Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 10 - Chapter 5

Welcome again to the ongoing series of articles detailing my reaction to and my interaction with Dr. James R. White's book The Potter's Freedom(TPF) as a Non-Calvinist-Non-Arminian. According to the subtitle of the book Dr. White intended TPF as a rebuttal of Dr. Norman Geisler's book Chosen But Free(CBF).

This time we will take up Dr. White's 5th chapter "Unconditional Election a Necessity." When I read the title of the chapter I thought immediately how Calvinism is a theology of "necessity" and not revelation. Based on the "calvinistic" view of God, the 5 points of TULIP flow, along with the so called "Eternal Decrees of God" yet as of this date (having read several chapters ahead of where I'm writing now, and having studied the topic at length for years) I have never seen TULIP or the Eternal Decrees of God revealed in the Scriptures.

As we have seen in previous posts in this series that Dr. White seems to refuse to understand that Dr. Geisler doesn't agree with him, and is proposing a view of Unconditional Election which is closer to what the Scriptures reveal.  Some of White's complaint seems reasonable, in that Dr. Geisler uses the title "Unconditional Election" to describe a different doctrine than what the Calvinists use the same title to describe.

Who owns the term "Unconditional Election"? While Dr. White complains that Dr. Geisler uses the term to describe something which he believes to actually be a "Conditional Election" he does so at his own determent. Instead of understanding the argument for how God works in Time which is presented in CBF Dr. White chooses to break the argument appart into sections, isolating them. Where Dr. White shows that God knows all of History and chooses to work in accordance with that knowledge, Dr. White mocks him for using the terminology "Determinatively Knowing." Where Dr. Geisler shows Election to happen, the choice, without condition - unconditional election - in accordance with God's foreknowledge that such would be conditionally received on the basis of faith, Dr. White claims that Geisler is creating confusion by teaching a different doctrine than what he does.

If one or the other could be shown to be not in accord with the Scriptures then Dr. White would be able to successfully rebut Dr. Geisler's argument. However, instead of rebutting the argument Dr. White cleverly re-interprets it and mocks what he has created. Go ahead and see if you can rebut Dr. Geisler's argument. God knows the end from the beginning and will accomplish all He has purposed to do. Isa 46:10 It is the will of the Father to save all who believe Jn 6:40, it is to those who believe on the Lord that God gives the right to become children of God. Jn 1:12 Note that it is the new birth that is accomplished in accord with the will of God, not the belief Jn 1:13 just exactly as vs 12 says. That people access this grace, this justification, this salvation THROUGH faith Rom 5: 1-2; Eph 2:8-9. And that God elects people on the basis of His "foreknowledge" of them. Rom 8:29-30. Note that the predestination is to being conformed to the image of Christ, not to belief.  It is apparent, that God draws all men to some extent, but turns those who reject Him over to their reprobate minds, the Elect are drawn all the way unto faith. Please see the article The Drawing of God for scriptural support for this complex topic. So, as Dr. Geisler states, God knows all things. He is not surprised by events, or controlled by them. He is not subject to His creation. God knows people before hand and elects in accordance with that knowledge. Salvation is given unconditionally - by grace - and received conditionally - through faith. This is simply what the Scriptures say. 

Now let's get back to TPF!

Chapter 5 - Unconditional Election a Necessity

"Some terms and phrases are self-definitional... The theological phrase "unconditional election" would seem to indicate an election or choice made without conditions. And historically that is how the phrase has been understood."
I can almost sympathize with Dr. White here. Except that, he (apparently) intentionally misses that the "election" or the "choice" that Dr. Geisler explains is unconditional. God chooses this person, not conditional on anything, but in accordance with His foreknowledge. Rom 8:29-30.  God chooses and that is that. It will happen. This is what Dr. Geisler actually presents in CBF, as we saw in Part 7 - A Brief View of Chosen But Free.

