Friday, November 30, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 18 - Chapter 12B

It was next to impossible to fit all of my interaction with Chapter 12 of Dr. James R. White's The Potter's Freedom(TPF) into just one blog article. So, let's finish the chapter up here today.

For those unfamiliar, please, please, start waaaaaaaaaay back at the Introduction to this series I'm calling The Debater's Potter. I won't be dealing with issues twice, so if you think I'm making an unfounded claim it's probably because I've established it in a previous instalment of this series. Where it's practical I will link to the appropriate article.

Now Dr. White wrote TPF as a "defence of the Reformation" and as "the rebuttal of Norm Geisler's Chosen But Free." Chosen But Free(CBF) is a book which uses a great deal of Scripture to establish a view of God's sovereignty, His faithfulness and His overall nature. It then uses this as a basis to offer an explanation of how each Believer in Christ is both chosen, or elected, and yet free. While I agree with the overall conclusion of the book there are several places where his handling of passages is less than perfect. Strangely, the areas where Dr. Geisler errs are the areas where he entirely or largely agrees with Dr. White about the interpretation of the Text.

So last time we looked at Dr. White's definition of a doctrine that "must be" (if other Calvinist doctrines were true) which Calvinists call Irresistible Grace. This included his defence of pre-faith regeneration, or that a sinner is first regenerated/born-again and then they believe in Christ.

Today we're going to look at what Dr. White says are "the most obvious" passages showing that "saving faith is a gift from God" to the newly regenerated person.

BUT before we get started let's have a short discussion about faith.

The justification for pre-faith regeneration is three-fold:
  1.  If Total Inability is true then a sinner is simply unable to believe the Gospel of the Christ. 
  2. A sinner cannot do that which is pleasing to God, and faith is pleasing to God. 
  3. If a sinner were able to believe the Gospel of the Christ they could brag about assisting in their own salvation, thereby stealing glory from God. 
1. Total Inability is not true. Please see Testing TUPLIP: Total Depravity/Inability. Even if it were if one "must be" regenerated in order to believe, then why is that saving faith "must be" a gift from God? If one is regenerated so they can believe then they can believe when they are regenerated, right? Why are there two solutions that "must be" for this one supposed problem? If faith is a gift then the person doesn't need to be regenerated first in order to do the act of believing, if one is regenerated then faith doesn't need to be given...

2. and 3. First faith isn't "pleasing" to God. God is not "pleased with" the one who believes. The article Well Done Abram? discusses this topic. However, in short, saving faith is without merit. It does nothing. It is simply assurance. Dr. White will argue later in Chapter 12 that we are "kept by the power of faith." What power does "faith" have? It is not our faith that has power, it is the Object of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has power. We'll get to that in a bit however.

I'll ask you to consider the situation you and I are in right now. Do you think that I'd be pleased with you if you were to be convinced by The Debater's Potter series that Dr. White's Reformed Theology is a false theology? Would I be impressed with you? Would I owe you praise? Could you brag to your friends about it? Of course not. I may be pleased that you have come to know more of truth. I may be relieved. But I would not be looking for a medal to pin on your chest or a trophy to present you on national TV. 

Yet I would be pleased, in some fashion. Potentially with myself, with my argument, that the effort I put forth has borne fruit. Or simply pleased that someone else has been shown truth.. Even if I wouldn't be pleased with you for what a good job you did believing my argument, I could potentially be "pleased." The Calvinists say a sinner can't do that which is pleasing to God. So.. have they shown me the error of my argument?

This idea that the unsaved can't do anything that pleases God comes from an interpretation of Heb 11:16. It says "Without faith it is impossible to please God." So if my having faith is pleasing to God, does that mean that "Without faith it is impossible to have faith"? Hey! I could agree with that! *smile*

The Calvinist gets into trouble when he adds words to the verse. It says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Not that it is impossible to do that which pleases God. It is clear from Christ's interaction with the Jewish leaders at the time of His Humiliation that it is pleasing to God for someone under the Law of Moses to Tithe. Could an Israelite Tithe if they did not have faith? Was not all of Israel under the Law of Moses, those of faith and those not of faith? This is a simple example, but it demonstrates physically and unequivocally that it is in fact possible for someone to "do that which is pleasing to God" without saving faith.

You can do the act, but you can't please God by doing it unless you have faith. That's what the passage says. It doesn't say you can't do something, it says you can't please God.

With that out of the way, I have one more thing to say before we dive into Dr. White's examples of "the most obvious" verses showing that saving faith is a gift of God.

You don't need a secret decoder ring to understand Scripture. 

Let's get to it then! Shall we?
"Sovereign grace is offensive to the Arminian for it crushes human pride and exalts the Potter's freedom."
I cannot speak for "the Arminian" but I can tell you that Dr. White's "Sovereign Grace" is a term the Bible does not use, created to solve a problem the Bible does not raise, and only "must be" true because of doctrines the Bible does not contain. Not only that, but it requires that God be the author of Sin. If He decrees every event in History, in all of Creation, then He decrees sin and sins, not merely allows it. Why does the DOCTRINE of "Sovereign Grace", not the actual freedom of God Himself, offend ME? Because it is entirely extra-biblical and redefines the nature of God into something I do not recognize in the Scriptures.

With regard to God being the author of Sin, Wayne Grudem has this to offer in his Systematic Theology on Page 330 with bolded text, and odd capitalization:

"In spite of All of the Foregoing Statements, We Have to Come to the Point Where We Confess That We Do Not Understand How It Is That God Can Ordain That We Carry Out Evil Deeds and Yet Hold Us Accountable for Them and Not be Blamed Himself: We can affirm that all of these things are true, because Scripture teaches them. But Scripture does not tell us exactly how God brings this situation about or how it can be that God holds us accountable for what he ordains to come to pass. Here Scripture is silent, and we have to agree with Berkhof that ultimately 'the problem of God's relation to sin remains a mystery.'"
Needless to say, if even the great guru of Reformed Theology in the center-piece of any Reformed Library completely waffles on the subject, there are massive insurmountable problems with the theology. It's not a mystery. God is not the author of sin. God allows sinners to sin, and uses their actions against them and for His plans. 

Then White continues with the "must be" justification for his doctrine, and then makes a statement that I think will, by the end of this article, really demonstrate the danger of "must be" theology.
"The necessary corollary to irresistible grace is the biblical truth that faith is a gift from God. Since this is a particularly reprehensible to CBF, we will here only present some of the more obvious passages that teach this truth..."
The primary justification for saving faith being a gift of God is his own doctrine of Irresistible Grace. I think we'll see how the "must be" nature of his doctrine makes him see it where it simply isn't to be found. 
"Paul began many of his epistles with thanksgiving to God for the love and the faith of the Christians to whom he was writing." 
White offers Col 1:3-4, and 2Thes 1:3 as examples. Even just reading Col 1:3-4 without the rest of Paul's thought it is clear that Paul is not thanking God for their faith, but saying he is thankful to hear of it. His point becomes crystal clear if you read the whole thought in Col 1:3-8. Likewise in 2Thes 1:3 Paul is thanking God for them, the Believers, because of their maturity, faith and perseverance. Paul even goes on to say that he boasts about them for these things, including their faith! 2Thes 1:4. Ought not a Calvinist loose his mind over this fact? To be precise I must make a distinction that I'm not sure my Calvinist friends would make: Paul is not praising them for their saving faith, but for their "faith during" tribulations. Yet he is boasting about THEM (not God) because of their faith. 

