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.

No comments: