Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 6 - Chapter 3

*UPDATE* This was incorrectly titled "Part 5." I have fixed it, but the URL will remain the same.

Welcome back to this series of articles which I'm writing as I read Dr. James R White's The Potter's Freedom. I'm reacting to, and interacting with the book as a Non-Calvinist-Non-Arminian. I don't choose that title to make it hard to nail me down. I choose it because I disagree with Calvinism's TULIP (and a number of things in Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion *free online version*) and I also disagree with the Remonstrance of Arminianism. Although I do find some expression of truth in each of these systems, and many things which Calvin wrote in his Institutes are true, the final points made by each are not in accord with the Scriptures.

For the first 3 articles I was responding on a paragraph by paragraph basis. That not only became exhausting to write (and read) but it also led me to become hostile toward Dr. White. As I noted last time, a VERY short study in Proverbs helped me to see that such an approach is not required. So I'll continue in similar fashion to how Part 4 was written.

If you find that intriguing I hope you'll continue reading this series. Let's get back into it!

Chapter 3

The Inabilities of Man

White's third chapter begins with quoting Charles Haddon Spurgeon "As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature."

Here I detect the direction that Mr. White is going to go. Because all of man is affected by Sin then man cannot believe the Gospel. I have other issues with White's position than what he is using Spurgeon to argue against here, but I cannot resist playing into White's argument for just a moment.

Did you know there are pockets of fresh water in the Atlantic? It was just too funny not to include. It also demonstrates why leaning on the teaching of men, even very godly men who are/were gifted teachers & evangelists is never a good idea. What White will be arguing in this chapter is that in order for someone to be "able" to believe the Gospel they must not only usurp God's sovereignty (his argument from Chapter 2) but the person must have some innate goodness in them. So do I suggest that man is at his core good because I believe man not only has the responsibility to believe, but also the ability to? NO. There is no pocket of freshwater in the flesh of man. Man needs no goodness to be able to believe.

After quoting Spurgeon again White explains:
"The "flip-side" of divine freedom is the fact that man, the great image-bearer of God, is a fallen creature, a slave to sin, spiritually dead, incapable of doing what is pleasing to God." 
How is man being a slave to sin the flip-side of "divine freedom"? It does not follow. If "divine freedom" is that God decrees every single thing in all of History, in all of the universe, moral and physical, material and immaterial - as White has argued for the sum total of his book thus far - then man CANNOT be a slave to "sin" man can be a slave to God ONLY.  If God decrees EVERYTHING, then one cannot be a slave to anything but God. Sin has no power in a universe where God makes EVERYTHING happen.

Just in case you dared to examine White's logic, there is a stern rebuke found in the next sentence.
"Just as the great freedom of the Potter offends rebellious pots, so too does the Bible's teaching on the inabilities of man due to sin. The fallen sons and daughters of Adam are most adept at finding ways to promote creaturely freedom at the cost of God's freedom, while at the same time promoting the servitude of God to the whims and will of man. It would be humorous if it were not so serious: the pots gathering together and assuring each other that the Potter either doesn't exist, or, at worst, will sit idly by while they take control and "run the show" themselves." 
It is not the freedom of God that offends me, it is Dr. White's consistent putting absurd, inflammatory, insulting, and blasphemous statements in quotes as though his chosen target, Dr. Norm Geisler who authored Chosen But Free(CBF), had either written such things or made such arguments. White, throughout his book thus far, has invented various similar arguments to rebut, while Geisler would hold to none of them. This warning is absurd at best and is deeply offensive to me. Those who are indoctrinated into Calvinism will have a hard enough time evaluating the logic of White's "flip-side" assertion without having them be fearful that such an examination would equate to them trying to "run the show" themselves.

At the beginning of this series I quoted many of the praises that men recognized as Pastors and Teachers heaped on The Potter's Freedom(TPF) and White. Is this the kind of behaviour that they were so in favor of? So far TPF is stuffed full of it.

