Appeal to Mystery: Response to Dr. James White

It first should be noted that Calvinists often appeal to mystery regarding the problem of divine culpability within their deterministic worldview:

John MacArthur was asked, “If God literally brings about everything then how can he blame me for sinning?” He answered, “I don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t know of anyone who knows the answer to that.” –John MacArthur*

 John Calvin wrote, “How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…”

@BurkParsons (a Calvinist with Ligonier Ministries): “Sometimes the best and most biblical answer to certain theological questions is ‘I don’t know.'”

Dr. White seems to feel my appeal to mystery regarding how mankind makes autonomously free moral choices in a world where God is infinitely all knowing is unacceptable.  In doing so, he also acts as if his own view has no mystery, which is simply an unhealthy approach to a profitable theological dialogue.

Dr. White responded to my article on a Compatibilist’s explanation of homosexual desire in his most recent Dividing Line Broadcast.

Here is the podcast of my rebuttal. Or you can download on iTunes HERE!

Here is a “short” summary of the discussion:

  • To the man (Ad Hominem):

1. One string banjo: White begins by critiquing my Soteriology blog for only covering Soteriology by suggesting this is my only area of ministry focus (i.e. “Flowers is a one-string banjo”). This assumes that I’m putting all my ministry endeavors on my soteriology blog, which is obviously not true. A simple google search would reveal I have a much broader range of ministry involvement:   etc.

I also explain HERE why I focus my attention solely on soteriology within this particular blog, not that it matters, because this is an argument ‘to the man’ rather than to the topic of discussion.

2. Self Promotion: Next, White presumes to know my motives are purely to “make a name for myself” or “gain followers” etc…(one may speculate this is based on projection not evidence, I do not know). I don’t promote myself on my blog or my podcast. I address soteriological views of scripture and confront those who I feel are interpreting scripture wrongly, just as White does toward other notable individuals. There is no reason to presume a nefarious intention.

  • Appeal to Mystery:
    1. Everything is Mysterious: In a recent twitter conversation White attempted to force me into determinism or open theism by either denying contra-causal free will (human responsibility) or omniscience (exhaustive foreknowledge). I refused to deny either of these biblical truths and maintained that we should be silent where the scripture is silent on this issue (i.e. there is mystery). Despite the fact that MOST biblical scholars admit an element of mystery as it relates to divine omniscience and human responsibility, White acted as if my approach was unworthy of consideration and virtually discredited all of my soteriological perspectives as being one big appeal to mystery. As if the entire soteriological systematic of SBC Traditionalists (the view White knows I hold to) only appeals to mystery on every question of this debate, which of course is an absurd conclusion.
    2. Boethius, Lewis, Aquinas: All philosophical speculations are just that, speculative (i.e. man’s attempt to explain mysteries that the bible is not specific about). We all typically have our favorite theory. William Lane Craig, for example, prefers Molinism, White has claimed to be a compatibilist, both of which are THEORIES as to how God’s sovereignly works within the temporal world in relation to morally responsible creatures. But those are not the only philosophical theories out there, which I erroneously presumed Dr. White would understand. Some scholars appeal to the mystery of the infinite/eternal nature of divine knowledge. Thus, when I referenced the ‘eternal now view’ (God is outside of time/not temporal/his knowledge is different than ours) and the scholars that propose it (like the three listed above) I expected him to be more familiar. Apparently this is not a view White has studied, which is fine, but no reason to belittle those who reference it as not having answers to ANY of the biblical questions related to soteriology. By the way, there happens to be reference to all three of these scholars as representatives of this view HERE 
    3. The Boethius quote in the Dividing Line Broadcast was taken out of its context. I was responding to a direct question from Dr. White asking me “what does infinitely knowing mean,” in the context of God’s omniscience and human choice. I quoted a known scholar of that philosophical view to answer his question. He mocks the quote by taking it out of its context and acting as if these three scholars were referenced as proponents of my entire Southern Baptist soteriology, which may be funny and a bit entertaining for uninformed listeners without a discerning ear, but its blatantly misrepresentative of the actual discourse.
  • “It is deeper than that…it has more dimensions…that is too simplistic…it is more complex…it is a like a diamond and you are trying to flatten it out…etc”