Even though Dr. White quotes the passages in TPF, and therefore probably read them, he asks the leading question:
"Why should we thank God for the faithfulness of Christians?"
Paul thanked God FOR the Christians, BECAUSE of their faithfulness. There is a chasm between what Dr. White puts into the Text and what the Apostle wrote. Demonstrating that he would not make the distinction that I would make about what faith Paul is talking about, and apparently unaware of the difference he goes on to ask, and state:
"If faith is something within the capacity of every unregenerate hater of God, why should we thank God when one person exercises it? Unless, of course, faith finds its origin in God Himself and is, as we believe, a gift? That is what Paul taught:"
He then quotes Eph 6:23-24 and goes on to say that all of these things come from God. "Christian peace, Christian love, and Christian faith..." But is that what Paul is saying here? Is Paul teaching the source of faith in this passage? Or is he writing his desire for these Believers? Something else? Let's read the passage because it could be seen in the light that Dr. White paints it fairly easily. 
Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
The first thing I notice is that Paul is not talking about three things being given. He's talking about two things. Peace, and "love with faith." The desire Paul has is that they also have love with their faith. This is the same thing that Peter desires for the Brethren. 2Pet 1:5-11 Further this is something Paul wants to happen, not a teaching about something that has already happened. It is his closing prayer for these Believers. Ephesians is without question written to a group of saved Brethren. We find this out in the first two verses which are remarkably similar to his closing. Eph 1:1-2. IF Dr. White were correct that this passage is teaching that peace, love and faith come from God then why would we find Paul praying for these apparently saved people to be given faith? To use a phrase that Dr. White employs very often: Because of the theology that says saving faith is a gift from God "must be" Dr. White apparently feels perfectly OK 'turning this passage on its head' in order to serve the cause of finding justification in the Text for the theology. 

Then of Gal 5:22 he writes:
While the translation speaks of 'faithfulness', the Greek word is simply 'faith'."
The Greek word Pistis is translated "faithfulness" twice in the NT. Here, and in Rom 3:3. The word has a root meaning of faith, or assurance but it is well within it's scope of meanings to be translated as faithful, or faithfulness. This fact being true doesn't secure that it ought to be translated as one of the other. I would never argue that a translation committee, or even a single dedicated man translated a word a particular way so it must mean that. We need to look the usage of the word first, and also the context of the passage it is used in. We can't simply make these things up if we want to be faithful to the Text. We have to get the context and usage from the Text itself. So what is Paul writing of in Gal 5:22? Let's read his whole passage and see.

Gal 5:16-26

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The issue here is that the Judaizers have been telling the Galatians that in order to modify their behaviour they must be followers of Mosaic Law. From the beginning of the Epistle to the Galatians we find that the Judaizers are preaching works to the Galatians, and Paul is arguing against that. The issue here is that without strict obedience to Law, without using effort to produce righteousness, there seems to the Judaizers and the Galatians to be no way for a person to walk righteously. Paul shows the simple, selfless, pride-less, humble and completely God dependant solution: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. The context and usage of the word Pistis here most certainly demands it to be translated and understood as faithfulness.

Paul is simply not telling these Galatians how to be saved, but how to walk with faithfulness.

Dr. White then says that Paul taught the idea of faith being a gift of God "even more explicitly" in Phil 1:29. He shares:

"The term 'granted' is the Greek term Charizomai, 'to give as a gift'. And what has been 'granted" to believers: the eye seems drawn to the final phrase, 'to suffer for His sake.' This is what seems to take up the mind when reading the passage. It has been granted as a gift to suffer for Christ!... But just as suffering is not something brought about by our 'free will,' neither is the first thing granted to us: to believe in Christ." 
One has to applaud Dr. White for his keen debate skills. The word means to show favour or be gracious, or give freely. Not "to give as a gift" which is an all too convenient interpretation of the word.

What is the point? It has been granted to us "to believe" or graciously allowed for us to believe in Christ, but it has also been graciously allowed for us to suffer for Him as well.  Dr. White is not off the mark to bring up how odd it seems to the mind that God would make suffering a gift. It does seem like an strange concept. I mean, Christmas is coming right up and when I open the gifts from my beloved wife I don't expect to find a bottle of suffering under the wrapping this year. Verses like Mat 7:11, Luke 11:13, and James 1:17 spring to mind as I consider that God gives "good" gifts.

OH wait a minute. Dr. White gets the concept when he discusses suffering. 

"It has been granted as a gift to suffer for Christ!" (Emphasis added.) 
TO suffer for Christ. It is not that the suffering is the gift, but being allowed to do so... Yet when he talks about the part of the verse that says it has been granted to us TO BELIEVE he changes it to that faith itself has been given to us.

But let us consider IF Dr. White's interpretation of the passage were correct. He says that just as our "free will" had nothing to do with us suffering, our "free will" has nothing to do with us believing. Yet let us read the passage this verse comes from:

Phil 1:27-30

27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
"Only let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ so that..." Wait a minute. Didn't Dr. White just say that just like suffering didn't come from our "free will" but came by gifting from God, our faith didn't come by "free will"? Didn't he just say that suffering was entirely dependant on God giving it? Hasn't he been saying that from the start that God gives faith without regard to the person's will because God is not subject to the will of man? Why then is Paul conditioning his hearing "of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries" on them conducting themselves in a fashion "worthy of the Gospel of Christ"?

IF this were in fact teaching that God has "gifted" suffering and "gifted" faith to these people then Paul wouldn't condition anything on them but he would be confident to hear of these things because of God having gifted their suffering!

This is just another example of something that sounds so very convincing in the mouth, or from the pen of, of the Calvinist preacher that simply cannot stand the test of Scripture. These are dangerous times we live in. Be wary of convincing arguments, even mine. What information is being controlled and why? What is the preacher NOT saying?

Dr. White moves on to Heb 12:1-2

"Jesus is described as the 'author and perfecter' of faith. The Greek words chosen by the author are most interesting. Archegon refers to the origin, source, beginning, and then by extension author. Teleiotes refers to the one who completes and prefects.... It surely does not seem that much room is left for the pot to boast about contributing his free will act of faith, does it?"
As has been discussed many times in this series of articles no one argues that the sinner "contributes" his faith. Faith receives. It isn't active in doing anything. It isn't meritorious... That's why the Apostle Paul could write that salvation had to be through faith in order for it to have been by grace. Rom 4:16. Notice that the Apostle didn't say that faith had to be by grace in order that salvation be of God or some sort... All of this being true, Paul DOES boast about the faith of the Thessalonians and this is noted in Holy Scripture. 2Thes 1:4

Both Strong's and Thayer's lexicon (dictionary) disagree with Dr. White about the meanings of the Greek words Archegon and Teleiotes. While the definitions Dr. White offers fall within the scope of meanings the English words "Author" and "Perfecter" have, they do not fall within the scope of meanings available to the Greek words. This is a problem with translation and it is why I always urge Believers to understand their English Bibles are just translations of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic Scripture. What seems reasonable to deduce from the English is not always justifiable in the original languages.