White then quotes Calvin's Institutes in support of his pre-faith regeneration idea. One assumes that Calvin is as close to Scripture as White can find support for the idea in.  Then White asks the reader to answer this question:
"How many times have you heard a preacher say, "In the matter of election, God has cast His vote for you, Satan has cast his vote for you, and now the final vote is up to you."? 
Um never... I suppose someone may have said such a silly thing... but have YOU ever heard a preacher say this? I think these sorts of things mostly get said by Calvinists at pulpits to make Calvinism seem like the only reasonable response for their Calvinist audiences to continue to embrace. Yes I'm making an assumption here.

White finishes his point by restating his argument from Chapter 2, that if man can believe the Gospel then it is man who controls what happens in History instead of God. Perhaps he didn't read my last article before he finished writing the book? I'd like to go on about how tiresome this failed argument is, but it is hardly fair to assume that someone else pointed this out to White while he was writing the book.

A Definition
"The reader of CBF would have to conclude that true Calvinists believe man's will is "destroyed" and done away with, resulting in nothing more than an automation, a robot. But this is not the case at all." 
Warning! Amazing feats of argumentation immiment! Before we get to White's argument I want to remind readers of EXACTLY how White defined the Sovereignty of God previously in TPF. 
"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." 
"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." 
God decrees whatsoever comes to pass. When a person controls a robot, or remote controlled car, the robot only does what the person controlling it does except in a few instances. The robot or the person have a physical failure. The energy required for the control and/or operation fails. Or something else interferes. In a universe where God decrees "whatsoever" happens, nothing can interrupt that control and operation. EVERYTHING happens BECAUSE God decreed it.  Any failure to communicate, control or operate, or any interruption happens exactly in accord with the Creator.

To support his assertion that Calvinists don't believe man is merely a robot like creature White quotes the London Baptist Confession of 1689 as being "succinct and clear"
"3. As the consequence of his fall into a state of sin, man has lost all ability to will the performance of any of those works, spiritually good, that accompany salvation.... Hence he is not able, by any strength of his own, to turn himself to God, or even to prepare himself to turn to God. 
4. When God converts a sinner, and brings him out of sin into a the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage to sin and, by His grace alone, He enables Him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good." 
As interesting as this quotation is, how does this respond to Geisler's point? In fact, it seems to be talking about something altogether different. It doesn't even seem to agree with White's stated position that God decrees whatsoever. For the confession states that God "enables" man to will and do. But if man has a will of his own, and can do that which he wills then God is not sovereign....

Jumping from defending his point, without actually defending it, White moves on to attacking Geisler's view that the ability of man to make moral choices is part of his being Human and having the image of God. He talks about the state of perfection that those in Heaven will have and says that because people in Heaven will be without sin that this fact must offend Geisler's definition of what it means to be Human. He asks:
"Does this mean that they will somehow be less than human? Or is freedom to perfectly will good a greater freedom than the ability to choose between good and evil?" 
What does this have to do with anything? People will be able to make moral choices in Heaven. However, they will always make righteous choices because they will be made as Christ would because of having His nature instead of Adam's. This is neither a lesser freedom, nor a greater freedom. The same "freedom" exists, it is the nature of the individual which is different. In actuality, White is arguing against his own previous arguments that God doesn't force someone to believe but that he instead gives them a new nature which freely believes. White's argument is bunk in that situation because it has absolutely no scriptural basis, and because it is only a solution to a problem invented by Calvinism not the Scriptures. None the less, White is actually arguing against his own logic.

White's side track into this argument is nothing more than a smoke screen to cover the otherwise plainly obvious falsehood of his assertion that "Reformed Christians" don't believe that man is a robot like creature.

The Scriptural Witness
"The biblical doctrine of total depravity combines the truth of man's createdness (the pot that is formed by the Potter) with the truth of man as a sinner. The result is a view of man that is pre-eminently biblical and perfectly in line with what we see in mankind all around us.  
To say something is a biblical doctrine requires that we demonstrate this from the text." 
What does it take to support the statement that something is "pre-eminently" biblical then?

It should be noted that in accord with the title of Chapter 3 "The Inabilities of Man" White is not talking about what I would understand as the total depravity of man - that is that every area of man is depraved and the image of God is marred, with men being born in the image of Adam Gen 5:3 - White is talking about Total Inability. This is a subject which I recently delved into in great detail. If the doctrine is "pre-eminently biblical" then it is strangely absent from the Text. Check out Testing TULIP: Total Inability.  