White explains his frustration with Geisler:
"Earlier in the work Geisler concludes a section "Avoiding Extreme Calvinism's view of Unconditional Eletion" by stating, "In short, we are chosen but free--which is directly contrary to the conclusion of extreme Calvinists." So whatever else he means, one things is for certain: he does not mean what Reformed writers have meant down through the centuries." 
Well duh! He's arguing against the doctrine... perhaps Dr. White should be paying more attention to the  "whatever else he means" bit and get off the whole 'he doesn't agree with So-And-So!' wagon... I'm not sure how Dr. White misses Geisler's point he actually goes on to quote a very short and clear passage from CBF on the very subject.
"In summary, the error of extreme Calvinism regarding "unconditional election" is the failure to adhere to an election that is unconditional from the standpoint of the Giver (God), but has one condition for the receiver--faith. This, in turn, is based on the mistaken notion that faith is a gift only to the elect, who have no choice in receiving it." 
What could Dr. White say to this? He states:
"Election then is conditioned upon human faith: God gives it freely to all who will believe." 
He then goes on to quote Geisler the subject, and go back to how Geisler explains God's "determinatively knowing." Instead of discussing how God knows everything in Time, White picks at some complicated language by Geisler. Entirely missing the point White goes on to say:
"We saw that this argument is based upon false premises and is not valid. We likewise saw that it does not work for it becomes obvious that in Geisler's view man's free choice does become determinative. God's determination is passive while man's "free choice" is active." 
It is frustrating to cover the same things over and over, but if I must. God elects in accordance with His foreknowledge. God chooses those who will believe, to be born again. No one can change that choice. It was made by the Sovereign of the Universe before Time. God's choice is not held at bay by man's choice. Man is who he is, God chooses. Man's "free choice" is only "free" from man's point of view, in actuality God draws the Elect to the "choice" without violating His revealed nature.

White goes on to complain again:
"CBF is saying man does have a say in his own salvation, the work is synergistic, a matter of cooperation. Therefore, there can be no use of the term "unconditional election" in its consistent and historic meaning, for if the term means anything, it means that salvation is totally of God and not of man." 
While CBF does use the terms "synergistic" and "cooperation" with regard to how God accomplishes Salvation, CBF also makes it absolutely clear that God chooses, and that man actually does not have a say in his own salvation. As we saw clearly in Part 7. Dr. White's attempt to "rebut" a work called "Chosen But Free" really ought to start with at least understanding the title of the book, don't you think? God chooses in accordance with His foreknowledge and works all things to accomplish His purpose. The person responds freely to God's working, they are not regenerated so as to believe they are drawn. They are drawn by the One who has foreknown them, they are drawn perfectly, just as the one who rejects is rejected perfectly.

Dr. White goes on to ask of the Unconditional Election that CBF presents:
"Are there a specific elect people, chosen distinctly from the non-elect, chosen without any reference to their own free choices?" (emphasis added by me)
Did Dr. White read Chosen But Free or was he given a group of quotes from the book by his students, peers, friends and fans to respond to? It's a serious question. CBF presents that there is a specific elect people chosen distinctly from the non-elect, in accordance with God's foreknowledge. Exactly what the Apostle Paul also presents.  Once again Dr. White is seemingly more interested in fidelity to his favorite Reformed teachers than to the Scriptures. He continues:
"It will become painfully obvious as we examine CBF's attempts to present biblical arguments against the Reformed position that the answer to this question is "no." 
Why is Dr. White waisting chapter after chapter on this point? Dr. Geisler disagrees with your position, that's why he wrote CBF... that's just one of the most obvious points of CBF. What is the purpose behind Dr. White's continued surprise by this? How does this "rebut" CBF or "defend the Reformation"? It seems little more than a debate tactic of rousing your audience.

What rouses a Calvinist audience more than calling your opponent an Arminian? Not much... He states:
"Geisler holds to the Arminian view:"
And then quotes Geisler:
"Few teachings are more evident in the New Testament than that God loves all people, that Christ died for the sins of all human beings, and that God desires all persons to be saved." 
Well I'm not an Arminian, in fact I reject all 5 points of the 1610 Remonstrance, but I agree fully with what Geisler presents. I can think of few teachings of the NT which are more clear than these. This is not an "Arminian" view, while they may hold that view it does not make it an "Arminian view." It is a Biblical view, in my sincere opinion, but the truth is that no matter who holds it - it is simply a view. Calling it Arminian has no other purpose than to discredit it without having to show how it could be false using Scripture. Which, by the way, Dr. White does not even attempt to do. Instead he continues with talking about what Unconditional Election means in accordance with Reformed theology.

It is this paragraph which motivated me to write Part 7 A Brief View of Chosen But Free. So I will simply quote the passage and those interested in my interaction with it can read that.
"Given the confusion introduced by Dr. Geisler's use of the phrase "unconditional election" to actually refere to an unconditional decision to offer salvation that is conditioned, with reference to the actual accomplishment of the salvation of any individual, upon the free choices of men, it is necessary to establish the historic meaning of the phrase before we can respond to CBF's unique viewpoint." 
As we have seen Dr. Geisler doesn't introduce or cause confusion on the subject whatsoever. Dr. White then goes on to quote the following to explain the "historic" use of the phrase "unconditional election."
  • London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
  • Westminister Confession of Faith
  • James P. Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology
  • W.J. Seaton using the Baptist Confession
  • Duane Edward Spencer speaking of unconditional election
  • Lorrain Boettner on unconditional election
  • Edwin Palmer on unconditional election
  • C. Samuel Storms summary of unconditional election
I'll save you the quotes, and simply concede that each of these sources most likely would at least largely agree with Dr. White's position.

