Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 13 - Chapter 8

Welcome again to this series in which I interact and respond to 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). as a non-Calvinist Non-Arminian.  I took some time away from White's book this last week in order to clear my head. It's been nice! However, we need to get cracking because we're right about half way through!

If you're just jumping in here please go back to The Introduction. Each of the articles are very long and so I won't have space to restate previous information. So, if you think I'm making a bold unsupported claim and you haven't read from the beginning, don't blame me! :) 

These articles are long enough without long introductions being added to them, so let's get at it!

Chapter 8 - Unconditional Election 

"We have already lamented the fact that CBF is long on assertions, but very short on exegesis." 
I'm starting my response with a giggle for a great friend: Pot, meet Kettle. Yes, as always Dr. White's complaints about CBF would be better made in response to his own work. There are some attempts at exegesis in TPF, but they are thus far few and far between, and to say they are exegetical would be to ignore how exegesis works. They are attempts however, and more importantly they are consistent with Calvinism's hermeneutic which a local preacher identified for me this week past. Dr. White and I have an entirely different definition of exegesis but at least he is attempting to be exegetical using his theology trumping hermeneutic. 

As I've been reviewing this chapter of TPF I've been wondering who or what Dr. White is arguing against. It's apparent that either Dr. White or some member or associate at least has actually read CBF, but it is just as apparent that he has chosen to attempt to rebut arguments that are not made in CBF. Dr. White has suggested that Dr. Geisler got his students to write an appendix to the latest revision of CBF which is a response to TPF. Based on my reading of TPF, it seems that someone read CBF and provided quotes to insert among Dr. White's usual arguments. I've watched a few videos of Dr. White and they all sound exactly like TPF no matter who he is arguing against.

Now I'm not playing the classic Calvinist roll of crying "Misrepresentation!" and "Straw-man!" and then moving on as though the claim has been rebutted. I've already demonstrated that Dr. White has horribly misrepresented CBF by going through two chapters of the book in
Part 7 A Brief View of Chosen But Free. Before I comment on the rest of Dr. White's 8th chapter we need to take another look at Chosen But Free. The understanding of God's Election of Believers is the primary issue being addressed in CBF. As we noted in Part 7, the primary question of the book is: How can we both chosen and free?

It seems that Dr. White would like his readers to forget the title of Dr. Geisler's book includes the word "chosen" in it. Dr. Geisler, as we saw in Part 7, uses a multitude of Scripture to build his defense of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. After that work is done Dr. Geisler offers a scenario to help the reader see how it all works more easily. Here is an extended quotation, of which Dr. White quotes merely the first two sentences. 

CBF Discussion of Romans 8:28 starting on Page 69 (according to my Kindle)

     "That these and like texts show the unconditional nature of election from God's point of view is not challenged. But the question is not whether election is unconditional from the vantage point of the Giver but whether there are any conditions for the receiver     This and other Scriptures reveal that election is related to foreknowledge. Romans 8:29, the very next verse, says "Those God foreknew He also predestined." And 1Peter 1:2 proclaims that the elect "have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." This affirms that God is the unconditional source of the election, and that the election is done with full foreknowledge of all things. But we have demonstrated that the elect will freely choose to believe. Election is not based on or dependent on foreknowldege. Rather it is merely in accord with it (see chapter 3).      An illustration is in order. Suppose a young man (whom we will call Jim) is contemplating marriage, and knows two young ladies (whom we will call Joan and Betty), either of whom would make a good wife for him. As a Christian, he has three basic choices: (1) to propose to neither of them; (2) to propose to Joan; or (3) to propose to Betty. Bear in mind that the young man is under no compulsion. There is nothing outside his own will that places demands on him to choose any one of the three options (or any other one).      Suppose further that the young man happens to know that if he proposes to Joan she will say yes and if he proposes to Betty she will say no. Suppose then, in accordance with this foreknowledge of how she will freely respond, that Jim chooses to propose to Joan. Suppose even that he knew she would be reluctant at first but with persistent and loving persuasion she would eventually--freely--accept his offer. The decision on his part was entirely free, uncoerced, and not based on anything outside himself. But it was also a decision that was with full knowledge of the response and which respected the free choice of the person to whom he decided to propose. This is analogous to what the moderate Calvinists believe about God's unconditional election." 
When I read CBF I found this illustrative overview of the concept he had explained to be most compelling and I still do. This illustration isn't what convinced me, it is the working through the Scriptures that lead up to this that did. This illustration however allowed me to see it all come together. As I have noted briefly here and there in this series of articles Geisler makes a number of mistakes in CBF. It is hard for me to look past these and still find his argument to be true. However, if we restrict our conversation to the passages of Scripture that speak about Election unto Salvation, and the the conditions on the sinner to become saved Geisler's view of Election is inescapable. It is my position that only extra-biblical ideas derail Geisler's view. In fact, in the debate between White and Geisler, only Geisler can read his view directly from the Scriptures without redefining the words. 

