Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 12 - Chapter 7

So I've made it all the way to Chapter 7. I have to admit that during the first few articles I had it in mind that I was done with the book already. Two things kept me going. As frustrating as the book was it was not convincing and I didn't want readers to think I was ducking some hard argument. More importantly though, a good close Brother in the Lord is investigating Calvinism openly and honestly and I didn't want to let him down. So here we are in Part 12, and all the way to Chapter 7 of my reaction to and interaction with Dr. James R. White's The Potter's Freedom(TPF), which he intends as a defense of the Reformation (or his view of it anyway) and "the" rebuttal of Dr. Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free(CBF).

I've been going into great detail, but I truly hope that the readers of this series either have, or will purchase both books. I wouldn't say that TPF is a great book, but it is seen as great by those who agree with it. So for that reason I think it is important to know what it says, and not just from a blog series. Likewise, I wouldn't say that CBF is the best written rebuttal of Calvinism. It is actually not a rebuttal of Calvinism at all. Much to Dr. White's frustration Geisler doesn't interact with many of his Reformed heros. What CBF is good for, is explaining how one could be both Elected, or "chosen" and yet still be "free." Hense the title of the book is "Chosen But Free" and not a long winded description of the various possible reasons for buying or writing it.  I recommend reading both of these books because this is the only way to truly know where each of these men stand.

Please see the introduction to this series to find out what it is, and what it isn't. While you're at it, you'll also find a handy table of contents with links to each of the articles posted (so far) in this series.

Last time we looked at the 6th chapter of TPF and I gave a verse by verse reading of John 6 explained primarily from John 6 and supported by a couple of other passages from the book of John in context. This time we're going to look at how Dr. White says that "Jesus teaches extreme Calvinism" in John 6.

Here we go!

Chapter 7 - Jesus Teaches "Extreme Calvinism"
"If believing that man is "so dead" in sin that he is incapable of coming to Christ on his own is "extreme Calvinism," then the Lord Jesus beat Calvin to the punch by 1500 years with His preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum recorded in John 6." 
After this opening statement White makes the following claims about John 6:
Jesus teaches that:
  • God is sovereign and acts independently of the "free choices" of men. 
  • That man is incapable of saving faith outside of the enablement *by which White means pre-faith regeneration* of the Father.
  • Limits this drawing *by which White means pre-faith regeneration* to the same individuals given by the Father to the Son. 
  • Irresistible Grace on the Elect (not on the "willing"). 
White makes these claims, but as we saw last time John 6 says nothing of the kind. At least not without putting on your Calvinism-Hermeneutics Glasses*TM?*
"John 6:37-45 is the clearest exposition of what CBF calls "extreme Calvinism" in the Bible."
If that's the clearest exposition of White's Calvinism in the Bible, then Part 11 of this series demonstrates that not only is White's Calvinism not "profoundly biblical" as he is so fond of saying it is, it is not biblical at all. White continues:
"And yet, CBF ignores the vast majority of the passage... There is a good reason why CBF stumbles at this point: there is no meaningful non-Reformed exegesis of the passage available."
Really? I'm the very first non-Reformed person to do a "meaningful" exegesis on the passage? I bet you the reader feel overwhelmed at your privilege to find the very first ever meaningful exegesis of John 6 by a non-Reformed Believer.  Dr. White is definitely over the top at times.
"As numerous as the attempts of Arminian exegetes to find some way around the testimony of these verse has been, not even a plausible solution has been offered that does not require the complete dismantling of the text, redefinition of words, or the insertion of utterly foreign concepts." 
I think Dr. White is confused. It is he who changes what passages are about to being about Calvinism, who redefines words like "all" into "all kinds of men" and inserts utterly foreign Calvinistic concepts into passages like John 3:16. If you don't know what examples I'm citing, please read this long series from the start. Sorry.. there's no way to paraphrase. Of course I could just quote what Dr. White thinks is an excellent "exegesis" of John 3:16 and be done with it. Find a full explanation in Part 3.
"God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave His Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved."
In this example we see, what I would call a "complete dismantling of the Text." The word "kosmos" or "world" has been redefined to mean "his elect throughout the world" and the concept of Calvinism, a concept "utterly foreign" to the passage, into it. Pot, meet Kettle once again.