These are all statements White makes in response to my article, which explains compatibilism in relation to homosexual desires. What White failed to understand is that I, in an intentional effort to avoid the all too common “accusation of misrepresentation,” merely copied and pasted the article written by John Hendryx (a scholarly compatibilist that Phil Johnson references).  I only take Hendryx’s reference to “human desire/choices/actions” and apply them to “homosexual desire/choices/action” so as to directly superimpose compatibilism (as defined by their own scholar) onto the issue of homosexuality. I explained this so I’m not sure why White responds to the article, as if it is MY representation of compatibilism when in reality it was Hendryx’s representation directly applied to homosexuality. In other words, White mistakenly rebuts his own scholar’s explanation of compatiblistic desires and choices.

Apparently White feels Hendryx’s explanation of compatibilism is not “deep, complex, or multi-dimensional” enough (White’s own way of appealing to mystery, maybe?). Was Hendryx too clear? Should he have been less forthright about what Compatibilists teach and believe so that someone like me couldn’t come along and ask such SPECIFIC questions about how the system applies to practical issues such as homosexuality? I suppose White wishes that Hendryx was more MYSTERIOUS (i.e. “multi-dimensional, deep, complex”) in his explanations?

At one point White references Hendryx’s explanation as being “too puppet like.” Ironically, I could not agree more! That is the reason I reject compatibilism, but it doesn’t explain how White attempts to maintain his “compatibilistic” views in light of such statements represented on his broadcast and in my article.

He never actually gets SPECIFIC enough in his broadcast to answer those charges in light of the explanations of the scholars of his own view, yet ironically he ends by accusing me of not being specific.

Here is the podcast of my rebuttal. Or you can download on iTunes HERE!

* watch Dr. John MacArthur admit the mystery of his views HERE.

14 thoughts on “Appeal to Mystery: Response to Dr. James White

  1. Thank you for this ministry.

    We have very few places like this we can send young guys to so they can see the other side of Calvinism.

    I look forward to buying your books when you start publishing if you haven’t already done so.

    Here to serve,

    Mark Coffey 079-784-3014 770-573-1766 US#


  2. Thank you again Leighton for this, another gracious reply to those who are attacking your careful presentation of truth that the Lord has confirmed to you from the authority of His Word and not just from scholarly opinion. I hope you have not minded my input on your pages and my rebuttals to others who have tried to awkwardly defend Calvinism. If you feel my input hasn’t been very helpful please let me know. Keep up this important work that the Lord has led you to do, along with the rest of your pastoral ministry!

    1. I love your comments. Saves me time when I don’t have opportunity to respond and your answers are typically better than mine would be anyway. 🙂

      Thanks brother!!!

  3. proponents of the doctrines of grace indeed appeal to mystery. we don’t know the identity or the number of the elect.

    God preordained all actions and events in time which is necessary for God to actually be omniscient and man acts upon the desires of his heart as james 1:13-15 states.

    man does not act based on God’s creative decree as man does not know God’s creative decree. man acts based on his own will and desires which is in accordance with God’s creative decree. God is not surprised or shocked by anything that happens in His universe.

    God did not force, coerce, or tempt anyone to sin. he ordained as part of His creative decree that they would take an action that would be deemed sinful according to God’s law.

    1. Yudo NeidaNo
      God preordained [i.e. predestined] all actions and events in time which is necessary for God to actually be omniscient
      man acts upon the desires of his heart

      This first assertion must be “shown” to be TRUE
      And Dr. Flower’s article above loosely refers to other viable options.
      Which don’t require one to speak a double-speak language
      And don’t implicate the THEOS as the author of evil.

      But the second assertion can certainly be logically consistent with Theological Determinism
      The desires of man are RENDERED-CERTAIN at the foundation of the world
      Established at a point in which man has no say in the matter.

      Yudo NeidaNo
      man does not act based on God’s creative decree as man does not know God’s creative decree.