Here are a list of Scriptures which White uses to show how pre-eminently biblical his doctrine is.

Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Jer 13:23; Jer 17:9; Psa 51:5; Psa 58:3; Eph 2:3; Rom 1:21-25; Rom 1:18; Rom 3:10-18

 Before I quote some things White says about these passages I must remind the reader of the title of White's book.
The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free. 
Is my confusion justified? The title of the book says that White will defend "The Reformation" and rebut Chosen But Free. In the introduction we found that White doesn't really intend to give a strong defense of the Reformation and thus far we have consistently found him either arguing against other supposed positions (such positions as which Geisler does not hold to) and distorted descriptions of Geisler's actual arguments.

Let's see what he says about these passages:
"Such a person is not "spiritually challenged" but is in firm and resolute rebellion against God." 
"Man's radical corruption has not changed: from his youth man's heart is evil, not just once in a while, but continually." 
" the one who practices evil cannot break the bondage of sin and start doing good." 
"It is incredible to find Christians saying, "Well, that refers to only some people. See, it says 'these who speak lies go astray from birth.'"" 
"...he (Paul) does not begin with "Jesus loves you" or "God has a wonderful plan for your life"..... Paul begins with a dreadfully long discussion of the universal sinfulness of man."
While I could argue that the Scriptures cited do offer defense of the Reformation - as I have been taught to understand the Reformation, not as White characterizes it as being about determinism - I see absolutely no rebut of Geisler here. Not one of those passages challenges Geisler's view as presented in CBF. Not one of White's assertions is in reply to any point made by Geisler. What is White's purpose here?

In closing this section which White calls "A Scriptural Whiteness" he writes: 
"This litany of quotations is specifically designed to have on effect: to shatter, destroy, and obliterate any last shred of self-righteousness that might remain after the preceding arguments have been understood. These testimonies are fatal to any kind of "optimistic humanism"... rather than finding in man "seekers" who simply need a "nudge" in the right direction, Scripture tells us that man does not understand and does not seek after God. Man is deceitful, even with himself, and is quick to curse God. Total Depravity painted in the most vivid colors." 
Again; what is White defending and who is he arguing against? "Optimistic humanism" and men being seekers who need only a nudge in the right direction is not Geisler's view. Nothing here even comes close to supporting White's view of determinism and inability either. Did you note that not one of the verses above says or establishes the "inability" of man to believe the Gospel?  Wait for it, we're getting to a couple of the fundamentals I talked about last time here very shortly.

Dead in Sin
"Scripture teaches that men are spiritual dead and in need of new life." 
Hey we found some common ground! I agree!

White quotes Eph 2:1-2 and Col 2:13 and then states:
"The contrast between spiritual death before Christ and resurrection of life in Him reveals to us the depth of the meaning of "dead in sins."" 
Interesting statement but what does White mean by this?
"The one who is spiritually dead is separated from the only source of true life: the Creator. Spiritual death is the result of the fall of Adam, and one who is spiritually dead cannot pass on to his descendants a life that he himself does not possess. All in Adam then are born in this state of spiritual death, while all who are in Christ share His life." 
Cool! I agree! The Apostle Paul agrees! What's more significant, given the title of White's book, is Dr. Norm Geisler agrees as well.  Unfortunately White doesn't stop there. He goes on to tell the reader that spiritual death doesn't mean spiritual inactivity. He says men are actively rebellious. Which again I would agree with, but here read this:
"Instead, spiritual death refers to the alienation from God, the destruction of the positive, active desire to do what is right in God's sight, and most importantly, the ability to do what is good an holy." 
This must be more of that praise-worthy "exegesis" like we saw with John 3:16. Read Eph 2, and Col 2 and find where these things are read IN the text. It is easy to read them into it, but one can read anything INTO the Text that they have been indoctrinated into. One can find oneself reading Wayne Grudem instead of Paul very easily. Here's a great example of reading one's theology instead of the Scripture:

After quoting Rom 8:6-8 White offers.
"The fleshly (unregenerate) mind is hostile toward God (never neutral), for it does not subject itself to the law of God. But it is the assertion that follows this that causes so many to stumble: the fleshly mind "is not able." Subjection to God's law is outside the capacity of fallen man." 
Who is Paul instructing in Romans 8? What is he instructing them NOT to do? Paul is writing to the Saints in Rome (and by extension to all Saints in Christ). In Romans 8 we find Paul telling them and all other Christians not to fall into the trap of trying to live righteously by obeying law. Read Rom 8:1-16 to see Paul's immediate point, and better yet read the entire chapter to see his whole point about how God uses suffering to produce Christ-likeness not fleshy law observance to do produce it.