Back to TPF we find White complaining that CBF has a "response" to Eph 1 that is merely 8 sentences long, whereas Reformed Theologians have volumes written about the chapter.  He brings up Geisler's note about Rom 9:16 (We'll get into Romans 9 in the next article of this series) where Geisler states that just about everyone believe that God is the one who initiated salvation, even before the world began. White jumps all over this, and makes out as though Geisler's argument in CBF is that God merely initiates salvation. As has been demonstrated over and over this is not the argument of CBF and a book seeking to rebut CBF ought to fixate on arguments that are actually in CBF.

White quotes Geisler discussing Eph 1:4 with 8 sentences that discuss how the giving of Salvation is unconditional but the reception of salvation is conditioned on faith. In these 8 sentences Geisler quotes(not just references) Rom 5:1, Acts 16:31, and Heb 11:6 (strangely) in support of his view. If I were writing CBF I would note that the Bible conditions the reception of Eternal Life on faith (alone) some 150 times. White complains:

"We can hardly be charged with exaggeration when we say that a work that seeks to provide reasons to "avoid" the historic Reformed position would have to provide some kind of meaningful interaction with such a central passage as this.To dismiss this passage of Scripture with the argument, "Well sure God chose to save freely, but man still has to believe to be saved" is to completely miss the heart and soul of the position being attacked." 
Where does White get the idea that CBF seeks to provide reasons to avoid the historic Reformed position? The stated purpose of the book is to provide understanding of how Believers can be both chosen and free. What's more, while Dr. White is saying that Dr. Geisler dismisses this passage (strangely while responding to his discussion of the very same passage...) Dr. White completely ducks Geisler's argument, the 3 quoted verses and by extension the 150 passages that condition the reception of Eternal Life on faith. Is this a rebuttal or a distraction? Why would Dr. White be surprised by Dr. Geisler not wishing to debate him. 
Dr. White skips the discussion at hand and returns to attacking Arminianism, not CBF, then makes this statement:

"There is no real difference between saying God elects on the basis of foreknowledge or in accordance with it if, in the final analysis, it is the free choice of man, not the free choice of God that determines who the elect are! CBF clearly says that God elects based upon His knowledge that those so elected "could be persuaded to freely accept His grace." The final, ultimate deciding factor in election is the free acceptance of the human being. This is glaringly obvious. And it is fully Arminian." 

What is glaringly obvious is that White doesn't expect his readers to bother reading CBF. He continues to complain saying:
"...if the decree of "election" is not specific and based solely upon the will of God, it must become a decree to save based upon what man does in time, nothing else. ...That is, it becomes impersonal. It becomes a decree to save those who fulfill certain obligations (no matter how many or how few those conditions might be), not a decree to save anyone in particular."
First, it is only White who is saying that Geisler says that it is man who determines who the elect are. As demonstrated in Part 7 and above in the illustrative scenario, Geisler teaches that God chooses. Secondly, where is this "decree" that Dr. White discusses? Where is this official documented order given by the Sovereign? Where is the Scripture that says anything different than what Geisler discusses? If this were a rebuttal of CBF, and if the Scriptures actually said something other than what Geisler suggests then Dr. White could simply quote the Text and let is speak for itself. Dr. White is fond of saying that the Text can speak for itself, but not so fond it seems of letting it do so.

As to the issue of specificity Dr. White quotes Dr. Geisler:

"Why, then, does one person go to heaven and another not? Because God willed that all who receive His grace will be saved and that all who reject it will be lost. And since God knew infallibly just who this would be, both the elect and non-elect were determined from all eternity. And this determination was not based on anything in man, including their free choice. Rather, it was determined on God's choice to save all who would accept his unconditional grace." 
Here's the part immediately preceding this that White does not quote:
     "If Salvation is conditioned wholly on God's grace and not on man's will, then how can man's free choice play any part in his salvation? The answer to this question is found in an important distinction between two sense of the word "condition." There are no conditions for God's giving of salvation; it is wholly of grace. But there is one (and only one) condition for receiving this gift--true saving faith.     There is absolutely nothing in man that is the basis for God saving him. But there was something in God (love) that is the basis for man's salvation. It was not because of any merit in man but only because of grace in God that salvation was initiated toward man. Man does not initiate salvation (Rom 3:11) and he cannot attain it (Rom 4:5). But he can and must receive it (John 1:12). Salvation is an unconditional act of God's election. Man's faith is not a condition for God giving salvation, but it is for man receiving it. Nonetheless, the act of faith (free choice) by which man receives salvation is not meritorious. It is the Giver who ges credit for the gift, not the receiver."
I've discussed the fact that Paul explicitly states that faith is not meritorious and that in fact in Rom 4:16 he says that salvation HAD to be accessed by faith alone in order for it to be given by grace. For more on this check out Well Done Abram? (note: Dr. Geisler is not building a doctrine that God only initiates salvation. Please don't read Dr. White's argument into CBF.)

