Does the Bible Teach Predestination?
An Exegetical Debate
Dr. James White vs Mormon Apologist Darryl Barksdale of FAIR
Biographical information for: James White, Th.D.
James White has the great privilege of serving as an elder in the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. He is also the Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization which he co-founded in 1983. He currently works as a Critical Consultant on the New American Standard Bible Update, is an adjunct professor teaching for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (having taught Systematic Theology, Christology, Apologetics, Greek and Hebrew), and also teaches for Columbia Evangelical Seminary. He is an author, having written more than a dozen books, including such works as Letters to a Mormon Elder, The King James Only Controversy, Is the Mormon My Brother?, Mary—Another Redeemer?, The Roman Catholic Controversy, Grieving: Our Path Back to Peace, God’s Sovereign Grace, Drawn by the Father, and his most recent work, The Forgotten Trinity. He has also contributed to such works as Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible and has written a number of articles for the Christian Research Journal.
James has earned an M.A. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and the Th.M/Th.D degree from Columbia Evangelical Seminary, a non-traditional seminary specializing in providing mentoring-based education. James is currently working on two youth books (one on creation, one on the Bible), and two books on the topic of Scripture—one on Bible translations, the other on the sufficiency of Scripture. He is also the host of the Thursday evening edition of The Voice of Sovereign Grace on WMCA Radio in New York City, and also hosts The Dividing Line, the radio ministry of Alpha and Omega Ministries on KPXQ, 960AM in Phoenix.
Dr. White is a veteran debater, having engaged in twenty-four public, moderated debates against the leading Roman Catholic apologists in the United States. He has extensive experience in evangelizing the LDS people, having led a group of volunteers in passing out tracts and sharing the gospel at the past 29 consecutive General Conferences in Salt Lake City, and at the LDS Easter Pageant in Mesa, Arizona, for the past fifteen years. He has also done numerous radio debates live on the air in Salt Lake City with LDS Apologists.
James is married to Kelli, and has two children, Joshua Daniel and Summer Marie. His hobbies (when all his work allows for it) are weight-lifting, bicycling, chess, and tickling his kids.
James is a churchman. That is, he believes it is God’s will, revealed in Scripture, that the Church of Jesus Christ be the “pillar and foundation of the truth,” and that the highest calling a man can receive is to serve Christ in His Church. Therefore, all of James’ life, including decisions regarding ministry, writing, education and employment, center around his stated desire to glorify Christ through the edification of the people of God gathered in Christ’s Church.
Biographical Information for Darryl Barksdale:
Darryl L. Barksdale is first and foremost, a disciple of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Secondarily, he is the devoted husband of Tracy, and the father of Jaclyn, Justin, Jenny, Michele, Erica, Aaron, Lindsay, Lauren, and Scott. He is also the President of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), and is an ardent student of the Holy Word of God, Christian History, and the Early Church Fathers.
Mr. Barksdale claims no special title, and quickly affirms that he is not a scholar. He holds no advanced degrees. He is not published in any mainstream Christian journals. He is not esteemed as one of the intellectual “elite” within the LDS church or elsewhere within Christianity.
He is simply a humble follower of Christ, and a devoted student of Holy Writ.
[Note to all readers: In the following presentation Greek terms are presented using the Greek font designed and developed by Bill Mounce. This font is available for download and installation on your computer system by clicking on the following links: for Windows: download the Mounce font. If you use a Mac, or if the preceding link does not work for you, go to the following URL and download from there: http://www.teknia.com/fonts/grkfnt.html. Please note that this is the newest edition of the Mounce font, dated 10/98. Earlier editions of the font may not display properly in every instance. It may also contain Hebrew words. Click here to download a zip file containing the proper Hebrew font.]
