James White’s Debate on Calvinism

In today’s podcast I go point by point through several arguments in Dr. James White’s debate on Calvinism: CLICK HERE TO LISTENImage (1)

In the closing of this debate Dr. White makes several erroneous remarks in defense of Calvinism that I would like to address:

1.  He mocks preachers who ask, “What will you do with Jesus?” Instead of asking, “What will Jesus do with you?”

Yet, in Matthew 27:21 Pilate did ask the crowd what they wanted him to do with Jesus. Is this not still an applicable question for each person to ponder?  This question does not need to be pit up against the question regarding what Christ will do with us, because both questions are viable (see debate fallacy: False Dichotomy).

Paul wrote, “Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.'” (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

“What will you do with Christ’s appeal to be reconciled,” is a viable question? Why? Because it will answer the question Dr. White proposes, “What will Christ do with you?”  He will save you, IF you repent and be reconciled.  If not the very words of Christ will be your judge (John 12:48).

Paul clearly shows us that Christ’s desire is “not counting their trespasses against them” but for them to repent so as to “be reconciled to God.” What you do with Christ’s appeal will determine what Christ will do with you!

2. Dr. White seems to think the picture of Christ standing at the door and knocking makes him appear to be weak.knock

Is Christ weak in regard to his interaction with the church in Revelation 3? Simply because this text may not be about the individual call to repentance does not negate the fact that Christ still passively knocks at the door of the church.  This makes me wonder if Dr. White views Christ as weak in regard to how He has chosen to engage with His bride?

The concept of people standing and knocking at doors is seen in other texts as well.  Matthew 7 and Luke 11 speak of our need to be persistent in our requests to God. According to the text, you must “keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). This portrays an actual relationship with Christ where we are knocking on his door and He is knocking at our door throughout various times in our journey.  Jesus is presented in scripture as the one who “comes to seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:10) and he appears to do so through an “appeal,” not by irresistible inward means.

3.  Dr. White presumes the narrative of Lazarus being raised is meant to be a parallel to soteriology, but without any text that actually makes that claim. 

boasting?A better parable to illustrate one who was dead and now alive in regard to salvation might be the one Jesus chose.  The story Jesus tells us about the Prodigal Son and his gracious father gives a very clear picture of one who was dead (living in rebellion to the father) and then made alive (Luke 15:24).

4.  Dr. White seems to be under the impression that our perspective does not have a place for the judicial hardening of God.

Anyone who has studied the scholars from my perspective (the most widely held view in the Southern Baptist Convention), or has listened to my podcast knows full well that we not only acknowledge the judicial hardening of God but that we point to this biblical teaching as the very reason to reject the concept of Calvinism’s “Total Inability.”

Why did Jesus speak to them in parables lest they hear and believe, if they are born unable to do so?  Why did God need to blind the Jew in their rebellion to prevent their understanding if they were born totally blind to the revelation to begin with?  Is God blinding the totally blind?  Dr. White quotes texts about God judicially blinding men as if that supports his premise that all men are born totally blind.

5. Dr. White quotes from John 6, 10 and 17 to prove his presumption that God has only selected to save a particular number of individuals to the neglect of all others.

Once again the good doctor seems to miss the historical context of these passages. In John chapter 6 Jesus is speaking to Israel (as the gospel is not sent to the Gentiles until after Peter’s dream and the calling of Paul).  The nation of Israel, his audience, is being “cut off” or “blinded” or “sent a spirit of stupor” or “spoken to in parable” or “judicially hardened” or “NOT DRAWN” or “NOT ENABLED.”

THIS is why they cannot believe (John 12:39-41, Acts 28:27-28, Romans 9-11, etc, etc).  However, God has reserved a remnant of Jews to ensure that HIS purpose in electing Israel would be fulfilled.

What is that purpose?  To bring the Messiah and His Message to the rest of the world.

So, God has blinded the rebellious Jews, while using miracles, signs and wonders (blinding lights, big fish, walking on water, healing sick, showing scars, etc) to set apart a group from Israel to be his divinely appointed messengers.  It is NOT until Christ dies and is raised up again that he sends these elect messengers into all the world to “draw all peoples to himself” (John 12:32).  The means of Christ’s drawing is the gospel, which is not completed and commissioned UNTIL after His resurrection…along with the pouring out of the powerful Holy Spirit fire, which is said to bring conviction to the world.

Now, is that context important to know and understand when you approach John 6, 10 and 17?  I should certainly think so!!!

John 6: His remnant are being drawn, but the rest are being hardened (not enabled to come).

John 10: He is bringing in the first fold of sheep (His remnant from Israel to complete the purpose of election), but the next fold will be brought in by grace through faith in the very message He is ordaining the first fold to preach.  sheep

John 17: He is praying for his apostles (the remnant elected to carry the message to the nations) and those who believe through their message so that the world may believe that God sent Him (vs. 17).

6. Dr. White seems to believe that God permitting creaturely freedom would be a denial of His eternal attribute of Sovereignty:  CLICK HERE FOR THAT RESPONSE

Much more is discussed on the PODCAST: LISTEN HERE

7 thoughts on “James White’s Debate on Calvinism

  1. thank you Professor Flowers for standing up for our interpretation of God’s election against the mighty and frequently arrogant Dr. White. Your presentation on the subject is refreshing and obviously well thought out. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the debate the other night on youtube. i have been following this issue avidly since Geisler’s “Chosen But Free” came out, through the release of “Potter’s Freedom”, through Dr. White coming to my small church on LI (to mercilessly debunk “What Love is This?” among others) through White’s debate with Dr. Brown, and I still scratch my head how someone so clearly intelligent could be so wrong about something so obvious. Fortunately I attend a church now where a healthy approach to God’s love and sovereignty combine to encourage and equip us as ambassadors of Christ in the evangelism of the world. I guess Dr. White would not like my song “What will You do with Jesus?” on my most recent CD “Go to Nineveh”. I love your use of the prodigal son passage, and I personally believe that the Rev. 3 passage can be used as a metaphor for an invitation to the offer of salvation if you look at the condition of the Laodecian church (pitiful, poor, blind, naked etc) Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your blogs! in Chist, Sam Powell

  2. I just love heading picture for this topic!!!
    And I note “Verbal Magician” is the well-earned reputation of this particular apologist! :-]

  3. Hi Professor Flowers. I enjoyed the Romans 9 Debate. There was mention of the ground rules contract for that debate posted somewhere. I have spent a number of hours getting the gist of what actually happened in that debate and have really come to appreciate your forthrightness. Is there a posting somewhere I might look to find contract for that debate. Thanks. T

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