get today. I continue to hope that once I get to the "exegetical" arguments that I'll find the work less offensive. I will no doubt find his defense of his theology tiresome and convoluted; as has been my experience with all defenses of Calvinism I've read in the past. I have no intention of attempting to disprove all of his arguments. Such a work would no doubt take over a year of research and writing. I'm just going to be reacting to them.

I hope that readers of this series can tell that I'm not "offended by God being free to do what He wills" or that I think that mankind "must have free will." So far my only offense has been with how unfairly White has treated Geisler. That offense is dying down in me, thankfully, but what I'm finding is that I'm shocked at White's inconsistency. What he accuses Geisler of doing he tends to do himself. I'm also not convinced that his accusations against Geisler are altogether accurate. Though I have little doubt that there are some "debate practices" going on in Geisler's CBF as well.

To see my views on TULIP and what I think of each of the doctrines in more detail than I'll be able to provide in this series please see:

Testing TULIP: Total Inability which is an EXHAUSTIVE look at this doctrine to see IF it is Biblical or not. And;

Tripping TULIP

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 1 - Introduction

Update: At the bottom of this article there is a list of links to each of the following parts of this series. 

I've been reading the Kindle version of Dr. James R. White's The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free.

The title itself is a mouthful, and makes some serious claims about the content of the book. My very dear friend, and Brother in the Lord, Fred of the Building on the Solid Rock blog is currently reading Dr. Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free; at my request. I'm reading The Potter's Freedom at his urging.

If there is one thing that Dr. White has taught me within the first few pages of his ambitious work is that even I can be offended by how someone I esteem is treated. Therefore, while I am going to state right now, right up front, that I expect I will disagree with almost everything the man writes in the book. I find his starting tone, and chosen plan for his argument to be so far off the mark as to be offensive. I am offended. I want you the reader to know this, because I probably won't be overly generous to the man. However, I do not intend to be mean spirited towards him, or hostile. I've been deeply disturbed by the things that I've read in this book about Dr. Geisler; both those things written by White and by his endorsers.

This series of articles is not intended to be a rebuttal. 

These articles will be my thoughts as I go. Most of the people who read OMW would agree that I do my level best to keep an open mind and let arguments be made. As I have written here many times before, should Dr. White convince me I will openly say so. With the exception of the revised edition of Chosen But Free, I have not ever read any response to White's work.  I can't even remember what Geisler said about The Potter's Freedom in his work. So these articles will be my thoughts alone.

White criticizes Geisler for not using extended quotations in his book. So I will be using long, and many quotations from White's book.

So here we go! 

The Title: The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free

Whoah... really? "A Defense of the Reformation" that's a big claim. Nay! That is a monstrous claim! What's more, Dr. White seems to agree with me and backs off from the title of the book in his Foreword stating:
"This is not meant to be a presentation of the Reformed view so ably accomplished by others: my positive presentation will be limited to establishing facts that are not in evidence from a reading of CBF."
I truly am struggling with what to address first. As I've been reading I've found I want to comment on almost every paragraph in the book.  White will argue almost immediately that the key issue of the Reformation was the deterministic sovereignty of God. In chapter 1 White quotes Martin Luther's words to Erasmus, and then interprets them in this way.

"What, then, is the "grand turning point of the cause," the "essential issue," the "grand hing upon which the whole turned," and "the vital part"? The truth of predestination (God's freedom) and man's depravity (his will in bondage)! Here at the very inception of the Reformation the definitional issue is laid out: God is the absolutely free Creator, the Potter, who has complete sovereignty over the pots, humans, who, as fallen creatures, find their wills enslaved to sin, in bondage and unable to "cooperate" with any offered grace." 
When I read this I was most intrigued. I had never heard before that the key issue of the Reformation was the sovereignty of God. Have you?

OK now that you've read how White interpreted Luther's words, I'll give you the modern English version (as supplied by White) of what Luther said:
Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account--that you alone, in contrast to all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like--trifles, rather than issues--in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot.
So it seems that Luther is talking about something more fundamental than Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such... but what is he talking about? White does not quote Luther telling us. Instead of quoting Luther, White tells us what Luther must have meant.  Perhaps White is correct and determinism is what Luther was referring too. However, how can we know by reading White's work? We have to take his word for it.

