Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 5 - Chapter 2

*UPDATE* This was incorrectly titled "Part 4." I have fixed it, but the URL will remain the same.

I'm writing a series of articles entitled "The Debater's Potter" to reveal my reaction as I read The Potter's Freedom as a Non-Calvinist-Non-Arminian. A week ago a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders as a short lesson from Proverbs showed me that I don't need to reveal and address every transgression in Dr. James R White's book.

I choose the title "The Debater's Potter" because White's view of God seems more fashioned for debate than for glory. His view makes every doctrine precious and any hint of question near blaspheme. It is a clever tactic for one who desires to win a debate.  I don't know if this is White's goal, his intent, or was even in his mind as he crafted the pages of his book or not. All I can report with integrity is that this is exactly how the book comes off to me.

Previously I had intended on making this article about chapters 2 thru 4, but as the fourth chapter wore on I found there were a number of things to be commented on. After reviewing Chapter 2 I think I'll continue to make articles on a chapter by chapter basis, just not go paragraph by paragraph through them.

I believe there are fundamental issues which White has serious misunderstanding about when it comes to what the Bible reports about how one is reconciled to God, God's Sovereignty, and what pleases God. These three serious misunderstandings actually inform White's view of Scripture and I believe cause him to require the Scripture to say things other than what is plainly written.

Through reading The Potter's Freedom(TPF) I have come to be sensitive to the fact that people can be offended when those they esteem are ill spoken of. I, sincerely, apologize to all who are offended by my questioning White's understanding and stating that he has serious error in his doctrine. It is not my intention to offend, but to share honest reaction to his text. I also hope that these articles will be informative. If however, after reading this explanation you are still offended please open your copy of The Potter's Freedom then turn to any page and see what White or his fans, friends and favorites have to say about Geisler. ;)

Well into his second chapter white states the following, and I agree with him.
"You often say more about your own position when you criticize someone else's, and that is the case here."
OK let's go!

Chapter 2

Determingly Knowing

The reader of TPF can rejoice that instead of a discussion about Roman Catholicism, White chooses to discuss Chosen But Free(CBF) by Dr. Norman Geisler.

Geisler's view of Election is that God chooses those whom He will save based on His foreknowledge of them. Geisler would argue that this is in accordance with Romans 8:29-30. Seeing as Geisler's wording is that of the passage I could be perplexed by White's discomfort with the view.

Anyone who has argued with me about Calvinism knows that I prefer to hold a theology that doesn't need to be explained. I much prefer to answer questions by simply reading a passage from the Scripture.  *UPDATE* I am all to often unskilled and inconsistent with this desire, but it is my honest desire. White accuses Geisler of ignoring what a passage says while re-interpreting it to suit his theology. It is true that Geisler makes mistakes with some passages, as we will see, but I do not see that White's accusation is true. As has been demonstrated already however, White's view of "exegesis" of John 3:16 surely matches his accusation against  Geisler.

Geisler uses a complicated, yet accurate, statement which is easy for his opponent to twist in to something ridiculous.  This could be a lack of wisdom on Geisler's part, or it could be that he expects those who criticize him to operate on more honorable level.

I am no fan of former US Secretary of Defense Donal Rumsfeld, however he was very articulate and exacting.  He once made the same mistake with the Press. He made the very accurate and articulate statement:
There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don't know.
Do you remember when he said this? How the press reacted? They had a field day with him. Talk show hosts had endless jokes about the statement. Were they justified? Not in the slightest. Rumsfeld was being clear and accurate. They chose to chew up his stament and make it sound ridiculous because they hated the man and what he stood for.

Geisler's phrase "Determiningly Knowing" states that because God is outside of Time and can see and interact with all of it, that any event He knows is "determined" as in it WILL in our experience happen the way God knows it will. 

White spends the second chapter of his book basically mocking Geisler for this view. He talks about the deference between something being pre-determined that it will happen, and something being engineered to happen (my words but his point).

White says that if Geisler's view is correct then Man is completely sovereign and that God is merely a spectator who happens to have a great view which gives him perfect knowledge of what to expect. That's an interesting rebuttal, and I'm sure very convincing to anyone who has not read CBF.  White seems to think that if man is allowed to believe or not believe freely then God has no ability to engineer History and accomplish what He has set out to do. White thinks that if Man is drawn by God, instead of  being forced to love God through what White calls "regeneration" then God is at Man's mercy and must simply hope that Man does the things that will allow God to do what God wills...... it truly is a train wreck of a chapter. 
"God becomes a mere servant of the creature, reacting rather than reigning." 
"What is really being said here needs to be kept in mind: the decisions or "decreeing" that takes place is done by man. God perfectly knows what man does, and passively "determines" it simultaneously as He knows it (in Geisler's view). But there is one major problem here: who is actually deciding what takes place in time?"
"God's "responsibility" is limited to giving men freedom: nowhere in these discussions do we see any emphasis at all upon god's freedom."
"...then it follows that God is truly enslaved to the free choices of men, and the creature, in fact, becomes the determiner of the course of all things in human history." 
White's view of the sovereignty of God is limited by the view of how Man works. He thinks he has a high view of it, but it is actually a limited sovereignty and not the all powerful view of God that the Bible presents. Here's an interesting view of the Sovereignty of God that I would agree with. God's Rube Goldberg Machine