White often quotes Rom 8:6-8 in TPF to support his view. However, the problem for White's argument is that Paul was not talking about "unregenerate" people, Paul was talking about regenerate Christians who choose to try to produce godliness through observance of law instead of walking in the Spirit - a very common theme for Paul's writings, which in my opinion can only be missed willfully. 

Now here we get very to one of the fundamentals that White is grievously in error about.
"Since we know that God's law commands us to repent and believe as well as to perform that which is righteous in God's sight, we can see the tremendous extent of the corruption of nature and the resultant inabilities." 
We will see that this is what White thinks a person must do in order to be saved. White restates his view of Paul's passage and I'll quote it because it leads into another grievous error.
"Yet this is exactly what Paul teaches in this passage. It is specifically, biblically set forth that the unregenerate, fleshly mind is not capable of doing what is right in God's sight. The lost man cannot please God."
I have no argument with White's point here, though it is not the point that Paul makes. Lost man cannot please God.  White continues though:
"Is repentance and faith pleasing to God? Yes. Is submission to the commands of God pleasing to Him? Of course. Therefore, regeneration must take place first." 
Oh ya that argument... regeneration "must" take place first.  In the next article I'm going to be looking at Chapter 4 where we find White also writing:
"There is nothing more pleasing to God than submission to His law: but the fleshly mind is in rebellion, not subjection, to God's law. And we know that such things as repentance and faith are surely part of subjection to God's law...." 
Somewhere in either Chapter 3 or 4 White criticizes Geisler for having a theology that "must" be instead of one that is developed exegetically from the Scriptures. I cannot find the quote right now.. though I have looked extensively. Here we see White doing the same thing.

But is repentance and faith pleasing to God? It's a serious question. One I believe I answered well in the article Well Done Abram? In addition to that article I offer: There is rejoicing in Heaven when a sinner repents, but we are not told that the rejoicing is because of the repentance. Luke 15:7 What's interesting about the parables of that chapter is that the celebration presented is that the thing has been found, or that the son has been made alive - not that they repented. Exegesis not Eisegesis. 

Further, submission to God is something that follows regeneration it is not a condition for Reconciliation to God. Faith in the Christ of the Gospel 1Cor 15:1-11 is the only condition for reconciliation as the Scripture openly declares. We are seeing but a taste of White's Lordship Salvation here. Most obviously if Lordship Salvation were a biblical doctrine then regeneration "must" precede faith for that view of faith includes things that the unregenerate man IS incapable of doing.

1Tim 1:1-11
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, To Timothy, a true son in the faith:Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. 
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
White then goes on to discuss Inability from the Evangelical Letter from John (some call it the Gospel of John). He quotes John 6:43-44 and says: 
"These are not words to be glossed over. Non-Reformed Protestants simply cannot explain Jesus' meaning." 
Funny I seemed to be able to explain it in my article, Testing TULIP: Total Inability, and so were several other people in the discussion comments (there are over 200 of them). In short the problem the Lord is expressing is the inability to gain access to God, not the inability to believe the Gospel. This is explored in the article but examined deeply in the comments.

White goes on to explain:
"Something has to change the person who is naturally the enemy of God into one who desires to follow Christ. that "something" is the "drawing" of the Father." 
The Text doesn't say that something has to change the person, White does. What the Text says is that lost people are convicted/convinced by the Holy Spirit not that they are "changed" or "regenerated" so they can believe. John 16:5-11. In my article I discuss the various words translated "draw" in John. I truly believe a study in this will be profitable for all who are interested in the subject.