      This statement is logically incoherent.
      In Theological Determinism man certainly does act based upon the creative decree.
      That is in fact the very definition of Theological Determinism.

      Yudo NeidaNo
      man acts based on his own will and desires which is in accordance with God’s creative decree.

      This statement is to equivocal to be trustworthy
      The phrase “in accordance” presents the ILLUSION that man has some degree of autonomy.
      Which is FALSE in Theological Determinism.

      Yudo NeidaNo
      God is not surprised or shocked by anything that happens in His universe.

      I would hope not!
      Since he FIRST-CONCEIVED and then RENDERED-CERTAIN every neurological impulse the creature will ever have!
      If after doing all that he is shocked or surprised – then he’s not playing with a full deck of cards.

      Yudo NeidaNo
      God did not force, coerce, or tempt anyone to sin.

      This statement is problematic on a few levels
      Firstly there is no such thing as a force-less force.
      And certainly no one is going to argue the decrees are force-less.

      Since all sins are RENDERED-CERTAIN at the foundation of the world – makes all sins UP TO the THEOS – and not UP TO man.
      They come to pass caused by supernatural factors outside of man’s control

      Calvin himself states -quote “They are FORCED to do him service” (Institutes I, 17, 11.)
      So according to Calvin there is a force at work.

      Yudo NeidaNo
      he ordained as part of His creative decree that they would take an action that would be deemed sinful according to God’s law.

      Thus he FIRST CONCEIVES and RENDERS-CERTAIN sins come to pass.
      So that he can condemn someone else for what he FIRST CONCEIVED and RENDERED-CERTAIN.

      This is part of the logical and ethical problems that come with Theological Determinism.
      It forces the believer to hold Determinism as true *AS-IF* false.
      It induces the believer into many forms of “altruistic dishonesty”, and to rely upon a library of double-speak.
      It induces spiritual pride and elitism.
      It leaves one with no certainty of what the THEOS intends for one’s eternal fate.
      It makes divine evil utilitarian
      It blurs the line of demarcation between good and evil – where they become undifferentiated.
      And it implicates the THEOS as the author of evil.

      For all of its un-Biblical consequences – what virtues does it have that make it worth embracing?

  4. Man, you seem to dislike Calvinism on this blog. Do you ever intend though to speak to the contextualization issues of these debates?

    It seems freewill, free, will are all predefined categories that themselves don’t need hashing out if you are going to discuss them. I may have just missed it though…

    Do you have a post on that you can point me to?

    Myself a Calvinist, I find the philosophical constructs such as those are the weak point of Armenism, so any clarity on your sides understanding of that after 1800 would be most appreciated. I only understand older constructions of it that are heavily enlightenment based, so a post-Modern treatment or something you could point me to would bring me up to date. (I’m an 80’s kid though so I confess counter factuals just baffle me. I think to empirically. )

    But to be fair I’d complain that about the Calvinist you tend to qoute too, we aren’t in the 1900’s anymore and they are still in a Princeton debates mode.

      1. Yeah, went as far back as I could… didn’t find it. Most of it is freewill vrs Calvinism. Do you have a link? I could only see till Nov. last year.

        I’m more interested in any work that’s just on freewill not as contrasted to something but as a subject itself. A baseline entymology, philosophy, or spectrum on it that’s free from a secondary context like against this or that, or theologically meaning this. We often define terms against what they aren’t, but a positive affirmation of how we construct our ideas reviels much more and makes debate less combative and more constructive. Why argue conclusions when our axioms don’t match and all.

  5. And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. The Works of John Newton, “On Controversy.”

  6. Thank you for your seeking God’s true gift of freedom,i have been celibate for 12+years and God has brought to life His purpose for sexuality and He alone has shown me my homosexual relations were All about me,His grace allowed my to do some Godly introspection, set set me free from my self……….. i praise God for you Humility and TRUTH !!!!!!!!!!! sTEVEN

    1. Wonderful post Steven!!
      Thank you so much for your testimony!

      And yes Jesus is our deliverer!! :-]

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