What has White missed about Geisler's view? Geisler is talking about how God has willed to accomplish the reconciliation of lost sinners to Himself. John 6:40 NOT how God has willed to accomplish events, and His purposes in Time. Is Geisler's argument easier to knock down if it is about History than if it is about coming to faith?

In classic Calvinist form White goes from calling Geisler a Roman Catholic to calling him an Open Theist.  Do I even need to comment on this? NO. If you think White is correct go read CBF for yourself.  As much as White is well esteemed among his fans, friends and favorites I'm finding TPF to be absolutely absurd.

Skipping ahead a bit the reader finds White making a rare positive argument.
"... God does not act with "total disregard" of the choices of His creatures: His actions determine the free choices of His creatures. Dr. Geisler denies than an actively determined action can be "free," but in reality, Reformed theologians insist that for one to be free as a creature then one must have first and foremost a sovereign Creator." 
Huh? I agree with Geisler. No action that is determined by someone else is freely done by the thing that does it. The State may order a person to his death, and that person must obey but they do not freely choose to be put to death. White doesn't even begin to rebut Geisler's denial of determined actions being free.  White goes on...
"... we are mere creatures, never sovereign, never autonomous (ie without law, without a superior authority), but responsible within the realm of our createdness.
His emphasis, not mine...
"Despite all this, there is one truth presented here: the Reformed position plainly asserts that God "does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Daniel 4:35) and He does so solely on the basis of His own desire and decree, never on the basis of anything outside of Himself."
This verse doesn't say that God decrees every choice of man. It does not say that God decrees every event of History. Further, keeping in mind White's assertion "never on the basis of anything outside of Himself" let's read:

Romans 8:29 
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Jonah 3:8-9
But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

2Kings 20:1-6
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LordAnd I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”’”
I suppose I could keep going. It is clear that God "interacts" with His creation and creatures on the basis of what they do and don't do, want and don't want. God is a Father, not JUST Creator.

I'm skimming my notes, and the chapter in question, as I write so I may have missed something but it seems there have been multiple pages without the accusation of "misrepresentation" of Calvinism, or the more friendly "misunderstanding" of it, but White makes up for this in fine form.
"... CBF constantly insists that Reformed position teaches "irresistible grace on the unwilling."As we will noted later, this is straw-man argumentation, for it ignores the fact that Reformed theologians believe fallen man to be dead in sin, an enemy of God, in need of spiritual resurrection and a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). " 
Ezekiel 36:26 is a promise to Israel, not a statement about unregenerate man. It is not even a promise to the Reformed position's group of people they refer to as the Elect. This special use of a verse out of context noted, let's return to White's argument.
"Briefly, there is no more "force" exercised in God's wondrous act of regeneration than was exhibited when the Lord Jesus cried out, "Lazarus, come forth!" (John 11:43). Resurrection is not an action of force against will: it is the bringing of new life to the dead. And that is what Reformed people believe. To call that wondrous act a "doublewhammy" that "forces" people into the kingdom "against their will" is to simply miss the point--completely." 
Again, HUH? How does this answer Geisler's point? Was there no "force" used when God resurrected Lazarus? *UPDATE* Further, were not Lazarus and his family believers in Christ already? This is not God overpowering the will of a person. It is not at all like the scenario that White wants to defend.

The Reformed position is that "fallen man is dead in sin, an enemy of God" in other places White talks about people being in open rebellion against God and wanting nothing to do with Him. How is it then that just because God supposedly gives people a "new heart" which then makes the person "freely" believe in God NOT violating the will of the person? NOT "forcing" "irresistible grace on the unwilling"?

If a man slips a drug into a woman's drink which makes her suddenly willing to have sex with him, does that mean he didn't go against her will when he rapes her? Not hardly.