White complains about Geisler being carefully confusing... and says:
"Nowhere in this quote, or in CBF, will you find the elect as individuals being chosen by God solely upon the basis of His will."
Now I would say this is a carefully crafted statement in itself. I will remind the reader of what I quoted from CBF above "The decision on his part was entirely free, uncoerced, and not based on anything outside himself." Also check the section that White did not quote again. Geisler also adds note 77 adding to his comment of John 15:16 saying:
"It is clear of course, that God chose us before we chose to accept Him. And our decision to accept His offer of salvation is not the basis for His choice of us. We did not choose Him--either first or as the basis of His choice of us. We merely responded to His gracious offer of salvation based solely on His unconditional grace. But we do have a choice in receiving this unconditional gift of salvation for "All who received Him, to those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God.(John 1:12)"
Yet White continues:
"God wills to save those who believe, and who believes is not the result of the decree but of the "free choices" of men. Again, this is pure Arminianism." 
There is so much wrong with these two sentences that I could write a whole article on just them. Where is "the decree"? Geisler says over and over and over again that the free choices of men don't determine their salvation. He states it explicitly, shows it from the Scripture, gives a scenario to help us understand. What more does he have to do to get Dr. White to understand? Perhaps what White is arguing against is Arminianism. Yet how does calling CBF "pure Arminianism" rebut CBF?  Simply calling something Arminianism doesn't prove it is wrong.

If you're wondering why this bothers me so much consider how many people have heaped praise on Dr. White for this book. Isn't this praise beginning to seem absolutely absurd? If this were some obscure book by someone without influence, and whom wasn't held up as a defender of the faith then it would be laughable. However, the man has a platform and that makes his influence dangerous if he is not able to actually interact with opposition faithfully. Calvinists may be upset with my reaction to TPF, but they cannot honestly suggest I have misrepresented it.

Dr. White then quotes Eph 1:3-11. He states several things about the passage, but doesn't explain why his quotation doesn't include the last half of the last sentence, verse 12, and the completion of the teaching verses 13 & 14. He says that God acts and Believers are the recipients. As an aside; one wonders why Paul calls Believers "Believers" instead of recipients if they don't actually "believe" but are given their faith as a gift. White then writes:
"Throughout this passage we will see the phrase "in Christ" or "in Him" repeated over and over again, all to emphasize the uniqueness of the Christian gospel, where God saves men in Christ and in no other way."
This is an interesting thing for White to conclude from the passage. On one hand, I could neither argue with the fact that the Christian Gospel is unique, nor that God saves men in Christ only. Yet what I challenge is White's assertion that these statements are included in this passage "all to emphasize the uniqueness of the Christian gospel." Where does he get this idea from? He doesn't explain, and I cannot find the concept addressed, implied, concluded, or required by Paul in this passage. This is vitally important for the reader to catch. Instead of getting his view on the usage of these words from the Text, he's inserting his view into it.

White continues noting that election here is God's choice and explains that the rest of the passage gives us three vital pieces of information: the object of the choice, the sphere of the choice and the time frame of the choice.  He says that the first person plural pronoun "us" is the object of the choice and continues:
"If certain theories were correct we might expect something like "to save" so that the passage would simply be "God chose to save, or make salvation possible, before the foundation of the world." But instead Paul provides a personal direct object, making the choice personal and distinct. He chose "us" not a nameless, faceless class or group but "us." 
I thought the whole - if the author wanted to say that he could have written that - argument was a "weak argument" according to Dr. White. Perhaps it's only weak when levelled against Calvinism. :) However, since the he used it here I will return the favour. Dr. White keeps saying that Election is about INDIVIDUALS being specifically chosen to believe, while other specific individuals are not. While I think there is truth to this belief, Dr. White forces it into the Text where it is not found, like for instance this passage. If God were talking about specific individuals then the object of the choice would not be "us" it would be "each of us." What White is arguing against is the doctrine of Corporate Election, yet for what reason one cannot be sure. Dr. Geisler isn't arguing for the doctrine of Corporate Election. Dr. Geiler's work explains Election as a personal thing, each individual is Elected to Eternal Life. 

He moves on...

"This choice, by necessity, must take place in Christ. Christ is not the one here chosen, but thoes who are chosen are chosen in Christ. There is no election outside of union with Christ." 
Except that God elected, or chose, Judas Iscariot Jn 6:70 who was not in Christ for example... See the word election in the verse here. Now I could suppose that Dr. White is suggesting that there is no salvation outside of union with Christ, but that's not what he wrote.