The quote is from Luther's "Bondage of the Will" written in response to Erasmus' Diatribe in which he argues that mankind's will is in bondage to sin, but our volition - our freedom to choose - is intact. While the subject is similar, I do not believe that Luther was arguing what White says he was. I think Luther had a similar view, but not the same. Further, while Luther was definitely used of God; Luther's words are not Scripture. We are no bound to them, or by them. They are not authoritative and much less so are interpretations of his words.  Over and over again, White and his endorsers accuse Geisler of not using exegesis of the Scriptures to their satisfaction. Yet, White's main issue is what White said Luther wrote about the Reformation.

Dr. White seemingly has a slightly differing view of the writings of men however. In a foreword he wrotes:
"There are many tremendous works in print defining and defending the great biblical faith of the Reformation. God has been most gracious in raising up men like Calvin, Edwards, Turrentin, Warfield, Palmer, Sproul, and Piper who have been gifted to communicate His truth to their generations in a unique fashion. These works really need no defense, for any person reading them can see their internal consistency and depth of exegetical insight. These are profoundly biblical works written by men who are deeply committed to the authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God." 
I've bolded what White emphasized in cursive in his work. I don't think I could bring myself to write anything close to that with regard to any writing by man except that which God has revealed to us is Scripture. His praise of these men and their writing sounds much to much like 2Pet 1:19-21 for my comfort.

*UPDATE* I received a call from a Brother tonight with concern that this part of the article seems to indicate that I think White would hold the writings of these men as having the same authority as Scripture. I appreciate the concern being brought to my attention, however, that is not at all my intent. Dr. White holds a slightly different view than I do, he holds the writing of these particular men, with much more esteem than I could muster for any (non Spirit breathed) writing by any man.  As I have read through more of The Potter's Freedom I have found that White seems to hold the historical Reformed doctrines very dearly. Much of his arguments against Geisler are with respect to such. In his preface, Phillip Johnson calls this practice of White's using "his solid grasp of historical theology to make the truth unmistakably clear." I would personally hold that "historical theology" is most polluted with the doctrines of man. As Paul wrote near the end of his life that all in Asia had departed from his theology 2Tim 1:13-15 Not only that but seemingly all maner of doctrinal error can be found in the writings of the "Church Fathers" from the basis for Roman Catholicism to Infant Baptism and so on.... there are of course good and bad writings by men which have been written throughout Church history. That they are historical, or even that they were strongly held by many people - as Roman Catholicism was (and even still is) does not indicate it is Biblical. All I am saying in the above is that White values the writings of these particular men much more highly than I would value any writings by men.  My reading of his words reminds me of Peter's words about Scripture. To me, his praise is much too close. That doesn't mean I think White considers the writings the same as Scripture.

The title of the book says that White will be giving a defense of the Reformation, and seems to imply that Geisler's work offends the Reformation in some way. How so? Well if you define the reformation as being about Determinism then well I guess that would be true. However, websites such as GotQuestions?.org think the Reformation was about these 4 things:
Underlying the Protestant Reformation lay four basic doctrines in which the reformers believed the Roman Catholic Church to be in error. These four questions or doctrines are How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? And what is the essence of Christian living?
Now I'm sure that Luther saw these as issues built on what he thought was the main issue. In fact the 5 Sola's are the Reformer's proposed solution to the problems, and they do agree in some ways White's position - though they do not require Determinism.  At the end of this article I'm going to ask you the reader to consider a question. This question ought to lead you to the difference between what Luther was arguing and what White is arguing.

That was the first argument of any substance that I noted in the work. However, let's back up to the beginning. I am not going to quote everything that stood out to me in the endorsements and introductions, but here are some things which reveal the tone. This is the tone that sets the stage for the book.  I've noted often that Calvinism's #1 claim has nothing to do with God. Their biggest concern, and most often made claim is that (one's particular brand of) Calvinism is misrepresented or misunderstood. The very first page after the cover has this:

Praise for The Potter's Freedom... 