If there is any question left one can always read the whole of Hebrews 12:1-29 and find that Christ is shown to have gone on ahead of us and finished the race. That we are to look unto Him in order to do the same. Not that He has given us the faith and perfected it. On a side note God does "perfect" our faith through suffering, discipline and circumstance. This is taught in Heb 12, James 2, and in various Pauling Epistles not the least of which is found in Rom 8. Yet does God give imperfect gifts? Why would He need to perfect the faith He regenerated you so you could have, and then gave it to you? Does God really do shoddy work?

Dr. White then says this about Heb 12:1-2

"God will not abandon His own. We are kept indeed by the power of faith, but it is not merely human faith, but a divine faith, a gift from God!"
Where does the Bible say we are kept by the power of faith? It doesn't. In fact Scripture says we are "kept by the power of God through faith." 1Pet 1:3-5. The word through means "by reason of."
"Why do some stumble and fall while others persevere? Is it that some are better, stronger, than others? No. The reason lies in the difference between having saving faith and a faith that is not divine in origin or nature."
Dr. White's Lordship Salvation comes out here. Of course it is a self-refuting theology. For there is no person of faith in the Scripture who did not stumble and fall. So is there no person in Scripture who had the divine gift of faith? Here's something I'm confident in saying. If you meet someone who claims to be of faith but who has never stumbled and fallen, that person is almost certainly lying to you.

This statement by Dr. White is merely the bondage of religion that Lordship Salvation Reformed Calvinists put on people. You can't be sure if you're truly saved... because you might fall away tomorrow...or maybe the sin you have is just a little too bad and so you're not really saved.. .you never REALLY believed in Christ, you've just been faking it. Hogwash!

"Many who make professions not based upon regeneration, and the 'faith' that is theirs will not last. Jesus taught this truth in the parable of the soils in Mat 13:3-9, 18-23. Some of the seed that was son resulted in immediate growth. But the growth produced no fruit and did not last. These are those who have false, human faith that does not last. But those with true faith produce fruit and remain."
There are a few things very very wrong here. Did the Lord say that they did not last because they didn't have a true faith? That the soil of their hearts was unprepared - as I have heard it taught over and over again? No the Lord said, some seed fell on the wayside and the birds of the air came and stole them, and that they withered because they did not have roots going deep, and because they were chocked out by thorns and thistles.

Not because they didn't have true faith. Not because they were not regenerated. BUT BECAUSE of the situation they were in. There is a very good study for the student of Scripture to study the Birds. They always steal away the seeds, whether the Gospel or the truth.

In actuality there is no instance of a "false conversion" or a "false faith" in Mat 13. Really, there isn't. First the seeds that fell by the wayside were snatched up before they could spring to life. This is what happens when a person disbelieves the Gospel, and the enemy blinds their mind to keep them from believing. Rejecting the Gospel of Christ has consequences, eternally and immediately. 2Cor 4:3-4

The other seeds DID spring to life. The only ones which did produce fruit are those which sprung to life in good situations where they were protected and fed. Consider if I bought a box of apple tree seeds from the local hardware store and scattered them around my property.

Some fell on the road in front of my house and were destroyed by cars, or birds ate them up. Some fell in the cracks in my driveway, and sprung to life but couldn't get roots to the water and all the nutrients they needed so they withered shortly after springing up. Some fell under my side deck which is full of aggressive weeds and were choked out before they could produce apples. Some fell on the flower garden that we tend and protect carefully. These sprung to life and grew up to produce apples.

Which of the things that grew from those seeds were fake apple trees? Which grew up because of their false faith of their own making? There were no fake apple trees. There were simply apple trees that grew up in safe, healthy environments and those that did not.

Writing of what the idea that false converts grow up a bit but don't last Dr. White continues:

"Once this truth is understood, we can see it being mentioned often in Scripture. Listen closely to how Peter refers to faith."
Once this imposed idea of faith has found it's root in poor teaching of God's word, then one will see it everywhere... That is true. Paul warned Timothy that false teachers had to be shunned because their false teaching would spread like cancer! 2Tim 2:16-17 

Dr. White refers to Acts 3:16 writing:
"Faith comes through whom? Christ."
Here read the verse:

Acts 3:16
And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
The word "comes" there, it is underlined here but ought to be in italics in your Bible because it isn't actually in the Text. The point here is that through faith in Christ this man has been healed... not that Christ gave Him the faith so that he could be healed...

Then Dr. White says that Acts 3:16 is the reason Peter could later write 1Pet 1:21 and adds:

"We are believers through Him, not through ourselves. Faith is a gift, the universal possession of all believers." 
Through Him we believe in God doesn't mean that by Christ's gift we believe in God, but that by believing in Christ we believe in God Himself! Read 1Pet 1:13-21

Then Dr. White says he'll add a few other verses "that teach this truth" of saving faith being a gift of God.

1Tim 1:14 

And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
Do I need to comment on this? Dr. White adds the word "found" just after "which are" in his translation of the verse. Even still... is finding something being given it?

2Peter 1:1

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
Dr. White translates "obtained" as "received" and given my BRIEF look at the language of this verse I think he has a better translation than the NKJV team came up with. However, the word Lagchano doesn't mean to receive something like a gift, it means to receive an answer by divine allotment. This is how casting lots works. Matthais received his apostleship by lagchano. It wasn't gifted to him, but it came to him because God revealed His will through the Believers' casting of lots. Acts 1:26.

Now I'm not saying that these people got their faith by random tossing of lots. Or that this alludes to Unconditional Election, though I'm sure that the Calvinist could see that here. Re: our discussion above about how "once this truth is understood one sees it often.." But that we have it because of, or by the agency of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. For the Father has willed to save all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jn 6:40 We have this precious faith because Jesus the Christ is righteous and has satisfied the payment. We can eat His flesh, and drink His blood and know we are saved because of His righteousness. Such is the problem the Lord was dealing with in John 6. The Jews didn't know they needed His righteousness because they thought they had it in their works, and in their bloodline already. They refused to eat the flesh of and drink the blood of a sin offering.

We who have this faith have it because of the righteousness of Christ and have received it by lagchano, the will of the Father being revealed through Him. Not that our assurance was given to us as a gift.

Stepping away from the topic of faith Dr. White takes up repentance as a gift for a few brief paragraphs. He starts with:

"Indeed, repentance is likewise styled a gift in Scripture, and given the intimate relationship between saving faith and repentance, this further proves the Reformed position:"
"Styled"? That just makes me shake my head... and "further proves" is pretty strong language given the complete vacuum of evidence he has thus far given which "proves" his "Reformed position".

He quotes 2Tim 2:24-26 and Romans 2:4 but offers no comment on either passage. I discussed the topic of "granted" repentance at length in my article Of Repentance Granted, and Disallowed. Both passages are covered in the article. In short Romans 2:4 says that God leads us to repentance, not that He gives it to us. 2Tim 2:24-26 says that the man of God must be able to teach those who disagree should God allow them to be taught. 