He then goes on to talk about how Christianity is neither pluralistic nor syncretistic. I knew what pluralistic meant, having more than one God, but syncretistic is new to me. Once again, who or what exactly is Dr. White arguing against? Nevertheless he continues with this interesting point:

"But this choice is timeless. It is made "before the foundation of the world," before creation itself. The choice is wholly divine and wholly based upon the will of God for at the time of the election of us in Christ nothing else but God existed. Election is wholly of Him."
Did God have no foreknowledge of what was going to happen in History inside of His creation before He created it? Was He so in the dark that He had to make a decision based on nothing but Himself? This is not what the Scriptures say. White doesn't leave this argument here either. He returns to how man makes choices in Time and that God made His election prior to Time, and this is the reason His election could not be in accordance with God's foreknowledge of man. 

The Scripture says that God knew, and knows all. That He elected in accordance with His foreknowledge. Frankly, Paul & Geisler are completely in agreement for Geisler merely quotes Paul. Further this business about God electing based on His will might make us wonder what the will of God with regard to Salvation actually is. We need to go to ground the Calvinist claims to find this stated by the Lord Himself. All whom the Father have given Him He should loose none of us, and that all who believe shall be given Eternal Life and be raised up on the last day. Jn 6:39-40 The will of the Father is Eternal Security and the giving of Eternal Life to all who believe. If you missed my discussion of John 6 please go back and read Part 11 where I go verse by verse through the chapter.

White continues:
"But to what were Christians predestined? Adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself." God predestined not simply a plan but an end, just as we saw in verse 4. Those who are chosen in eternity are predestined to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself... And since adoption is always personal (God does not adopt plans nor nameless, faceless masses of humans, but persons), this is saying exactly what the Baptist Confession of Faith asserted in the previous chapter: personal, specific election of the people of God."
Here's the thing though. What were we predestined to? Adoption. Not to belief. What is being born into the family conditioned on? Faith. Who have been predestined to to adoption? Those who believe. As to the nonsense about adoption always being personal... where did this come from? Is this an exegetical handling of the Text?

Next we find the reason for the abruptly cut off quotation of Paul in mid sentence at Eph 1:11.

"It should be noted that at this point all of the verbs in the passage have had God as their subject. Men have not added an iota to the discussion outside of being adopted into the family of God... He is not controlled by the whims and will of creatures He has yet to bring into existence."
Who said that God is controlled by the whims and will of creatures? Does Dr. White expect to be taken seriously when he writes like this? Here's the whole sentence that Dr. White cut in the middle. 

Eph 1:11-12

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
See Dr. White is "correct" in saying that "at this point all of the verbs in the passage have had God as their subject." But does this even have any importance at all, given that in order to be able to make such a statement Dr. White had to cut the Apostle off mid sentence?

See the fact that God does acts and that they are not done by men IS important. It does carry meaning. However, abusing the Text to make it appear to mean something it doesn't is a practice that I cannot condone. It doesn't get any better for Dr. White if we finish quoting the Apostle to the end of his thought.

Eph 1:13-14

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Here we find that the Reformed Theology of pre-faith regeneration is (again) refuted in the Text by a simple reading. Not to mention, once again we see that salvation is conditioned on Faith, and specifically faith that happens prior to someone being given the Holy Spirit.

Dr. White continues:

"What is the basis of God's act of predestination? It is "according to the kind intention of His will." Each word is important. It is His will, not our will.... The basis of this specific decree is God's will. No mention is found of man's will." 
What specific "decree"? Who said predestination was based on man's will? I'm including some of these types of quotes repeatedly because this really is the thrust of the book. It doesn't matter that it's completely bunk, he has chosen to argue against the idea that salvation is based on man's will... He continues now into something philosophical, which I am going to challenge philosophically.
"We need to remember that first and foremost God's action of saving man is an act of Grace. His will is not some dark and foreboding thing." 
Tell that to the people who are predestined to Hell. He continues:
"The emphasis in Scripture is always on the wonder that God would save at all, never upon the idea that God chooses not to save a particular individual, leaving them to perfect justice. It is the "kind intention" of His will that lies at the base of His action of choosing a people in Christ."
Always? Where does the Scripture emphasize wonder that God would save at all? Where? If God is Almighty, limitless in power, then He is able to save every individual. By definition then, if He chooses only some out of the whole to be saved He is also choosing the remainder to be damned. He is not merely leaving people to face justice, He is violating justice.

Suppose an infinitely rich court Judge took up the practice of paying the fines for some criminals but not others. Calling them not just "not guilty" but "justified" based on payment that the Judge himself had made to the court. Would it be just of him? Of course it would not be just! It would be a travesty of justice! What worse thing would the criminal who must suffer in jail have done than the one who was set free? Nothing! Is this grace? It may appear to be grace to the one who gets set free, but it is not grace. It is a violation of justice. Some form of favoritism, even if how the choice is made is not revealed. How long do you suppose a judge who randomly sets criminals free would stay on the bench? If you were convicted by him and sent to jail would you not protest? "The last guilty man through here you set free! Yet I am sentenced to jail!" You would yell much worse I am sure. Your lawyer would have a field day with the judge.