"For someone of Dr. Geisler's stature to go into print with his misunderstandings was simply inexplicable. The easy thing would have been to simply let the whole thing go in an embarrassed silence,...." ~ Douglas Wilson, Pastor, Editor of Credenda Agenda Magazine

"The Potter's Freedom is a more than adequate response to the misleading and erroneous book, Chosen But Free... This book should be widely disseminated and read as it will clarify much that is often misunderstood about Calvinism." ~ Jay Adams, Ph.D., Westminister Seminary, Escondido, California

"Dr. James R. White dissects Geisler's arguments and reveals them to be based on convoluted thinking, inconsistencies, and misinterpretations of Scripture." ~ Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor, Moody Church, Chicago

"The Potter's Freedom, is the much-needed antidote to his (Geisler's) flawed (and failed) attempt, in typical Thomistic fashion, to synthesize what cannot be synthesized." ~ Robert REymond, Ph. D., Knox Theological Seminary, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Author of A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith

"First, Geisler's book is one of demagoguery, propaganda, and an embarrassing lack of accurate scholarship, while White's book is one of careful and scholarly exegesis of the Bible, coupled with a convincing exposition and defense of the Reformation Faith (i.e. the Biblical Faith) from misrepresentation and caricature." ~ Dr. Joseph C. Morecraft, III; Author, Pastor of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, Cumming, GA; Publisher of The Counsel of Chalcedon

"...themes that Geisler has abused, maltreated and generally misunderstood..." ~ S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., AB, ThM, ThD, Former Prof. of New Testament & Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary; Former Prof. of Bible & Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

With that tone set we get to the title and copyright pages in the book. We are then treated to a dedication and few acknowledgements. After that we have the Table of Contents and then a Preface written by Phillip R. Johnson Executive Director of John MacArthur's Grace to You ministry and Elder of Grace Community Church, Sun Vally, CA

In his second paragraph Johnson hits the "misrepresentation" button right on cue.
"Dr. Geisler manages to misrepresent his friends and foes alike." He goes on to state: "The fact is, if Dr. Geisler were not a teacher of such stature, there would be no reason at all to pay any attention to his book. It is a bad book by any measure."  
In a later paragraph he states:
"Dr. White meticulously unravels the near-hopeless tangle Geisler has made of these doctrines, skillfully employing both Scripture and his solid grasp of historical theology to make the truth unmistakably clear." 
He finishes with:
"Dr. White has produced on of the finest explanations of the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God that has seen publication in recent years." 
The Potter's Freedom starts with a lot of praise for Dr. White, and some seriously strong words and accusations against Dr. Geisler.  I had intended on getting farther into the book in this article but there is just so much to react to.

Here's the question I promised I would ask.

If; God's sovereignty is defined as White defines it under the title of "The Decrees of the King" being as:
"The conjunction of God's absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of God's decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe.".... "every aspect of human history, to the life of every man, woman, and child"...."God's freedom extends to the actions of men, even to their choices," 
Then; how can man's will be in bondage to Sin? As is said over and over by White.

Is Sin more powerful than God? If God's sovereignty is such that our every choice is chosen by God, then Man's will - whether sinful or righteous - is in complete bondage to God.

Is this what Luther argued? I think not. Here's an interesting quote from Luther.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.Letter 99, Paragraph 13. Erika Bullmann Flores, Tr. from:Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche SchriftenDr. Johann Georg Walch Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15, cols. 2585-2590.
Well until next time, I trust that the Lord will lead and teach you.

Series Table of Contents (will be updated periodically)

Part 1 - Introduction (This current page)
Part 2 (Covers the first part of the book's introduction)

Part 3 (Continued coverage of the book's introduction)
Part 4 Chapter 1 - Definition of the Reformation
Part 5 Chapter 2 - Determination
Part 6 Chapter 3 - Inabilities of Man
Part 7 A Brief View of Chosen But Free (The first two chapters)
Part 8 The First 1/2 - 3/4 of Chapter 4 - The Will of Man
Part 9 The rest of Chapter 4 - Can Man Believe?

Part 10 Chapter 5 - Unconditional Election a Necessity
Part 11 Chapter 6 - John 6 verse by verse
Part 12 Chapter 7 - John 6 the Lord's teaching
Part 13 Chapter 8 - Unconditional Election
Part 14 Chapter 9 -  Romans 9
Part 15 Chapter 10 - Limited Atonement 

Part 16 Chapter 11 - Universal Atonement'
Part 17 Chapter 12a - Defining Irresistible Grace and Pre-Faith Regeneration
Part 18 Chapter 12b - Saving Faith the Gift of God
Part 19 Chapter 13 - Pre-Faith Regeneration, Omnibenevolence, Is Faith a Gift?
Part 20 Chapter 14 and Appendices - God's Relationship to Sin, Concerns About Calvinism,
Part 21 Conclusion - Highlights of the Series. Is TFP a good book? Should this series be a book?