An Affirmative and Exegetical Presentation
A number of years ago I found myself locked in an intense conversation with a young Mormon man on the sidewalk outside the LDS Temple in Mesa, Arizona. He had asked me initially why I thought there were so many churches, and part of my reply had been that I believed many people do not believe all of Scripture, but instead pick and choose what parts they will, or will not, believe. He did not seem overly impressed, but we continued on, and very soon came to the issue of the gospel of God’s grace. He immediately sensed that I was presenting a very strong view of grace, and asked, “So, are you saying that God saves only by His grace? That we don’t have anything to do with it?” “Yes,” I replied. He looked amazed, and said, “So, you don’t believe in predestination, do you?” Rather than respond immediately, I opened my Bible to Ephesians 1:11, and read it in his hearing: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (KJV). My LDS friend replied, “So, you are saying.” I stopped him in mid-sentence and re-read the passage. He said, “So, you believe.” I again stopped him, and again re-read the passage. At this point he looked over the top of my Bible, found the passage (outlined in yellow), pointed to it and said, “That passage is wrong, and I feel good saying that.” I closed my Bible, looked at him, and said, “Sir, when you first came up to me, you asked why there were so many different churches. I told you that it was because people will pick and choose what they will and will not believe. Sir, no one has ever given me a better example of that than you.”
Sometime in October of 1998 I entered a chatroom in AOL and engaged Darryl Barksdale in a discussion on the subject of salvation. I was not using my normal screen name at the time. When the issue of predestination came up, I pointed to Ephesians 1:11. At that time Mr. Barksdale offered to give me a “lesson in exegesis.” I gladly accepted the invitation, and we began to look closely at the text itself. Out of that interaction has come this debate on predestination in Scripture.
In keeping with Mr. Barksdale’s kind offer to give me a “lesson in exegesis,” I hope that this debate will, in fact, focus upon just that: the meaningful, fair, scholarly exegesis of the text of Scripture. Indeed, for my part, I shall do all I can to keep the focus where it needs to be. I firmly believe that the close, fair, honest exegesis of the text of the Bible will yield only one truth, and that truth is that God is sovereign in all things, including the matter of salvation, and that He has an elect people, chosen specifically by Him, who are the heirs of eternal life. This is not the teaching of Mormonism, to be sure, nor is it the teaching of a large portion of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Yet, the Scriptures are clear.
Numerous biblical passages can be cited that plainly teach the divine truth that God predestines men unto salvation. John 6:35-45, Romans 9:10-24, and 2 Timothy 1:8-10 all teach this truth. But I shall focus first upon the classicus locus, Ephesians 1:3-11, for my initial exegetical defense of this divine truth. As space permits, I will then briefly address Romans 9 and John 6. I invite the interested reader to follow along. I shall use as my base text the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek New Testament. English translations are my own.
Paul begins this tremendous introduction to his letter1 with a word of blessing addressed to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:3). All of salvation comes from the Father, its source, and its end. It is the Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Immediately we encounter three vital truths: 1) God is the one who has blessed us (we did not bless ourselves); this is seen in recognizing that oJ eujloghvsa” refers to the Father specifically; 2) that Paul is not speaking of all mankind here, but specifically of the redeemed, for he uses the personal pronoun hJma'” (us) when speaking of the scope of the blessing of the Father; we will see this is continued throughout the text; and 3) the phrase ejn Cristw’ (in Christ) or its equivalent in Him, is central to Paul’s thought. All of salvation takes place only “in Christ.”
Verse 4 is central to our subject: “just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”2 Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hJma'”, accusative, indicating direct object of “to choose”). This choice is exercised only in Christ (there is no salvation outside of the Son). It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere “plan” was chosen, or a “process” put in place. The choice is personal both in its context (in the Son) and in its object (the elect). Next, the time of this choice by the Father is likewise important: before the creation of the world. This is a choice that is timeless. It was made before we were created,3 and therefore cannot possibly be based upon anything that we ourselves do or “choose.”4 This is sovereignty–free and unlimited.
God does nothing without a purpose. Both the means, and end, are in view. God chooses the elect to the end that they should be “holy and blameless before Him.” God is redeeming for Himself a people, and no power in heaven or earth can stop Him from accomplishing His intention.