In order for grace to be grace it has to be selflessly loving. When I'm graceful it isn't about me, or for me. God cannot be "graceful" unless He is always graceful. A child isn't "obedient" if he only disobeys once a week. He's mostly obedient. Is God "mostly graceful"?

White moves on to the ever present bunk Calvinist argument about man getting praise if he believes... and says something interesting while he's at it.

"Is God's grace to be praised because we can be saved or because we are saved?"
It's a tiresome question because it is just going back over all the stuff we've already covered but here's a question. Who said we should praise God's grace? Are we not to praise God only? How would you accurately answer this specific question from the Scripture? Go ahead give it a try.

He finishes talking about Eph 1 with:

"It is clear, then, why Reformed believers understand the Bible to teach God's eternal decree of unconditional election." 
Not to me it isn't. I get that they do... believe me I get that they do. Why though? Where is this decree? Where does Scripture say that it works the way Reformed Theologians say it does?

I suppose I should go through Eph 1:3-6. Here it is:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
The Pedestrian Christian blog goes into detail on the passage, so I'm going to keep it short and simple here. We are chose us in Christ, the choice happened in Christ, not that we were chosen to be in Christ. We, the "us who first believed" and "you also who believed after hearing the Gospel in Verse 12-13, are predestined to adoption as sons. It is to those who believe that God gives the right to be sons. John 1:12-13. We are not predestinated to belief, and our adoption as sons is conditioned on belief. This is why the predestination must be in accordance with God's foreknowledge 1Pet 1:2. Neither Dr. Geisler or myself have any issue at all with the fact that God chose, or Elected, us in Eternity Past. What CBF and I argue is that this choice was made in accordance with God's foreknowledge, like Peter and Paul  teach. Not blindly like Dr. White teaches, having been made before God created man so man's actions cannot have anything to do with it...

See Eph 1:3-14 isn't explaining why people who do. It's explaining why God saves those who do. Because it is the "kind intention" of the Father that all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. And those who will believe have been predestined to enjoy that Salvation since Eternity Past. There is a physical and technical reason for why it works this way. God is in Eternity. He's not waiting for people to get saved. No matter when in History you step out of Time, you enter Eternity in the exact same spot. Eternity isn't lots of Time it is the absence of Time. No matter when you leave Time to enter Eternity, there you are. You'll be there the same instant your Great Great Great Grand Father is.

Dr. White moves on to respond to what he calls "some" and I would call "very few of the" verses cited in CBF. 

With regard to John 1:12-13 he writes:
"In the midst of introducing the Word, John cannot help but speak of the Word in redemption." 
Dr. White seems to think that the Scriptures are authored by men in an emotional frenzy. Several times he explains why a particular penman of Scripture wrote particular passages, or how they wrote them because of some desire they had. It seems to me that Jude shows that the penmen of Scripture didn't write in accordance with their desires but in accordance with the direction of the Holy Spirit. He continues though, and makes an astonishing admission.
"It is to these, and these alone, that the right to become children of God is given. Specifically, those who believe in His name."
This is, however, completely in opposition to what Dr. White has been arguing all along. His explanation of pre-faith regeneration is that the right, ability, inkling, desire, and so on, to believe in His name is given only to those who have already been born again (regenerated) into God's family.  This is MOST CERTAINLY Dr. Geisler's point when citing this verse in CBF, yet instead of addressing the actual point of CBF Dr. White decides to argue an entirely different topic. This is the pattern of TPF, I ought not be surprised any more but somehow I still am. 

NOTE: Because I've suddenly and inexplicably lost all my TPF notes in my Kindle copy of TPF the rest of this article is going to be much less detailed.

Writing of the passage the Apostle penned:

"He speaks of the "birth" of believers and specifically denies certain assertions about their birth. They were not born of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man.... Divine birth can have only one origin: God. It is not a matter of human will, human decision."
Then, as if to ensure his readers don't pick up on the misdirection, Dr. White quotes Calvin at length on the same subject, and coming to the conclusion that John is saying that the unsaved cannot believe unless he is first regenerated. Not content to appeal only to Calvin, Dr. White then cites Spurgeon with the accolade:
"Spurgeon, as only he could, put the passage in a context that speaks volumes:"
I don't mean to cast stones at the so called "The Prince of Preachers" but I think I'll take the context of the Text over the context it is preached in any day.

Then Dr. White writes something plainly astounding to me! 