In this chapter once again Dr. White chooses to argue against his presentation of Arminianism instead of Dr. Geisler. The only reason I can fathom for him to do this, but not necessarily the only reason possible or even the actual reason Dr. White choose this, is that he actually read some of CBF and realizes that it accurately presents the sovereignty of God, and His election of people to Salvation.

With the exception of arguing against the Arminian doctrine that a person can loose their salvation there is really nothing new here about John 6. Nothing that overturns or challenges what I have previously written about John 6. So, I will leave my previous explanation of the Text stand in Part 11 and I'm not going to interact with his treatment of this chapter. If someone finds some argument of his challenging then please let me know in the comments. I just don't want to duplicate previous work.

Now however, is a good time to discuss a presupposition that Dr. White brings to his "exegesis" of the Text. He writes:
"They are coming to Christ. This is a personal relationship, personal faith, and, given that the ones who come are described throughout the passage by the present tense participle, it is not just a coming that happens once. This is an on-going faith, an on-going looking to Christ as the source of spiritual life. The men to whom the Lord was speaking had "come" to Him for a season: they would soon walk away and follow Him no more. The true believer is coming to Christ, always.This is the nature of saving faith. 
"And the one who comes to Me I will never cast out." The true believer, the one "coming" to the Son, has this promise of the Lord: using the strongest form of denial possible.... He promises that there is no possibility whatsoever that any one who is coming to Him in true faith could ever find Him unwilling to save.... This promise is to those ho are given by the Father to the Son and to no one else... but there are surely those who, like many in that audience in Capernaum, are willing to follow for a while, willing to believe for a season. This promise is not theirs. 
Since Christ is able to save perfectly (He is not dependant upon man's will, man's cooperation), His promise means the elect cannot ever be lost... If it were, in fact, a synergistic relationship, there could never be any ground for absolute confidence and security." 
Now that is a lot to ingest. I was going to break it up and comment on each section, but I wanted to preserve his argument. Many find this argument very strong. Here read it this way:

  1. Present Tense = on going.
  2. Only those who have an on going "present tense" faith (including following apparently) have really believed in the Lord.
  3. People can be willing to follow & believe for a while, for a season, but they will eventually leave. 
  4. If there was any cooperation the part of the Believer then there could be no assurance because it wasn't secured in Christ alone. 
Convincing right?

1. Present Tense = on going. 
The players passing the ball are throwing a ball toward the person they intend to catch it. 
Are these players always and forever passing the ball? Or is it talking about something when it is happening? That's a cool example, but here's an actual definition of the Greek Present Tense:
The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense.Some phrases which might be rendered as past tense in English will often occur in the present tense in Greek. 
These are termed "historical presents," and such occurrences dramatize the event described as if the reader were there watching the event occur. Some English translations render such historical presents in the English past tense, while others permit the tense to remain in the present.
This redefinition of the Present Tense in Greek is a vital component of Lordship Salvation theology.

2. Only those who have an on-going "present tense" faith (including following apparently) have really believed in the Lord.

1Jn 5:13
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
I guess that's all we really need to say about that isn't it.... well OK. Those who "believe" is present tense. Actually it is Present Active Participle. Which can mean "believed" or "are believing", an action which has or is actually occurring. Of note the action is "active" in that the person believing is the one who is believing - it's not a gift.  The second believe is slightly different. It is Present Active Subjunctive and what that means is it is an action which MAY OR MAY NOT happen. Thus John is writing to "true believers" (present tense faith....) that they may CONTINUE to believe. Probably a a more litteral translation than "continue to" would be that "you will" believe. The context of the passage was taken into account when "continue" was chosen. It conveys the thought that John was presenting, if not the actual words he used. Sorry Dr. White but your doctrine is not biblical.