After all of that, Dr. White gets to Ephesians 2:8-9 and starts with:
"Despite the richness of the testimony of Scripture seen above, many focus almost solely upon the citation of Ephesians 2:8-9 when it comes to the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. And while the teaching of this verse is important, it is surely not the main basis upon which the truth of the divine nature of saving faith is to be based." 
Dr. White seems mighty confident that Eph 2:8-9 says that saving faith is the gift of God. Yet he talks about the "richness" of his previous evidence? He then quotes Eph 2:8-10 and states:
"This passage cuts the ground out from underneath every and all systems of works-salvation, any teaching that tells us that our performances, our works, our efforts, are necessary to bring salvation."
Oh it's a good thing he added the word "bring" to the last bit there right? His Lordship Salvation would otherwise also be condemned right? Of course I would say that it is wholly condemned by the Apostle Paul here and in both Rom 4, and Gal 1.

Dr. White gets into his thing about people being saved, not made savable... I'm going to skip that because of what he notes next:

"The debate begins with the next phrase 'and that no of yourselves, it is the gift of God." 
I'm going to preemptively shut his argument down before I give him a chance to make it to you by asking you to answer one simple question:


I asked that question, and answered it in an article of the same name: What is Not of Works? The thing is that, just like the rest of the Bible, the language isn't very hard to understand until the Calvinist tries to teach you how to read it. If I ask you what is not of works you'll answer "Salvation!" But if I ask you what is the gift of God, almost everyone will get into some debate about it. Paul is saying that the gift of God is the same thing that isn't of works.

Dr. White acknowledges some trouble with the the grammar of the passage for his position, then gives the standard Reformed Calvinist's answer to the question: What is the 'gift of God' in Eph 2:8-10?  

"The simple answer is: the entirety of the phrase... all of it is free, all of it is divine, not human." 
What I find interesting is that while Dr. White got Dr. Geisler on Calvin holding to Limited Atonement (at least at some point in his writing career) his answer doesn't match the answer that John Calvin gives in his commentary on the passage. See what Calvin had to say about this passage in my article John Calvin Describes the Faith That Saves.

Discussing how Arminians point out the grammatical problems for the Calvinist seeking to say that faith is the gift of God here, due to the fact that faith is feminine and "that" or "it is" is neuter making it sure that faith cannot be the gift of God Dr. White returns:

"The Arminian would have to admit that the grace mentioned in 2:8 is a gift. Yet, it is feminine singular as well, which if you follow their reasoning, would mean that grace is not a gift anymore than faith is. Such argumentation is too shallow to allow a meaningful conclusion to be drawn." 
Who says that Paul here is saying that grace is a gift? Only the Calvinist who tries to salvage his idea that faith is the gift of God. In order to do so he must force the grammar to include each and every element in the sentence as "that" (singular) gift. It simply doesn't work. Further Paul is NOT saying that grace is a gift here, but that it is the MEANS BY WHICH we are saved. It's really not hard language to follow, but the Calvinist needs it to be in order that his theology can find some footing.

Dr. White continues on the same line of reasoning:

"There is no reason, contextual or grammatical, to accept the fact that two of the three substantival elements (grace and salvation) are a 'gift,' while the third, faith, is strictly human contribution."
This statement would be powerful, had it's foundation not already been destroyed by the Scriptures themselves. Further I don't know of ANYONE who makes such an argument...

Dr. White concludes his discussion of the passage with:

"...all three elements together constitute a singular gift of God, for surely grace is His to freely give; salvation is His to freely give, and likewise, saving faith is the gift of God given to His elect."
He quietly tries to explain how the gift could be singular and yet mean all these three things by including them together. However, that is simply not how the language works.

I said at the start that one doesn't need a Decoder Ring to understand the Scriptures. I am sure you have understood the language of Eph 2:8-10 all along. Your answer of "Salvation!" to my question about what is not of works proves it. It is only when we let our theology tinker with the Scripture that we run into confusion. 

I've done several articles on this passage over the years, but my favorite and probably the most helpful is a discussion of the Greek it self called Wallace on Ephesians 2:8-9.  In short Wallace suggests the best possible translation of Eph 2:8 would be "for by grace you are saved through faith, and [you are saved] especially not by your own doing; it is the gift of God."

Dr. White closes the chapter with "A Sobering Thought" which is a quote from J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston from the "tremendous" introduction to Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will. I have to be honest, I didn't even read the quote. I'm so disillusioned with Dr. James R. White's judgment that anything he calls "tremendous" simply doesn't register as being worth my time. 

We do not read in the Scripture that faith is a gift that comes by regeneration and regeneration by the election of God. NO NO NO! We read that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God! We hear that one cannot believe, not because they are innately unable, but because no one has preached to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We do not read that God regenerates people so they will believe, but that God the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces the world of SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS, and JUDGMENT and that those who hear and believe will be saved! Some 150 times in the New Testament salvation and regeneration are conditioned on belief. Never once in all the Scripture is belief something that is done to the person. Each and every time, belief, faith, believing are found to be in the active voice - never in the a passive voice. Belief is not done to you, given to you, or anything of the kind. God commands men everywhere to repent!

Last week I mentioned that I am terrified of theology that "must be." I am, I truly am! A large reason for why I'm terrified of it is found in this article. In order to answer these convincing sounding, but baseless, arguments I had to rely on many years of deep hard study of God's Word. Does the average church goer have that foundation to protect them from false teaching? I'm sorry to say they do not. Nor will they so long as preachers like Dr. James White keep telling them what doctrines to see in the Text. Now I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm being prideful. I'm not. It has taken a full week of detailed study and consideration to answer just the last few pages of this chapter. When are people normally confronted with this kind of teaching? Sunday morning during a 30 minute sermon. On the radio during a18 minute program. In a conversation with a friend that moves from one topic to the next so fast you can hardly keep up... the point is you normally don't have time to dig in. Even though I have been focused almost solely on Soteriology for the last 7 years it still took me a full week of hours each day to answer these things. THAT is why I'm terrified of theology that "must be." It becomes the de facto position that must be argued against. It becomes "conservative" belief. If you don't agree with it you have to prove it wrong... it is assumed correct.

In that way Calvinism is the Darwinism of Christianity, and I don't like it. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

John Piper, Desiring God and Advent?

Can you find an Advent service in the Bible?
A couple of years ago a church I was attending brought out candles, had a little service during the morning assembly and handed out books on Advent. I challenged the Pastor and got pushback from a man serving as Elder. I asked where in the Bible one could find information about "Advent." Of course it is not in the Bible. It is a religious practice of Roman Catholicism. The Pastor allowed it to go on because so many of the people in the church enjoyed it.

Religion is death to faith.  I wonder why John Piper's followers don't question him for promoting it.
I’m excited to tell you about a new free eBook for Advent from Desiring God. It’s called Good News of Great Joy, organized specifically for this Advent, 2012. 
Advent is just around the corner. It starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas — this year, that’s December 2 — and is a season of preparation for Christmas Day. 
The team here at Desiring God did a deep dive into our thirty-plus-year reservoir of sermons and articles, and selected brief devotional readings for each day of Advent. Our hope is that God would use these readings to deepen and sweeten your adoration of Jesus this Advent.
I'm not looking for controversy, I didn't go seeking this out. Someone posted on Facebook as though it was a good thing.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 17 - Chapter 12

Here we go again with another instalment of The Debater's Potter where I react to, and interact with Dr. James R. White's book The Potter's Freedom(TPF)! He intends the book as a defense of his view of the Reformation and "the" rebuttal of Dr. Norman Geisler's book Chosen But Free(CBF). I would classify myself as a Non-Calvinist-Non-Arminian Believer in Christ, and I choose the title for this series because Dr. White's theology and argumentation seems more suited to debate than understanding God.