White goes on:
"The Reformed view is simply the Augustinian view, and that this view is often badly misrepresented:"
Might I point out that Augustine is commonly recognized as the father of Roman Catholicism. A fact that is most amusing to me given White's first chapter of TPF.
"The grace of God operates to MAKE (emphasis mine) the formerly unwilling sinner willing. The redeemed person chooses Christ because he wants to choose Christ." 
Oh that clears it all up... He doesn't force them to do something, He "makes" them want to do it. Is there a difference here that I'm missing? This is semantics posing as an argument. It is pure silliness. If someone is unwilling and God makes them willing then God is forcing them to be willing against their will. A supposed regeneration prior to faith, based on absolutely no passage of Scripture, does not change this fact.

Nearing the end of Chapter 2 White explains that Geisler has a flawed foundation to his theology.
"CBF operates on the assertion that God's knowledge and God's predetermination (taken passively) are identical, and that in reality there is no positive, active, sovereign decree of God that gives form and shape to time and history." 
Really? Is THAT the assertion CBF operates on? Isn't it strange that someone who is so very concerned with his theology being misrepresented, and his favorite theologians not being continually interacted with seems to have no problem doing exactly the same to his chosen opponent?

He closes the chapter with:
"And if one rejects the Reformed view at its root, it should not be surprising that the rest of the system likewise suffers at Dr. Geisler's hands. One is not a Potter who has no role in determining the shape, function, and destiny of the pots." 
You often say more about your own position when you criticize someone else's, and this is the case here.

White's view is that God must have decreed every event of History or He is not sovereign. White has no passage of Scripture to support this view, but the decrees are inferred by the view White holds of God.

It is interesting then to me to read the Lord Jesus Christ, God, Creator & Sustainer of the Universe say the following:

Luke 10:31
Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
By "chance"? Doesn't the Lord mean by Sovereign Decree made in Eternity Past? How can Luke both call Him Lord and speak of something that was not decreed by Him in the same passage?

Here's another interesting one. We'll be talking about this passage in an upcoming article in this series but check it out now anyway.

1Cor 2:6-9
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.But as it is written:“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,Nor have entered into the heart of manThe things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
For had the rulers of this age known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory? White spends a great deal of Chapter 2 criticizing Geisler for his view that while the event of the Cross was established in Eternity Past that the people who ended up taking part in this established event chose freely to do so. White's simplistic view of the Sovereignty of God which attributes to Him merely the kind of sovereignty a man might be able to have simply cannot work with passages like this.

*UPDATE* I should note that the Father crushed the Son, and that this event was not just established in that God knew it would happen, but that God made it happen. The people involved freely choose to be involved, but the event was decreed (for lack of a better word) in Eternity Past. In accordance with the Eternal Covenant between the Father & the Son. 

White also believes that one is Regenerated prior to having faith. As he stated above, God (not forcefully apparently) regenerates the unwilling sinner, and then formerly unwilling sinner (now he is a willing sinner? Or is he a saint?... White does not say) "freely" chooses Christ. White has not a single verse to back up the view that Regeneration happens first, but infers this by his view of what saving faith is and because he cannot accept that man could make a choice and God still be Sovereign.  He goes on and on attacking Geisler (and anyone else who has a similar view) that thinking man can believe (after Convincing and Convicting by the Holy Spirit in accordance with Geisler's and my view, but not mentioned by White) results in God having an imperfect grace that isn't able to do anything....

Yet Paul states:

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
It seems we have access to this grace by faith, not access to this faith by grace. This is the same form as Eph 2:8-9 where we see that Salvation is accomplished by Grace and accessed through faith.

Geisler's book Chosen But Free is easy to attack if you choose to do so in the way that White has. You get your readers to expect to be a different kind of book than it is, and then criticize it for doing that poorly.... you also change the arguments into something they are not.

In the next two chapters we'll find that White attempts to use a number of passages to support his view, I believe to no avail. We'll also find White jump on a serious inconsistency in Geisler's handling of 1Cor 2, and while he is right to jump on Geisler for this White chooses to use an equally absurd view of the passage and ignore what Paul (as it seems to me) plainly wrote. In that case we'll see how they are both wrong.

Thanks for reading again! Next time we'll look at Chapter 3.

1 comment:

Kevl said...

I think it is perfectly reasonable to criticize Geisler for choosing to make a mostly philosophical argument instead of a purely exegetical argument.

However, the problem with trying to convince a Calvinist of a non-Calvinist exegetical argument is that they don't agree on what words mean in the Bible. The new Reformed view has a completely distorted view of Repentance, Faith, Grace, the word All, the word World, the word Draw, the convicting and convincing of the Holy Spirit, and worse of all they cannot simply read the Gospel from the Scriptures they have to add their Reformed view to it.

I think, for I cannot say with authority, that Geisler chose a philosophical argument for these reasons.