Dr. White cites Rom 9:16 to state that God's "election" is not based on anything man does, either good or evil. The election in this passage is unto honorable use by God, not unto Eternal Life. Find eternal life in this passage, it is only in the mind of the one who puts it there. Neither in context, prescription, nor implication is it to be found in this passage. This is about God using a different people in the world other than Israel.

He goes on to cite that 2Tim, Rom 9:11, Eph 1:4, and 1Peter 1:1-2 show that "God [doesn't] set his electing love upon any individual" because of works, holiness or obedience.  I would agree with his conclusion, if not his intent.  He continues
"Rather, election finds its sole and all-sufficient cause in the sovereign good pleasure and grace of God (Eph 1:9; Rom 9:11; 11;5; Matt. 11:25-26; 2Tim 1:9)" 
In a later chapter we'll see how he makes Eph 1:9 about election unto salvation, but for now I ask the reader to examine if this is what the Apostle wrote about. Or is it about the mystery of God's plan for the fullness of times? I've already briefly discussed Rom 9, which I will no doubt have to go into in detail at some point in this series. Rom 11:5 according to the election of Grace? This is explaining the reformed view of "Unconditional Election" it is speaking of how God is still saving those who believe, even if they are of Israel. The three chapters, 9-11, are about God's faithfulness to Israel. Further, instead of saying that God has unconditionally elected some to Heaven and the rest to Hell, God says that He is provoking Israel to jealousy by bringing salvation to the Gentiles! Why provoke to jealousy when You simply regenerate people to believe in You? It makes the passage nonsense. Matt 11:25 -26 Again this is about hiding and revealing - turning over to reprobate minds, and drawing - which matches Geisler's view much better than White's Reformed view of Unconditional Election which requires pre-faith regeneration. 2Tim 1:9 also fits completely with Rom 8:29-30, and Jn 6:40, and Jn 1:12, and Eph 2:8-9, and Rom 5:1-2... and so on.... it states that God called us not according to works but according to His purpose, which Jesus stated in Jn 6:40.

What's most shocking to this reader is White continues:
"Were election to be based upon what God foreknows that each individual will do with the gospel it would be an empty and altogether futile act." 
Rom 8:29-30 reads
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.
Is White's point that it is God's foreknowledge about how one will react to the Gospel, or that God chooses in accordance with His foreknowledge? As we've seen in other parts of this book, and in his question about CBF's doctrine of election - White is offended that God would do anything in accordance to His foreknowledge of man. God's decisions must be made in complete disregard to anything God knows about man, or He is not "sovereign."
"...Calvinism is monergistic when it comes to the doctrine of salvation. This simply means that when a person is saved it is due wholly to the working of one source of power, God. Arminianism is by necessity synergistic, in that it conceives of salvation as the joint or mutual effort of both God and man."
Above I noted how Geisler uses the phrase "synergistic" and "cooperative" to describe HOW God accomplishes the Salvation of sinners.  What I didn't note at the time was what God works synergistically with. Is it the effort of man? No. Does Geisler teach that God uses, or must have available to Him, the effort of man in order to save man? Not even in the slightest.

Geisler says that God works synergistically, that is not in violation of, the will of man. God controls the event, and even makes it happen but He does so through drawing which includes revelation, conviction and convincing. He does not change the man's will, He reveals truth to the man, convinces and convicts the man. The man adds nothing. His faith is merely a reaction to the working of God. See more in Well Done Abram?

While the largest part of this chapter is filled with quotations and explanations of the teachings of men, White spends exactly ONE PARAGRAPH on the verses I discussed above. He doesn't offer any exegetical discussion of them, but merely references them as support for his views. He then goes back to quoting teachers for a few more pages and states:
"What do all of these citations have in common? They all define unconditional election as being without conditions!"
Well there you have it then... but he's not finished yet! He then quotes Calvin.
"We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God's grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others. (Institutes III:21:1)."
Would White say that God gives to some indiscriminately (without regard to anything other than Himself), to not to others (also indiscriminately)? How is this supposed to be comforting?

White closes the chapter with:
"The Reformed position on election is, first and foremost, a biblical one. Yes, it flows from the sovereignty of God and the deadness of man in sin; however, it is just as clearly and inarguably stated in Scripture"
I am at a loss then why this chapter is so filled with the teachings of men while it scarcely mentions the Scriptures. 

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