White brings up an argument from his detractors:
"But they will say "But God draws all men." Is this what Jesus says?" 
Um... yes. John 12:32.
"Such an assertion turns the text on its head. The Lord is explaining the disbelief of the crowds. If all are drawn, and that equally, why are these men not being drawn? No, an often missed truth of the passage is this: all who are drawn are also raised up. "And I will raise Him (the one who is drawn by the Father to the Son) up on the last day" is the Lord's promise. 
Cue the False-Dilema fallacious argument that if Calvinism isn't true then Universalism must be.
"So, if every individual is drawn, then every individual is raised up. Universalists adopt just this theology..... Geisler does not address the assertion of inability that is so plainly presented here."
I'll take your word for it Dr. White. But, did anyone else notice that Dr. White didn't address some things in Jn 6 himself?

Like how when they wanted to know how they could do the works of God that Jesus told them that to believe in Him was to do the works of God. That the will of the Father is that Christ should loose nothing that has been given to Him, that the will of the Father is that everyone who believes may have everlasting life (be reborn/regenerated) not that everyone who is regenerated may believe. White also doesn't discuss why the Lord says that people cannot "come to Me" unless the Father "draws" them - instead of saying people cannot believe in Him unless the Father regenerates them - which is White's argument. White makes no attempt to exegetically explain this. He simply equates drawing with regeneration, and it must be true because if it is not then Universalism is.....

White then talks about slavery to sin.
Another analogy used by the Lord to describe the state of man in sin is that of slavery. In the eighth chapter of John the Lord address Jews who "had believed" in Him. John does not use the normal terms he uses for true believers, but instead indicates that the kind of faith these men had was a surface level, one-time faith, not the on-going, saving faith seen through the Gospel of John.
Is this more of White's idea of praise-worthy "exegesis"? He quotes John 8:31-34 and offers:
"These "disciples" are offended by a truth that every true child of God knows so well: we were once slaves to sin, but Christ, our Master and Redeemer, has freed us." 
It is good that Dr. White, at least here, recognizes that the words "Disciple" and "Believer" are not synonymous. One can be a "disciple" or a "follower" of Christ, and yet not be a Believer. It think this fact gets lost on White in other discussions however. 

You can find my discussion of this passage in 'But' Theology Part 2 and (as I linked in that article also) Dr. Bing's discussion of it in the second chapter of his dissertation on Lordship Salvation.

White discusses how Christ says all who sin are a slave to sin, in contrast to Geisler's apparent view that one "doesn't have to be a slave" to sin. I think that White is actually taking Geisler out of context. Geisler's greater point is that a sinner is not sinning at every moment, and it is possible for unsaved people to do "good" yet that "good" is worthless before God because it is done by unclean vessels. Quoting Geisler selectively, and re-interpreting him is a surefire way to make it seem as though you have rebutted him though.

What White misses about the Lord's statement with regard to slavery to sin is found if we read the Lord's words themselves.

John 8:34
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin."
"whoever" not just sinners, but regenerated people to. ANYONE who commits sin makes himself a slave to sin. It was true of Paul in Rom 7, it is true of anyone who lets himself be brought into bondage to anything - even though it is "lawful." 1Cor 6:12

White finally asserts:
"The testimony of Scripture is clear: the fallen sons and daughters of Adam are in need of a Savior to free them from the bonds of Sin and raise them to spiritual life." 
Neither Geisler nor myself would have any argument with that. Who is White arguing against?

I know this one has been long. It turned out much longer than I expected, but these things are important. The entire system of White's theology is built on assumptions, and false understandings of Scripture. Because of White's view of the Sovereignty of God he must invent "decrees" in Eternity Past  for everything that happens inside of Time, which are not found in Scripture. Because of his false Lordship Salvation gospel he must invent the doctrine of pre-faith regeneration, which is not found in Scripture.  Because of these things scriptures like John 1:29; John 3:16; John 12:32;  and 1John 2:2 for JUST A FEW examples cannot mean what they plainly say. They need to be completely re-interpreted in order not to offend the Calvinism he holds. And if by any chance one does question the Calvinistic view the threat is that one is trying to "run the show themselves." 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very thorough and well done!