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. 


Anonymous said...

I was surprised to find that that ardent Calvinist, C. H. Spurgeon, did not believe regeneration precedes faith. Note this quotation from him: "If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners." [Sermon entitled The Warrant of Faith]." I found this quoted at which has quite a bit about the dangers of reformed theology.

E. T. Chapman

Kevl said...

Hi! Thanks for the comment. Middletown Bible Church was very helpful to me in my early engagements with Reformed Theology. You can see their website linked on the right hand side of this blog. I think I have it titled "How To Study Your Bible" or something like that.

Calvinists argue against using this quote in this way by saying we are taking him out of the context this sermon was given in. He was not talking about pre-faith regeneration but the preaching to the lost vs the saved. Or something similar to that....

I don't use Spurgeon in that way anymore. It just doesn't matter to me what he believed. We have the Scriptures to establish truth. I'm trying not to get caught playing the game the Calvinist can win, even if what they say isn't true. When we argue about Spurgeon, the Calvinist wins... even if his theology is wrong.


BTW my good friend Lou Martuneac used that same quote in the first edition of his book In Defense of the Gospel. He advised me against using it my writing after that. I think it appears in the second edition but it has more commentary with it explaining the context and potential issues.

Thanks again for the comment. I hope there is value in these articles for you.

In Christ!

Alex Guggenheim said...

This series is dynamite and would live to see it in book format at least online at Amazon. Wow. Great work.

Kevl said...

Thanks Alan! You're the third person to suggest this. I have been thinking of condensing it down and spending real effort on the grammar then doing just that. It would be a Kindle book.

Thanks again, your comment is SUCH a blessing to me!


Kevl said...

BTW Alex I've been lurking at The Pedestrian Christian a great deal and have been enjoying it a lot. Thanks for all YOUR hard work!