Paul continues to expand upon the nature of the Father’s choice: “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (v. 5). This is the first appearance of the word “predestined” in the text. The exact same term (proorivzw) is used in verse 11 as well. The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “to predestine.”5 In this context, it is unquestionably personal in its object, for again we find hJma'” as the direct object of the action of predestination. This is truly the key element of this debate, for grammatically there is no escape from the plain assertion here made: God the Father predestined us. He did not predestine a plan, He did not merely predestine a general conclusion to all things, but He chose us and predestined us. The “us” of Ephesians 1:5 is the “we” of Ephesians 1:11 and the “elect” of Romans 8:33 and those who are “given” by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.
Often we are asked “upon what basis does God choose one person, and leave another in their sins?” Paul answers in 1:5b-6, “according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace which he freely gave us in the Beloved One.” We note that there is nothing whatsoever here about man doing anything. Instead, we have the good pleasure of God’s will, nothing more. And this is perfectly logical, for, as Paul says, this is to result in the praise of His glorious grace. If salvation were the result of man’s choosing God (rather than God choosing man), then God’s grace would not be the sole and sufficient basis for salvation, and it would not, therefore, be the object of our praise in eternity to come. But Paul here sums it all up for us, indicating that the basis is solely God’s will, and therefore all praise and honor and glory will go to God’s glorious grace, that grace whereby the elect of God are saved, and will persevere into the eternal state. Such a truth is utterly shattering to human pride, and to all systems of works salvation. But it is the truth nonetheless. And note as well: again hJma'” appears, this time as the direct object of the free giving of God’s grace. This is saving grace, efficient grace, that actually accomplishes the salvation of its object. And hence, it is given to the redeemed, to the elect, and they alone. This is no mere “common grace” given to all: this is specific, saving grace. And, as is his constant strain throughout this opening passage of Ephesians, Paul emphasizes once again the fact that this saving grace is only in Christ, here described as “the beloved One.”
Having mentioned Christ, the beloved Son of the Father, Paul goes on to assert that it is in Him alone that we (again the elect, this time found in the first person plural ending of e[comen) have, present tense, redemption through His blood (literally, the redemption), which Paul then re-describes appositively6 as “the forgiveness of our sins.” The standard of God’s forgiveness is said to be “according to the riches of His grace,” which surely means that there is no limitation to the scope, nor power, of Christ’s redeeming blood.7 This grace, verse 8 goes on to say, was “lavished” on us, or “super-abounded” toward us (the now almost ubiquitous hJma'” once again); obviously, it has not so abounded toward all, hence, again, the specificity of Christ’s work of salvation, including His work of atonement, is seen.8
In the next phrases (1:8b-10), Paul explains the centrality of Christ, both in the work of redemption as well as in the revelation of God’s intention, will and purpose. All is summed up in Christ, Paul says. The Father’s will is that everything be done in Christ. This “mystery of His will” He has made known to us (here hJmi’n, dative, because of gnwrivsa”).
We come then, far too quickly, to the eleventh verse, wherein we again see plainly the outcome of our debate: “In Him (that is, in Christ) also we have been claimed as God’s own possession,9 having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His own will.”
Note how this passage functions as a “bookend” to sum up the preceding section:
1) The Father’s work of salvation takes place exclusively in the realm of the Son, “in Him.” It is in Christ that we have “been claimed as God’s own possession,” that is, have received the promised inheritance, though the emphasis is upon the God-ward side of this transaction, not the human side. The concept of “God’s own possession” comes up again in verse 14. The elect are God’s people,”a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).
2) Those who are God’s people are so because they were “predestined.” Again, no ambiguity exists in the meaning of the term, nor its use in the passage. Mr. Barksdale, in our discussion of this passage in AOL, indicated that he believed that God had predestined a plan in this verse. I pointed out to him that proorisqevnte” is an aorist passive participle, 1st person plural. A “plan” would call for a singular form, not a plural form. Why is it plural? Because is it referring back to “we have been claimed.” The subject of the participle is found in the plural ending of ejklhrwvqhmen. It cannot be a “plan” but is a people, God’s people, the elect, who are here plainly seen to be the object of God’s act of predestination.