These articles are exceedingly long, and so I won't be able to go over points previously covered. So, please start from the Introduction to the series where you'll also find an index of links to each of the articles in the series. Thanks!

Oh, I haven't reminded the readers to buy The Potter's Freedom lately. I'm quoting Dr. White extensively because in almost every interaction I've seen him in, and throughout The Potter's Freedom he complains that his opponents don't quote and interact with what he or other Reformed Theologians write and teach. Even though I have done my best to ensure no one can say I'm "cherry picking" things in his work, and even though I am also doing my best to ensure his arguments are presented accurately no one has any excuse to take my word for it. If this is a subject you're interested in, and surely you wouldn't be reading these articles if you were not, then you owe it to yourself to see all that these men write. 

Last time we looked at Dr. White's attempted rebuttal of a "universal atonement." His attempt was less than half-hearted. He mentioned only two verses and only discussed one of them. In just a few moments I was able to find a multitude of passages which say explicitly or demonstrate soundly that Christ died for all.

This time we will look at his definition of Irresistible Grace and his defence of Pre-Faith Regeneration. We're going to do it in a similar fashion to the last article; instead of going paragraph by paragraph we'll look at his points. Also, for the first time in this series I needed to open something other than a Bible and a Greek dictionary. I had to open up a Greek Grammar and re-familiarize myself with how to interprete the Greek Participle. I needed to do this to make sure I was correct when responding to Dr. White on his view of 1Jn 5:1. There'll be an extended discussion about that verse below.

Irresistible Grace is Resurrection Power

Dr. White begins his chapter with a quotation from Charles Spurgeon:
"Before we believed in Jesus, we were not capable of those sacred actions which are now our daily delight... we could not believe. How could we do so, when we had not received the gift of faith from the ever-blessed Spirit?... and just as a corpse is under bondage to death, and cannot stir hand or foot, lip or eye, so were we under bondage to sin and Satan."
As has been noted by many others over the last 400 years Calvinism postulates a very lively dead man, who while unable to believe can accomplish all manner of sins.

Dr. White explains the reasoning behind Irresistible Grace:
"The doctrine of irresistible grace is easily understood. Once we understand the condition of man in sin, that he is dead, enslaved to a corrupt nature, incapable of doing what is pleasing to God, we can fully understand the simple assertion that God must raise the dead sinner to life."
The best evidence the Calvinist has for his doctrine of Irresistible Grace is that his other doctrines demand it to be true. I am not going to spend space in this article discussing the false doctrine of Total Inability except to note that it has previously been fully discussed and refuted here: Testing TULIP: Total Depravity/Inability.

One way that Irresistible Grace is often challenged by opponents is by noting all the places in the Bible that show men resisting both the will and the grace of God. Picking up in the next sentence after the above quote, Dr. White responds to this challenge and gives a definition of the doctrine:
"...that God must raise the dead sinner to life. This is all, really, the phrase means: it has nothing to do with sinners rebelling against God and "resisting" Him in that way. It has nothing to do with the fact that christians often resist God's grace in their lives when they sin against Him. No, irresistible grace means one thing: God raises dead sinners to life."
Not really all that controversial really. While I would take exception to when Dr. White thinks this happens, and even the nuance of what he means by "raising dead sinners to life." I largely agree with this statement myself.

Then he offers this statement:
"When we discussed man's deadness in sin we emphasized the fact that even though spiritually dead and alienated from God, the unregenerate sinner is still very active in his or her rebellion against God."
As much as the Calvinist likes the illustration of a dead corpse that is unable, even unmotivated, to do anything when it is in regard to belief they abandon the illustration when it works against their theology.

Dr. White then goes on to talk about unregenerate man's inability to do anything that is pleasing to God. I agree with this idea, of course. For without faith it is impossible to please God. Heb 11:6 However, White includes having faith as being something that pleases God. First Heb 11:6 doesn't say that faith pleases God, it says without it you cannot please God. Secondly Romans 4 excludes the idea that saving faith pleases God or has merit. See Well Done Abram? for more on this subject.
"Irresistible grace, then, is simply the assertion that God's grace, expressed in the sovereignly free act of regeneration, is irresistible. When God chooses to raise one of His elect to life He can do so without asking permission of the dead creature. This is seen clearly in the raising of Lazarus from the dead."
Now you see why I take exception to White's use of the phrase "raise the sinner to life." Dr. White uses the example of Lazarus' resurrection to build his doctrine of regeneration of the lost sinner. I could quote him at length but I've decided not to because I found his manipulation of his readers somewhat upsetting. It is vitally important to me, that my readers are not distracted from the errors in his argument by my dislike for how he treats his readers.
On the level of spiritual capacity the unregenerate man is just like Lazarus: dead, bound, incapable of "self-resurrection." ... Corpses are not known for engaging in a great deal of conversation. No, before Lazarus can respond to Christ's command to come forth, something must happen. Corpses do not obey commands, corpses do not move."
Yet, earlier he quoted Spurgeon saying that the sinner is a dead corpse who is controlled by (obeys) sin and Satan... Further, if Lazarus being "bound" is illustrative of the state the unregenerate sinner is in, and if Lazarus's resurrection is illustrative of regeneration resulting in an reborn saint who is not bound... then why is it that the Apostle John includes the fact that after Lazarus came out of the grave he was still bound? Jn 11:44
"Jesus changed Lazarus's condition first: Lazarus' heart was made new, his mind revitalized. Blood began once again to course through his veins. What was once dead is now alive, and can now hear the voice of his beloved Lord, 'Come forth!'"
The recounting of the historical event is found in John 11:1-44, but White only quotes verses 40-45. Not only is his just-so story, which is an Ad Hoc Fallacy, not found or implied in the Text He doesn't show any Scriptural reason to believe that this event is analogous with the regeneration of a lost sinner. Why? Because there is no passage in Scripture which links these two things.

Yet White continues:
"This is the testimony of every believer... When Christ calls Lazarus the result is resurrection power!"
Resurrection is not regeneration. The Lord was resurrected not regenerated or born again. Lazarus already had a loving relationship with the Lord prior to these events. Jn 11:3 When a sinner is regenerated, or born again, all things are new. It's a convenient passage to use because it provides a framework which the Calvinist can insert his theology into, while at the same time being graphical and amazing. No matter how cool eisegesis lets the sermon be it is still just eisegesis and not exegesis right?