"Dr. Geisler properly understands, and rejects, the reformed view of the passage." 
I feel like calling a friend! :) Unfortunately he doesn't exactly portray Dr. Geisler's view properly. Dr. Geisler agrees with plain reading of the Text. That the New Birth is sourced by God, by His will, and given to those who believe. Not as a result of their will, but as a result of the will of God who has willed to save all those who believe. Jn 6:40.

I could go on with White's argument, but read Jn 1:12-13 your self. Belief was not given to those who had been born according to the will of God, but those who believe were born by the will of God. These people didn't will to save themselves, they were not saved because of their lineage, they were not saved because of their performance - they were born into the family of God because God the Father has willed to save all those who believe in His Son.

Dr. White then moves on to Acts 13:46-48 writing:

"This passage is not cited in CBF as one that is used by "extreme Calvinists" and hence requires a response. Instead, it is listed as a passage that allegedly shows "Salvation: both ordained to it and persuaded into it." This idea is based upon citing Acts 13:48 and then noting that just a few verses later (Acts 14:1) the disciples spoke "in such a manner" that large people believed." Note: "that large people believed" is a direct quote from TPF. "We would hope that it is not being suggested that the quality of the apostles' speech is being credited with the faith  of the multitude: men are not converted by words of wisdom or the persuasive abilities of any man." 
One may well ask "Who is this "we" you speak of Dr. White?" but I'll leave that for now. If one were to listen to Dr. White alone one might well forget that Dr. Geisler's book is entitled "Chosen But Free" for a reason. This reader is not inclined to forget that Dr. Geisler believes God chooses, or elects, from Eternity past and has predestined all those who will believe to Eternal Life. This is what the passage states. It states they were ordained to Eternal Life, not to belief. It doesn't say they were regenerated so they could and would believe - of course there is not a single passage in all of Scripture that says, suggests or requires any such thing so that's no surprise. 

Further, I've done a search in CBF and have not found "in such manner" in it. We do find similar language in Dr. Luke's book we call Acts. Acts 14:1 to be specific. So are the words of concern that Dr. White offers directed at Dr. Luke? Of course I feel I must ask if Dr. White would believe the preaching of a false gospel can result in conversion? For if it cannot then even Dr. White agrees that the way a man preaches can allow for salvation to occur or deny it. Thus we find Luke's purpose in Acts 14:1 it is not that they were so persuasive, but that they were so "effective" (as Geisler puts it) because they preached the very same message as had just been expounded in Acts 13. How "effective" was Paul in Acts 13? Well, I preached from that passage a few years ago. I barely scratched the surface and it took me some 55 minutes. The message I gave was entitled In Accordance With the Scriptures. Give it a listen, I was amazed at how much Paul packed into his preaching.

It must be noted that Dr. Geisler does offer a similar argument to what Dr. White is protesting against, and Dr. Geisler is in error for doing so. This false argument even goes against the main argument of CBF. Nonetheless Dr. White argues his theology instead of letting the Text speak for itself. Acts 13:18 says that as many as were appointed to Eternal Life are the ones who believe. It's not more complicated than that. God has chosen those who will receive Eternal Life in accordance with His foreknowledge and predestined us to Eternal Life and conformance to the image of Jesus Christ. As much as Dr. White would like it to, this passage does no violence to the position of CBF, nor to the position held by myself. Likewise, it offers no assistance to his extra-biblical views.

Dr. White then moves on to Matt 11:25-27. He says that the idea that Jesus had just condemned several cities for their lack of belief but that God had hidden what they should have believed from them is the preceding context for verse 27. I'm not convinced that Dr. White is entirely accurate in his understanding. It seems to me that the whole of the 11th chapter should be considered. In verse 1 we find that Jesus had finished "commanding" his disciples and departed to teach and preach in cities. We then find that John heard about His works and, for some reason, started to doubt that Jesus was the Christ.

It's interesting isn't it that the neither the Lord nor the Apostle bring up the whole "present tense" believing that "true believers" supposedly have? Isn't interesting that the Lord doesn't note that John couldn't believe because it hadn't been given to him to believe? What does the Lord do? He talks about John's character in glowing regard. He details specific signs that the Lord had performed and tells His disciples to remind John that these things are happening - Jesus is the Christ.

The Lord then describes the generation of people surrounding Him. They complained about John who came neither eating nor drinking saying he had a demon. They complained about the Son of Man (the Lord's kingly title) because He HAS come eating and drinking. This is the context of the chapter. It is about disbelief, doubt and rejection. He proclaims "Woe to you.." to the cities who had disbelieved.

Then in Matt 11:25 the Lord starts His "answer" to the disbelief, doubt and rejection. Note that the Lord says who He reveals truth to - not to the wise, but to the babes. Not to those who think they have all the answers, but those who want the truth.