3) The basis for God’s choice is again removed from the human realm and placed squarely and inalterably in the divine. God chooses on the basis of His own purpose (not on the basis of what we do). When Paul speaks of God’s purpose, He attaches a clause that describes his God. Literally, it would read, “the all things working according to the council of His will One.” The emphasis in the clause is on ta; pavnta, “all things.” God works all things after the council of His will. Not some things, not most things, but all things. This is true in all aspects of His creation: the God Paul proclaims is sovereign over all things, is in control of all things, and all things exist at His command, and for His purpose. That is why the Psalmist could say, “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).
Paul then applies this eternal truth to his immediate audience, those who were “the first to hope in Christ.” Thanks be to God that He has continued to draw His elect over the ages, so that we living in our present day can likewise join with them in hoping in Christ, and hence resound to the “praise of His glory.” But I hasten to emphasize: His glory is only praised when His complete sovereignty in salvation is plainly seen and proclaimed. Even saving faith in Christ is a gift of God given to the elect.10 Men dare not intrude upon God€s sole glory: and that is exactly what we see in those systems that attempt to place man in control of God, and make God dependent upon man and the puny creatures will in the matter of redemption.
Space will demand a less in-depth look at my other two passages, Romans 9 and John 6. Both, however, will be seen to repeat the same concepts found in Ephesians 1.
The relevance of Romans 9 is obvious upon the most casual reading. It comes on the heels of a passage that again uses the specific term “predestined” of the elect people of God (8:29-33). Paul begins by illustrating God’s electing grace in the patriarchs of the Jewish people, proving, thereby, that the Jews have no basis upon which to complain now that God, in His grace, has chosen to extend His covenant mercies to the Gentiles as well. Paul points to Jacob and Esau (9:10-13) as an example of this: “before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad” God said, “the older will serve the younger.” Why does Paul emphasize that this was said before the birth of the twins, and before they had done anything good or bad? The text is plain: “in order that God’s purpose according to election would stand not on the basis of works, but on the basis of the One calling.” God’s purpose in election will stand, infallibly. The choice of Jacob over Esau was not on the basis of the actions of the twins (indeed, both showed themselves unworthy by their sinful attitudes of any of God’s blessings). Instead, the basis is always found in God, “the One calling.” Because of this, it is written in Scripture, “Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated.”
It is fascinating to note that Paul had obviously heard all the objections against the Gospel many times before. He includes an “imaginary objector” in this section to voice all the common complaints about God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s complete dependence upon Him. Fallen man outside of Christ hates the truth that God is the Potter, we are the clay. The unregenerate heart rebels against such a truth. When we read, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated,” we say, “that is not fair! That is unjust!” And indeed, Paul immediately voices that objection, and then answers it as well. But before looking at his answer, do remember this: the amazing thing about the statement “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated” is not that God hated Esau: Esau was a sinner, an enemy of God, and God’s wrath abides upon anyone still in their sins. The amazing thing about the statement is “Jacob I loved.” That is grace undeserved.
“What will we say, then? There is no injustice with God, is there?” (v. 14). As soon as sovereignty is seen, man cries foul. Paul’s answer is quick: “May it never be! For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. Therefore it does not depend on the one who wills, neither on the one who runs, but on God, who shows mercy.” The NET translates it, “it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on the mercy of God.” In either case, the actions and will of man are utterly removed from consideration by Paul’s response. God’s choice is totally free. Mercy and compassion cannot be demanded of the Righteous Judge of all. They must be free. Rather than defending the “freedom of man,” the truly regenerate heart should be jealous for the freedom of God instead.
The Scriptures go on to illustrate this truth in the life of Pharaoh. Paul asserts (9:17) that God raised up Pharaoh for a specific purpose: that God’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Again the rebellious heart cries out in complaint, while the believer bows in humble adoration. “May I be used only to bring honor and glory to the name of my God” is the cry of the broken heart. So Paul goes on to press the point home in verse 18, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wishes; but He likewise hardens whom He wishes.” How much more plainly can it be stated? The context is clearly personal: Pharaoh was a person, as were Jacob and Esau. God shows mercy to individuals, and, likewise, whether we like it or not, He hardens individuals as well. This is predestination, plain and clear.