Think I was too harsh at the beginning noting that Irresistible Grace is only supported by the necessity other doctrines of Calvinism create?
"The Scriptural testimony to this truth comes from the many passages we examined regarding total depravity and inability, together with those that teach the absolute sovereignty of God. Even if we could not present further direct biblical teaching, these two truths alone would be enough to establish the necessity of irresistible grace."
We have already seen that his teaching of Total Inability is false and that the verses that speak of the "absolute sovereignty of God" do not teach Determinism at all.  As of yet all we've heard is something like 'Calvinism demands that Irresistible Grace is true, therefore it is'.  He goes on to to say that Scripture does give positive testimony to Irresistible Grace so let's see what he can produce for us.

The Testimony of Scripture

Writing of John 3:3 White offers:
"Every Christian knows the truth of these words, but how often do we consider the order of the actions of 'born again' and 'see the kingdom of God'? That is, by tradition it is taught that a person sees the kingdom of God, desires to enter into it, and then believes resulting in regeneration. Yet, Jesus taught that the unregenerate person cannot even see the kingdom of God."
I can't speak for anyone who teaches from tradition, or about traditions. I'm intentionally ignorante of these things. I know nothing of teachings that say one "sees the kingdom, desires to enter it and then believes resulting in regeneration." I can however quote the testimony of Scripture, and you can too! I'm going to come back to these verses again but check out what the Lord and His Apostles taught, and still teach to this day. You can do it with passages like Jn 1:12Jn 3:14-15 Re: Num 21:9, Jn 6:45Rom 10:14-17Eph 1:13, and Gal 3:2. As I will note again, these verses say believe and then be born again as a child of God, not the other way around. Look and live, not the other way around. Believe and receive the Spirit of God, not the other way around. Even if Jn 3:3 actually did mean that the sinner "cannot even see the Kingdom of God" it wouldn't matter because one is not saved by seeing the Kingdom of God. Further John 3:14-15 is most informative about Dr. White's argument because it is at complete odds with it. It is also the Lord's teaching, and also taken from the same teaching given to the same student.

White continues:
"Does this mean simply that the unregenerate person cannot enter into the kingdom in some future day unless born again? While true, is that all it means? We suggest the passage goes beyond this."
It find it very hard to restrain myself when responding to this kind of teaching. After suggesting that it means more than entering, and some commentary about the actions of spiritual life Dr. White admits:
"Jesus parallels 'seeing' the kingdom with 'entering' the kingdom in the same passage."
When the Lord tells you what He means it's probably a good idea to take His word for it. Especially when the additional meaning you "suggest" it also carries is at complete odds with the rest of what the Lord teaches in the same passage! See, the Lord says that one must look at (see) the Christ lifted up in order to receive life, in the same way that the dying Israelites had to look at the serpent lifted up on Moses' staff in order to get life. Jn 3:14-15, Num 21:9. Look and live, not live and look. The Israelites were not saved from the poisonous snakes so they could then look at the brazen serpent on Mose's staff. No. They had to look at the serpent on the staff in order that they would be saved. The Lord's example is exactly opposite to Dr. White's doctrine.
"The relationship of faith and regeneration is central to the topic of irresistible grace. Arminians content strongly that faith results in regeneration: Calvinists content just as strongly that one must be born again to be able to do something that is clearly a function of the spiritual man and is pleasing to God: having saving faith."
The Bible says that Salvation had to be by grace in order that it could be by grace. Rom 4:16 That is, saving faith is not "pleasing to God" it is not a "work"or "function" of a spiritual man but of the ungodly sinner. Rom 4:5 This is no more than inventing a problem for Calvinism to solve. For more on the subject please see Well Done Abram?
"Does the Bible speak to the issue of what comes first, regeneration or faith?"
There is not a single verse in the Bible that says regeneration comes before faith, and there are many that say faith comes first, and/or condition regeneration on faith. I quoted a short list of them above and will return to that list again below.
"The Scriptures tell us that we are saved by grace through faith. Of this there is no doubt. But the question properly focuses upon the nature of this faith..."
I did a whole series on 'But' Theology... why is it that Calvinists, especially of the Lordship Salvation preaching sort, cannot simply state that Salvation is BY (accomplished by) unmerited favour THROUGH (accessed by, such as is spelled out in Rom 5:1-2) Faith. Why is there always a "but" after that statement? I've searched Paul's writings on the subject and he never once said "but" after talking about how Salvation is by grace through faith alone.
"The previous considerations regarding man's deadness in sin point to the obvious conclusion that man must first be made capable of such a spiritual activity as saving faith, and the fact that the glory for salvation goes solely to a sovereign, life-giving God bears upon this issue as well."
Because White has postulated, falsely, that man suffers from the Total Inability to believe the Gospel, he believes that regeneration "must" happen before faith.  Also, because White has postulated, falsely due to Romans 4 for example, that if a person were to be able to believe the Gospel they would get some glory for doing so he believes that regeneration "must" happen first.

Immediately after White reveals the true reason he holds to the doctrine of pre-faith regeneration he moves into some discussion of Scripture with:
"But there are Scriptural passages that bear directly upon the topic."
What we are about to discuss demonstrates clearly why I am terrified of theology that "must be." When it "must be" true you will see it in the Text no matter if it is there or not. You'll find clever ways to find it everywhere even if it's nowhere. This danger is one of the better reasons I don't call myself "Free Grace" or a "Dispensationalist." As much as I agree with many of the findings of these systems if I started to "be" them then I would be inclined to find these things confirmed in various ways in the Text, even if such was not in the Text. It's a real danger we each need to be aware of, and to ever work against. 1Tim 4:16, 2Tim 2:15, 2Tim 4:1-5, Tit 1:5-9, Tit 2:1-10.

He starts with a discussion of 1Jn 5:1 which has seen a lot of debate online in recent years. Dr. White asserts that "generally" the verse would be understood to present an order of events such as:
"1) Believe that Jesus is the Christ; and 2) you are born of God. Yet, the original readers of this text would not jump to such a conclusion. In reality, the most literal rendering would be "Everyone believing (present tense participle, emphasizing both the on-going action as well as the individuality of saving faith, "each believing person") that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (a perfect passive verb, "has been born by the agency of God")... And what is the inevitable result of being born of God? Belief that Jesus is the Christ."
At the time of this writing searching Google for 1 John 5:1 Calvinism returns as the first result an article written by Kevin Brown at his blog called Diglotting.  In the article Kevin Brown shows Dr. White is in error with his Greek grammar in this verse. He shows that 1Jn 5:10 has the same grammatical structure and yet no one would argue that the person first made God a liar and then didn't believe Him. Quoting from Kevin Brown's article:
"James linked to a video of John Piper explaining 1 John 5:1 from the Calvinistic perspective, but it was not convincing. I think that the meaning of 1 John 5:10 can be seen if paralleled with 1 John 5:1. 
1 Jn 5:1 reads “Everyone who believes (present participle) that Jesus is the Christ has been (perfect) born of God.” 
1 Jn 5:10 reads “Whoever does not believe (present participle) God has made(perfect) him a liar.” 
Those two verses share the same construction, yet obviously in 5:10 the making God a liar did not precede the not believing. Instead, making God to be a liar is the result of the unbelief. Likewise, in 5:1 the present participle takes precedence over the perfect verb, thus believing precedes regeneration."
Kevin Brown then argues, as I will also argue, that the Apostle John is not giving an order of events for how a person comes to Salvation. Apparently the article grabbed the attention of Dr. White early in 2010. He goes after the blogger in a video with a gusto. Claiming that the post is made anonymously. Dr. White says "That bothers me  because I can't see where the guy is coming from."  Why does "where he's coming from" matter? Is what he said true or isn't it? It took me but a moment to find the person's name, and just one moment longer to find out he agrees with Dr. White that regeneration precedes faith. Dr. White claims that Kevin Brown suggests that 1Jn 5:10 is parallel with 1Jn 5:1 and that it demonstrates that faith precedes regeneration. He laughs at the idea because as he says "...regeneration doesn't even appear in the verse." However, Mr. Brown doesn't argue either of those things in the article. He simply says that Dr. White is incorrect in his grammar and demonstrates it using another verse which has the exact same grammar. He claims to desire to interact with the author states "but the blog is fully anonymous as far as I can tell." Comments are present on the blog dated contemporaneously with the posting of Dr. White's video so he could have interacted by commenting had he desired to do so. One wonders if Mr. White read the article or if he was merely told about it.