Dr. White makes a great deal about Matt 11:27, but he divorces it from the preceding verses, and the following. He seems to have a habit of cutting people off at particularly advantageous points in their discourse, whether Dr. Geisler, Dr. Luke, the Apostle Paul or even the Lord Himself. Thus he uses the verse as a proof-text for his theology. Here is the whole of the Lord's "answer" to this disbelief, doubt and rejection:
Matt 11:25-30: 

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
If you think you have the answers, if you don't feel the burden then don't come - you're not welcome. The Lord chooses to reveal Himself to those who are not proud. James 4:6 This isn't the Lord explaining Unconditional Election, it is the Lord saying that He chooses not to reveal Himself to those who are proud in their own wisdom who think they are righteous. It's an open call - anyone who labours, who is heavy laden COME! 

From there Dr. White moves on to John 5:21 writing:
"Literally the text says, "He enlivens whom He wishes.
The verb is enlivens is active. This is something the Son does, and the objects of the active verb are human beings raised to spiritual life. The Arminian would have to limit this to saying that Christ freely wills to save based upon the action of faith in man.... Christ gives life to whom He wills, not to those who first will it thus allowing Him to save."
One wonders how Dr. White interprets the multitude of verses in the Bible that says someone believed, or had faith and the verb is "active." Ever consistent, Dr. White continues to argue against things not argued for in CBF. Also consistently, Dr. White appeals to a long list of commentators to show that it is God who wills "enliven" whom He chooses. Does Dr. Geisler argue against this? No. So what is the purpose of this list of commentators? One surmises that it is important to make it appear as though your opponent is going against what is commonly established. My concern is for my belief to be in line with the Text, not with a list of some carefully selected commentators.

White continues:

"So how does CBF handle this passage? Interestingly, it does so in the context of denying particular redemption, not unconditional election. As we will see when we discuss the atoning work of Christ, the vast majority of Arminian objections to particular redemption are actually confused objections to unconditional election. The same is true here."
What Dr. Geisler actually says is:
"This vers is sometimes used by extreme Calvinists in an attempt to prove limited atonement whereby Christ gives spiritual life only to the elect." Which he references from Steel & Thomas "Five Points of Calvinism." First of all, if this interpretation were true it would contradict the clear teaching of other texts in John (Jn 3:16) and elsewhere (1Jn 2:2; 2Pet 2:1). And all true Calvinists, following Calvin, believe the Bible is the Word of God and does not contradict itself. Second, the use of "just as" in this text indicates the Son is doing the same thing as the Father, and the Father "raises the dead." So it is not a reference to salvation but to resurrection of the dead. Finally, the resurrection in this very chapter of John refers to "all who are in the graves" (5:28), both saved and unsaved (vs .29). Hence, the resurrection life given is not limited to the elect: both saved and unsaved are resurrected." 
It is not Dr. Geisler confusing the subject, but Calvinists Steel & Thomas who are, he is merely responding to them. At least on the surface I have some issues with how Dr. Geisler has handled this passage, but I'm not going to dig into his argument to any great extent. I think the "life" the Lord is speaking of giving has it's context in the healing of the sick man, not so much the resurrection of the saved and unsaved. Still, I'm more interested in the Apostle's argument and whether it lines up with Calvinism. So, does John 5:21 actually speak of Unconditional Election?

As is my pattern, actually my rule of study, we need to look at the entirety of the Lord's answer to the Jews who sought to kill Him because He had healed a man on the Sabbath. Please read John 5:1-47. What I find is a message in stark opposition to Calvinism's doctrine of Total Inability. There is a veritable quote mine of things that go against that extra biblical doctrine in this chapter. But with regard to Unconditional Election we find the following:

Jn 5:5-7

Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
This is an odd question for the Lord to ask if He is actually going to use this as an example of Unconditional Election isn't it?

Dr. White starts his discussion of Jn 5:21 by saying that this verse is much like Matt 11:27, and he's right it is. Of course Dr. White doesn't mean what I mean by that statement. What I mean is, the emphasis isn't on the fact that the Lord chooses, but it is on who He chooses. Of course the Lord is in control. Neither myself nor Geisler argue against that; no matter what Dr. White claims over and over again. Who does He choose? That's the important question the Lord is answering.