3. People can be willing to follow & believe for a while, for a season, but they will eventually leave.

Really? I thought the unregenerate suffered from Total Inability to believe, to be willing, to follow... I thought that Jesus said they were UNABLE to do so? Isn't it amazing how fast parts of Calvinism are just dropped when they don't fit with the current theological point being made.
4. If there was any cooperation the part of the Believer then there could be no assurance because it wasn't secured in Christ alone.

OK this is too sad to laugh at. Not only does Dr. Geisler rip this appart in CBF, but other than those who think they can loose their salvation at any moment NO ONE has less assurance than the Calvinist. Did you catch what the Dr. wrote? People can follow for a while. Are you following? Are you truly saved? How do you know? Calvinists, especially of the Lordship Salvation flavour are famous for their "tests" of Salvation. Are you really saved? I haven't been able to find Dr. White's teaching on assurance but I did a series of articles called Testing the Test of John MacArthur's Lordship Salvation & Calvinism based assurance teaching. I also did an in depth examination of Pastor Millar of Harvest Bible Chapel London, Ontario's teaching about how to know if you're really saved called 'BUT' Theology. Shockingly, the Cross was not even mentioned but turning to serve "a Living God" was.

The fact is no one is more fearful about their salvation than someone who thinks that God doesn't save all who believe in His Son, but only those who "really" believe because their faith has been given to them through regeneration. Such people must constantly take tests to see if they are "really" saved.

Frankly, I'll never doubt that my salvation is secured by the payment made for me at the Cross. Why? Because God IS faithful to save all who believe. It doesn't matter that I was willing to believe. I am baptized into Christ; His death, burial and resurrection.

Dr. White would rather play word games and build straw-man arguments but the fact is the Scriptures declare security. Not because I "really" believed and continue to believe and follow and whatever else the Lordship Salvation people say "truly saved people really do"... but because Christ died for me, and it was accepted by the Father on my behalf. Done. Sealed. 'nuff said.

Dr. White closes the chapter with:
"CBF fails completely to provide an answer to this glorious passage that teaches sovereign grace with grand simplicity. And given the misuse of other passages already cited (Matt 23:37, 1Tim 2:4, Peter 3:9), it can truly be said that CBF has no exegetical basis upon which to stand."
Perhaps Dr. White should be less interested in providing "an answer to" passages in the Bible and more concerned with letting them provide the answer to him.

This is the shortest instalment in the series so far, but that is only because I chose not to interact with arguments that I have already dealt with. How does Chapter 7 of TPF read to me? More of the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Kev,

I have one comment to make that may be a bit off topic but you may be interested anyway. When you quoted Dr. White as saying "the true believer is coming to Christ, always" it rang a bell with me. I have been reading an online book dealing with what the author calls "gospel sanctification" which is a growing movement in reformed circles. The ramifications of "gospel sanctification" are serious and the book goes into a lot of detail. I would like to provide you with a quote.

===== Begin Quote =====

Proponents of the gospel-driven life believe there is no distinction between justification and sanctification, both are the gospel (since justification regards the gospel). In addition, they believe a synergistic approach to sanctification causes the “loss of both” in the person’s life (All quotations are cited in following essays). In other words, without the ongoing application of the gospel in the sanctification process, there is no justification either, so they say.

Though they will not say it publicly for fear of losing credibility while spoon feeding this Quietist doctrine to the church, they liken the majority of evangelical leaders to the Pharisees (who in fact were not legalist, but “lawless”). Their rhetoric is intimidating; to disagree with them is to oppose the gospel. Who would dare oppose a doctrine with the word “gospel” included? Many of its advocates truly believe God is using them to save His church from the evil clutches of a synergistic dark age.

Another Gospel
by Paul Dohse
pp 13-14

===== End Quote =====