Once he is done belittling the man whom he calls an "Anti-Reformed Textural Critic" he tries to salvage his grammatical argument by saying that because there is a "hoti clause" added to 1Jn 5:10 it changes how the grammar works... I'm not buying it. Why? Because I can't find a Greek Grammar that says the Participle works differently when there is a "hoti" later in the sentence. Someone give me a reason to if there is one...

Just like John 6, I content that 1Jn 5:1 isn't hard to understand until a Calvinist explains it to you... John simply says anyone who believes right now has in fact been born again. It is a statement of fact about a present reality, not an explanation of the order of events that lead up to that fact. He is not giving an "Ordo Salutis" which is just Reformed Theologian elitism for the order of salvation.

I was not completely comfortable with my understanding of how the Participle "believing" was operating in this verse. Kevin Brown, and several of those who commented on his article, presented a compelling argument. It seemed apparent that Dr. White was incorrect in his handling of the grammar, but I had to know for myself. So for the first time in this series I had to dig out reference material beyond a Bible, digital Greek manuscripts and a couple of Greek dictionaries. I had to get out a Greek Grammar and spend some serious effort re-learning how Participles work in Greek.

Here's what I found out about 1Jn 5:1, and it turns out you don't even have to use 1Jn 5:10 to show that Dr. White is wrong. I shared the controversy over Kevin Brown's post because frankly it demonstrates how single minded Dr. White is with regard to proving this doctrine which "must be." I am not relying on Mr. Brown's scholarship at all, and my criticism of TPF would stand firmly without it.

1Jn 5:1
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him."
More literally "Whoever is believing right now that Jesus is the Christ has been, and is, born of God..."

"Believing right now" is in the Present Tense, Active Voice, Participle Mood. That is it is happening in the moment, the subject person is the one who is actually doing it, and it is a participle.

Accordingly (with it's tense and mood), it is contemporaneous to the controlling verb. It is "happening" in the moment of the verb. If the verb happened in the past then it was "happening" at the time of the verb in the past. If in the future then it will be "happening" at the time of the verb in the future. In our case, as we will momentarily see, the verb is something that happened in the past with a result that is currently true. The present tense participle in our case is most obviously contemporaneous to the verb as it applies in this sentence. The one believing right now is born again right now.

Daniel B. Wallace in his Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics page 625, #2:
"The Present participle is normally contemporaneous in time to the action of the main verb. This is especially so when it is related to a present tense main verb (often, in fact, it follows a present imperative as a participle of means). But this participle can be broadly antecedent to the time of the main verb, especially if it is articular (and thus adjectival; cf Mark 6:14; Eph 2:13). As well, the present participle is occasionally subsequent in a sense to the time of the main verb. This is so when the participle has a telic (purpose) or result flavor to it (cf. Eph 2:15). But as Robertson points out, "It is not strictly true that here the present participle means future or subsequent time. It is only that the purpose goes on coincident with the verb and beyond."
The present tense participle is only ever subsequent to (happens after) the main or controlling verb in a sense, never in actual time order of the events. In a sense the person in our case is believing after they were born again because they were born again in the past and they are believing right now. However, the grammar is not saying that the being born again happened prior to belief. It is an abuse of the context of John's words, but the closest possible interpretation to what Dr. White suggests is that these happened at the same moment. As we will discuss however, the context is not the order of events but the present reality of the result.

"Has been born again" is in the Perfect Tense, Passive Voice, Indicative Mood and it is the controlling verb. The meaning is that it has been accomplished, it was done too the person, and it is factual. It is something which has happened previous to the moment of the sentence.. John is talking about observing someone to see their present state, not indicating the order in which they came to that state.

Dr. White would like the verse to read something like "The one was born again in order that he would be believing now." But that is simply not how the language works. Wallace notes something that can lead to great abuse by a less than careful exegete in Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics on page 613:
"The context has more influence on participles than on any other area of Greek grammar. In other words, for most participles, one cannot simply look at the determine what kind of participle it is.  There will be some clues, however, and the student must master these if he/she is to see the genuine semantic possibilities a participle can have in a given context. One's exegetical skills get tested more with participles than with any other part of speech."
I didn't leave my study at this point however. I wanted to see if there was any possibility that John used a Purpose Participle or a Result Participle in this passage. Due to the complex nature of the Greek Participle it would be premature to discount Dr. White's theology just because he was unable to make a proper defense of it. It is reasonable to investigate any possibility of his being correct for the wrong reasons.

Wallace defines a Purpose (Telic) Participle on page 635:
"The participle of purpose indicates the purpose of the action of the finite verb..."
Given this definition and an understanding of how context works we can move on to confidently determine that the participle at hand is not a purpose participle. John is not explaining God's purpose in regenerating someone. John is talking about recognizing those who you can be sure are born again. That's the context. The context is not of "Ordus Salutis" but it is of determining those it is proper to have fellowship with. 

Wallace defines a Result Participle on page 637:
"The participle of result is used to indicate the actual outcome or result of the action of the main verb. It is similar to the participle of purpose in that it views the end of the action of the main verb, but it is dissimilar in that the participle of purpose also indicates or emphasizes intention or design, while the result emphasizes what the action of the main verbe actually accomplishes."
He explains the key to identification on page 638:
"The result participle will be a present tense participle and will follow (in word order) the main verb. The student should insert the phrase with the result of before the participle in translation in order to see if the participle under examination is indeed a result participle." 
Once again the context is determining fellowship, not explaining the "Ordus Salutis" and the word order also excludes the possibility that it is a Result Participle. It is therefore not a result participle. John is not explaining, nor would his original readers have understood, that the order of salvation is either like that which Dr. White espouses or otherwise for that matter.

Thus, John's grammar excludes the idea that he is stating that belief is the purpose of, result of, or happens after being born again. That Dr. White is incorrect about the grammar of 1Jn 5:1 doesn't mean that faith happens before regeneration; as I firmly believe. Ask Kevin Brown said in his article, it just means that 1Jn 5:1 doesn't say that it does.