Finally Dr. White gets to what many have called the "Golden Chain of Redemption," Romans 8:28-30 of which Dr. White states:
"Few texts of Scripture are so clear, so forceful, in asserting the absolute freedom of God in saving His elect people than these. Every attempt to undermine their testimony truly rings hollow. Simple fairness drives the mind to recognize that these verses speak of God's wrok, not man's. God saves, from beginning to end."
One continually wonders who Dr. White is arguing against, and if he is arguing against someone in particular why doesn't their name appear in the subtitle of TPF instead of Dr. Geisler's name. He continues:
"Providing an exegesis of this text would be superfluous  as so many fine examples exist. The reader is directed to the work of John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans for an example of the ease with which the Reformed exegete can work with this text by simply allowing it to speak for itself. We are truly on "home court" in Romans 8 and 9."
Why should someone who has paid money to read Dr. White's "defence of the reformation" and "refutation of Chosen But Free" have to purchase another book to get understanding of this passage? We have already seen in a couple of the earlier articles in this series that Dr. White is plainly wrong with regard to Romans 8:6-8. I'm not sure I would be citing a "home court" advantage if I were him. Also, as Dr. White is fond of saying without actually allowing, how about you just let the passage "speak for itself" then? Before I even get started interacting with his text of this passage let's just let the passage speak for itself.

Rom 8:28-30

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 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.
Pretty straight forward isn't it? Who are predestined? Those whom God foreknew. What are we predestined to? Conformance to the image of Christ. Is God waiting to see what man will say? No. Vs 30. Is man predestined to belief? Not according to this passage - or any other for that matter.
"How does CBF attempt to defuse this keystone of the Reformed faith? One should not be surprised that a slight variant of the classic Arminian approach is utilized."
The Reformed faith? Really? He goes on to complain that there is little mention of verse 28 in CBF, and nothing of what he considers "exegetical comment" and... 
"The attempted response to verse 29 focuses upon denying that "foreknown" carries the concept of "fore-loved" or "chosen." 
Dr. White will fill the remainder of his 8th chapter with a discussion about how "foreknown" means "fore-loved" so I think Dr. Geisler chose well to attack that particular fallacy. Fallacy is a strong word is it not? Earlier in TPF Dr. White makes quite a substantial deal about Dr. Geisler using another passage in the book of John to explain the drawing of Jn 6. Instead of interacting with the argument Dr. White dismissed it saying that Dr. Geisler was using a completely different passage and forcing it onto Jn 6.

So what does Dr. White do with the word "foreknew" in Rom 8:29? Well he starts out discussing how election is personal. He builds a false dilema by saying we have two choices - God's election of persons in accordance with Calvinism or His election of a plan of salvation.

I must be somewhat generous however because Dr. Geisler falls down in his argumentation on this subject. He does argue for a "plan" here. However, both arguments ignore what the Text says, which is simply that God foreknew people. Yes it is personal. No it is not "foreloved." Let's simplify White's argument. 

"Every time (in the New Testament) God is portrayed as "foreknowing" the object of the verb is personal." Therefore, to say that God foreknows acts, faith, behavior, choices, etc. is to assume something about the term that is not witnessed in the biblical text. God foreknows persons not things."
OK I have to interrupt... God doesn't foreknow things? He didn't know about His creation and what would happen in it before He created it? Really? Let's continue:
"This New Testament usage then decides for us which elements of the Old Testament stream most informs these passages. That is the Hebrew term yada is used in many different ways. Is there a discernable usage in the Old Testament that comes through to the New Testament that would see this as an action that has only persons as its object?" 
This would be insanely amusing if it were not insanely tragic. He just basically wrote "Is there any use of a Hebrew word meaning "to know" that is used in any place the way I'm trying to prove Paul uses "foreknow"? Is this how he finds justification for his theology? Hello!?!

He finds some! Jer 1:5, Exodus 33:17. He goes on in an attempt to build a case that knowing equals choosing by using Amos 3:2. He states:

"Here the NASB actually translates yada as "chosen," so strongly is this element found in the context of this passage." 
He goes on to talk about how Adam "knew" his wife, noting the result was a child... 
"Therefore the use of the verbal concept of "foreknowing" in the New Testament, together with these testimonies from the Old Testament, are more than sufficient basis for asserting that when Paul says "and those whom He foreknew" Paul is speaking about an action on God's part that is just as solitary, just as God-centered, and just as personal as ever other action in the string..."
After going off on Dr. Geisler for using the Apostle John to explain how the Apostle John uses the word "draw" in the very same book, in VERY similar context THIS is Dr. White's argument for his redefinition of the word "foreknow"? Thayer says it means "to have knowledge before hand." I think I'll go with the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic on this.  How exactly does this fly as "exegesis" in Dr. White's circles?

The word means to have knowledge before hand. The rest of the chapter is filled with calling Dr. Geisler's view "Arminian" and then baiting the reader to keep going because the next chapter will be about a "key passage" Romans 9.

What can I say? I've been studying Dr. White's work months now, since June, and I've been studying it deeply. He has yet to be correct in even a single argument. I had expected to find more agreement with the man than this. Next time we'll look at Romans 9. I won't be doing a paragraph by paragraph review. I'll present Dr. White's argument in simplified form and then go through the Scripture to see if it lines up or not. 

1 comment:

Kevl said...

OK if you look at how long this article is you'll understand why I was so upset to loose my notes on TPF.

This one is ridiculously long!