Of course, immediately the creature rebels and cries out (v. 19), “Why does He still find fault? Who has ever resisted His will?” The clay attempts to demand of the Potter a reason for His actions. The creature climbs onto the throne of the Creator and acts as if he has a right to be there. Make no mistake: this response, natural as it is for the sinful heart, is, itself, a symptom of sin, and is an act of rebellion. As Paul will point out, it is as foolish as a cup demanding its Maker give an account for its size, color, or shape. Cups have no such rights, and neither does the creature, man. Of course, it is just here that I would assert that the LDS faith has no way of even beginning to make sense of what Paul is saying, or how he is about to respond. You see, the God Paul worshipped, the God of Christianity, is the Almighty Maker of all things. He has eternally been God, and anything that exists, anywhere and at any time, does so at His will and command. Joseph Smith proclaimed in the King Follett Funeral Discourse, “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” Hence, Mormonism simply does not have a concept of God that can possibly undertake to make sense out of Paul’s reply. As the NET renders it, “But who indeed are you a mere human being to talk back to God?” More traditionally, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, Why did you make me like this, will it?” The answer is devastating, but only when, by grace, your heart is “given ears to hear” what it is saying. It is a shattering experience to really come to see yourself as you are: a creature, formed and made by another for His own purposes (not yours!), utterly dependent upon Him. There is no room for pride in such a truth and so the natural man rejects it, and indeed, in my experience, hates it.
Man is the “thing molded.” God is the molder. God is God, man is man. In Mormonism, God and man are of the “same species,” and God is, in fact, an “exalted man,” or as one LDS acquaintance of mine puts it, “a theomorphic man.” Therefore, this passage makes no sense in the LDS context (because, I strongly assert, LDS theology is not biblical theology, but its opposite). For Paul is not saying, “Who are you, yet-to-be-exalted man, to talk back to the already-exalted man?” No, there is no Potter/pot relationship in Mormonism, hence, there is no room for this truth in LDS thinking.
Paul presses onward to his conclusion: “Or does not the Potter have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for honorable use, and yet another for common use?” His illustration is striking. Potters have full authority to do with a lump of clay whatever they wish. It is irrational to insist that the potter has to make from one lump of clay all honorable vessels or all common ones. He can do what he wishes. But what bothers us so tremendously here is the obvious fact that we are the vessels formed from clay! And we have no say over the purpose for which we have been made: that is the right of the Potter.
Paul goes on in verses 22-23, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory?” Who are these vessels prepared beforehand for glory? The elect of God, the people He has redeemed for His own name’s sake. It is hard to see how Paul could have been any more clear, any more direct in his presentation of the absolute sovereignty of God in election.
It has been my experience over the years that some people, especially Mormons, have an implicit distrust in “things Pauline.” Hence, it would be good, very briefly, to demonstrate that the Apostle Paul was simply presenting the same truths enunciated by the Lord Himself in the synagogue at Capernaum. Here is the relevant passage, John 6:35-40, 44-45:11
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one coming12 to Me will never hunger, and the one believing in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet you do not believe. All that the Father gives to me will come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will never cast out, for I have come down out of heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the One who sent Me. This is the will of the One who sent Me: that of all that He has given Me I lose none of it, but instead raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone looking on the Son and believing in Him should have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. . . . No one is able to come to Me unless the Father, who sent Me, draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It stands written in the prophets: and they shall all be taught by God. Every one who hears from the Father and learns comes to Me.”
Every word the Lord Jesus speaks is filled with meaning. He introduces Himself as the bread of life, the only true source of spiritual nourishment. Yet, the Jews do not believe. Why? The very incarnate Son of God was standing right in front of them! Why would they not believe? Because, as Jesus explained in John 10:26, they were not of His “sheep.” They were not given to Him by the Father, for all that the Father gives to the Son will, without question, without failure, come to Him. Note that for the Father to be able to give men to the Son we must be talking about the same Father of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9: the sovereign God who is maker and creator of men, not merely an exalted man. He has the sovereign right to give certain men to Christ, but not others. Those who are given come: those who are not do not. The divine order is clear: God’s giving of men to the Son precedes and determines their coming to Christ. First comes the action of God, and then the action of men. God acts, man responds, never the other way around, in the matter of salvation.