On page 613 of his Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace writes:
"It is often said that mastery of the syntax of participles is mastery of Greek syntax.... In short the participle is difficult to master because it is so versatile. But this very versatility makes it capable of a rich variety of nuances, as well as a rich variety of abuses."
So, where CAN you find an "Ordo Salutis" or order of salvation? In passages like Jn 1:12, Jn 3:14-15 Re: Num 21:9, Jn 6:45, Rom 10:14-17, Eph 1:13, and Gal 3:2. Look then live, not live then look. Believe then receive the Spirit, not receive the Spirit then believe. Hear and then come, not be brought and then hear. Believe then be born again as a child of God, not be born again as a child of God then believe. And so on.. and so on...

In TPF Dr. White uses the example of 1Jn 2:29 to shore up his argument about 1Jn 5:1, and in his video response to Kevin Brown he adds the same argument about 1Jn 4:7.
"We do not practice righteousness so as to be born, but instead the birth gives rise to the practice of righteousness.... this means that in 1 John 5:1 the belief in Jesus as the Christ is the result of being born of Him. The verbal parallel is exact."
He notes that "the one practicing righteousness" is a present participle like believing in 1Jn 5:1.
"Therefore, sheer consistency leads one to the conclusion that divine birth precedes and is the grounds of both faith in Christ as well as good works."
Yet, "sheer consistency" doesn't drive him to say that 1Jn 5:10, which has the same grammatical structure as we discussed already, means that one makes God a liar so that he will not believe... But read the verses:

1Jn 2:29
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
1Jn 4:7
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Read them and consider. If Dr. White is wrong about the grammar, which I have demonstrated he is, would that mean that these verses say that one is born again "because" we practice righteousness? Or because we love one another?

No, even though Dr. White is wrong about the grammar that doesn't mean that John is saying we practice righteousness to be born again. He is not talking about the order of events. That is not the context, it is not the teaching, it is not a shade of meaning under the Text... it simply is not in the grammar. If it were then John would obey the rules of the Greek Participle to put it there. One cannot rightly read their theology into the Text with complicated Greek manipulations just because they can't find a passage that actually says regeneration happens prior to faith.

It is the convicting and convincing of the Holy Spirit, that leads a person to believe the Gospel when it is preached to them, and that's what brings salvation. This brings us to the next verse Dr. White discusses.

Of Acts 16:14 Dr. White offers:
"It is no response to say that the opening of Lydia's heart was a mere "moving" of God upon her that in essence brought her to a moral neutral point, leaving the final decision to her."
Who is Dr. White arguing against? This is not what Dr. Geisler wrote about in CBF, and it is not at all what I would say of the passage. I don't know who would say what Dr. White intends to argue against. I'm sure it seems like an easy argument to defeat though.
"The obvious question is, why would God have to open her heart and to what end? The text tells us why He engaged in this supernatural action: so that Lydia would "respond" to the things spoken by Paul... But if saving faith in response to the preaching of the Gospel is the ability of every man and woman, why did God have to open Lydia's heart?... God had to take out that heart of stone and put in Lydia a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26) so that she would respond to the message of the Cross."
Let's read the verse:

Acts 16:14
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
One might start by asking what does it mean when Luke writes that God "opened her heart." The word "opened" is the Greek word dianoigo. It means to open, or to divide, or to cause to understand. It does not mean to take out and replace. It actually matches the ministry of the Holy Spirit as detailed in John 16:5-11.

Next one may want to know why God "opened her heart". Dr. White says that it was so she would "respond" but the word here is the Greek word prosecho. It means to pay attention or heed. The point is not about her response but about her paying attention. This is the Holy Spirit convicting and convincing.

This historical event is a lot like the resurrection of Lazarus, it is dramatic and provides a loose framework that Calvinists can put their theology into. However, just like when you read about Lazarus the details of the story simply do not support the theology of Calvinism.

Dr. White then comments on 1Cor 1:26-31:
"God has cut out every ground of boasting by choosing to save in a way that confounds the wisdom of men." 
Dr. White doesn't define the "way that confounds" he referes to, but continues to talk about pre-faith regeneration as though that is what Paul is talking about. If one reads the entirety of Paul's discussion one finds that he isn't talking about God regenerating lost sinners so that they will believe and this confounding the world. No. Paul is talking about the preaching of the Gospel, the preaching of the Cross. It is that God has chosen to save through the foolishness of preaching the Cross that confounds the wisdom of the world. Not by wisdom of words but by a simple message. 1Cor 1:14-31

He brings out a point that is interesting but does not help his case:
"Notice the small phrase that is often overlooked: 'But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus..."
He brings up the agency of God, that is God's work that puts us in Christ. This is a rebuttal of yet another Straw-Man Argument... We are baptized into Christ after we believe. Rom 6:3-7, Gal 3:1-4, Gal 3:26-27, 1Cor 12:13, Eph 1:13-14. I don't know who says that it is by the effort, will, or work of man that we are "in Christ." Dr. Geisler does not. I do not. I know of no one who does. Yet it knocking the Straw-Man down can make it appear as though his case is strong.

Dr. White then comments on Gal 1:15-16:
"If anyone knew that the idea of 'free will' was a myth, it was paul. It was not free will that knocked Paul to the ground on the road to Damascus. It was not free will that blinded him. Paul was not 'seeking after God' nor the Savior, Jesus Christ on that day when God chose to reveal His Son to him. ....(Paul) preached a powerful grace, a grace that saves rebel sinners hard of heart, a grace that stops the elect in their tracks and changes them. He knew nothing of a grace that tries and tries, and fails and fails."
Two articles which may be helpful with this comment are When Was Paul Saved Anyway? and Bad Koolaid: Paul's Lordship Salvation Testimony. Once again, Dr. White resorts to a Straw-Man argument. Who says that God's grace "tries and tries, and fails and fails"? One might wonder if Dr. White is aware of just how weak his arguments are and has decided to go back to Straw-Man Arguments and Ad Hominem Attacks.

Finally he brings up Titus 3:5-6 but doesn't comment on the passage. Here we find Paul saying that we are saved "according to His mercy" not "according to His Unconditional Election." What is His mercy? I could suggest Jn 6:40 is His mercy. I could also note that Paul speaks of the "mercies of David" when preaching the Cross. Acts 13:32-41. Paul is talking about the reality of the resurrection here, but the "sure mercies of David" are explained in Isa 55:1-3. It is the same as Jn 6:40. His mercy is that He saves all who believe. Not that He regenerates them so they can believe.

Regeneration is absolutely required for one to be saved. We must be born again as the Lord explained in John 3. We do not need to be regenerated in order to believe however. Salvation is conditioned on faith some 150 times in the New Testament. Never once is faith conditioned on salvation, or on regeneration if that can be separated from salvation as some Calvinists protest.

I cannot make it to the end of Chapter 12 this week. So I'll get to the rest of it next week. What we've seen here is that these two doctrines: Irresistible Grace and Pre-Faith Regeneration that "must be" true because of Total Inability (which has already been proven to be false) are simply not to be found in the Scriptures.

Next time we'll take a 'quick' look at what Dr. White calls "some of the more obvious passages that teach" that saving faith is the gift of God. He promises to talk about other (less obvious?) verses in the next chapter. I have to warn everyone, I am just about beyond my ability to put up with shenanigans like what we saw with 1Jn 5:1.  I may just do a very high level response to Chapter 13 because otherwise I may never actually complete this series.