The security of the elect is plainly seen in this text: Christ will never cast out the one who has been given to Him by the Father and has come to Him as a result; indeed, it is the very will of the Father that the Lord Jesus lose nothing of all that has been given to Him! What a wonderful promise to realize that the Lord Jesus will never fail to do the Father’s will, and hence, the salvation of God’s people is as sure as the power, purity, and purpose of the very Son of God Himself!
Briefly, the final verses likewise present the utter sovereignty of God in predestination. Jesus makes it clear: No one has the ability to come to Him unless something else happens: the drawing of the Father. Now, many would say, “Well, the Father draws everyone.” That is untrue. The Father draws the elect, including the elect of all nations and tribes and tongues and peoples.13 Even this passage makes this clear, as it is obvious that all who are drawn are also raised up on the last day, a phrase that in John is equivalent to being given eternal life.14 Hence, here we are told that God draws the elect to Christ, and outside of that effectual drawing, there is no person who will come to Christ. Indeed, as Paul said, “there is no God-seeker” (Romans 3:11).
The thesis our debate is clear: does the Bible teach predestination? The answer is obvious: yes, it does. It teaches the specific, personal, individual predestination of the entire body of the elect people of God. God chooses the objects of His mercy and grace, and others He leaves in their sin and rebellion.
It is my hope that my opponent will offer specific, meaningful exegetical responses to these passages, so that the reader can do as Isaiah said long ago: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20).
1 I believe the letter to the Ephesians was a circular letter, i.e., meant to be read in all the churches in the Lycus River Valley (cf. Col 4:16).
2 There are a number of punctuation variants in this passage. At this point, I think “in love” would go best with the following phrase, providing the realm in which predestination itself takes place, that being God’s loving purpose. The NASB follows this understanding.
3 I reject the LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and there is nothing in Paul’s theology, or the Bible’s teaching, that presents such a concept. Indeed, in Romans 9:11 Paul speaks of the time before the birth of Jacob and Esau as a time when “they had not done anything good or bad.” It is basic to that passage to see that Paul does not hold the LDS idea of pre-existence.
4 For a discussion of the common use of the term “foreknowledge,” see Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT), Eerdmans, 1996, pp. 532-534, John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans Eerdmans, 1997, pp. 315-319, and White, God’s Sovereign Grace, Crowne Publications, 1991, pp. 117-122.
5 See any standard lexical source, such as BAGD (p. 709) or Louw & Nida (pp. 360-361).
6 Syntactically the accusative in simple apposition. This is important since some groups separate redemption and the specific forgiveness of sins.
7 This would involve a denial of the LDS doctrine of “blood atonement,” that concept wherein there are certain “grievous” sins for which the blood of Christ will not atone.
8 I refer here briefly to the biblical teaching on the specific purpose of Christ’s atoning sacrifice: the redemption of the elect. For more on this, seen John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Eerdmans, 1955.
9 So NET (cf. 1:14); “we were also chosen” (NIV), “obtained an inheritance” (NASB, NRSV).
10 See Colossians 1:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Acts 3:16, Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 1:29, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 2:8-9.
11 For a fuller exposition of John 6:35-45, see my work, Drawn by the Father, Crowne Publications, 1991).
12 Both “coming” and “believing” are present-tense participles. Saving faith is a persevering faith, for it is the gift of God, and it accomplishes what God intends it to accomplish, through grace.
13 John 12:32, Revelation 5:9-10.
14 There is no concept of “eternal lives,” “exaltation,” celestial, terrestrial, and telestial levels of heaven, etc., in John’s writings (nor anywhere in the Christian Scriptures) in the LDS understanding of such terms. Hence, “eternal life” is the highest gift given by God to His people.
Word Count: 4933
Predestination vs. Foreordination in the Preexistence
Darryl L. Barksdale
“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation. And accordingly, as each has been created for one of other of these ends, we say that he as been predestinated to life or to death.”
What Does ‘Predestination’ Mean?
Before any critical examination of the Biblical support (or lack thereof) for Predestination can occur, it is important to have a clear idea of just what that concept entails. Simply put, it is the belief that God chose those whom He wanted to save before the foundations of the Earth were laid, and the rest He simply “threw away,” for no other reason than that He felt like it.
The concept of Predestination, or “election,” can be traced back to the teachings of Augustine, who said, “The fact is that God gives this gift to those to whom He wishes to give it.”1 Augustine defined who the elect were in this way: “Those who by the divine grace are singled out of that original body of the lost.”2
Richard Grant, in his insightful work Understanding These Other Christians, cites a number of protestant scholars’ views on Predestination. For example, Dr. R. C. Sproul, President of Ligonier Ministries, says:
“When we say that election is unconditional we mean that the original decree of God by which he chooses some people to be saved is not dependent upon some future condition in us that God foresees. There is nothing in us that God could foresee that would induce him to choose us. The only thing he would foresee in the lives of fallen creatures left to themselves would be sin. God chooses us simply according to the good pleasure of his will.”3
Duane Edward Spencer explained that “Christ died to save particular persons who were given Him by the Father in eternity past. His death was, therefore, a one hundred percent success, in that all for whom He died will be saved, and all for whom He did not die will receive “justice” from God when they are cast into Hell.”4
It is not an understatement to say that the doctrine of Predestination forms the backbone of TULIP, which stands for the following reformed doctrines:
Total Depravity: “Unregenerated man is in absolute bondage to Satan, and wholly incapable of exercising his own will freely to trust in Christ. Salvation, therefore, is dependent upon the work of God who must will to give man life before he can believe in Christ.”5
Unconditional Election: Foreknowledge is “based upon the purpose or plan of God, so that election had no basis in some fancied ‘condition’ on the part of man, but was the result of the free will of the Creator apart from any foreseen ‘work of faith’ in spiritually-dead man.”6
Limited Atonement: “Christ died to save particular persons who were given Him by the Father in eternity past. His death was, therefore, a one hundred percent success, in that all for whom He died will be saved, and all for whom He did not die will receive ‘justice’ from God when they are cast into Hell.”7
Irresistible Grace: “The grace of God cannot be obstructed…the Lord possesses ‘irresistible grace’….Since all dead human spirits are drawn irresistibly to Satan, the god of the dead, and all living human spirits are drawn irresistibly to Jehovah, the God of the living, our Lord simply gives His chosen ones the Spirit of Life! The moment He does so their spiritual polarity is changed. Where they were once ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ and oriented to the devil, now they are made ‘alive in Christ Jesus’ and oriented to God.”8
Perseverance of the Saints: “Since salvation is entirely the work of the Lord, and man has absolutely nothing to do with ‘getting saved’ in the first place, it is obvious that ‘keeping saved’ is also the work of God, apart from any good or bad on the part of His elect. The saints will ‘persevere’ for the simple reason that God promises this, assuring us that He will finish the work He has begun in us!”9
The doctrines of TULIP, most commonly found as part of Calvinism, are countered in the Protestant community by Arminianism, which espouses that man has been endowed with Free Will, or the ability to choose whether to accept Christ or not. It also includes the belief that, contrary to Calvinism’s “once-saved, always saved,” man can fall from grace. Arminianism arose in the late sixteenth century through a Dutch theologian named Jacob Hermann, who expressed serious doubts about the validity of Calvin’s position on Irresistible Grace. Hermann’s followers formed a statement of belief called the Five Points of Arminianism, after the Latin Arminius (Hermann’s last name).
Biblical Teachings Opposed to Predestination
One of the most precious gifts given to man by God is the gift of Free Agency. Even though God foreordained groups of people throughout history for different purposes, as can be seen by His dealings with the ancient Israelites, the restriction of the Levitical Priesthood to a certain tribe, and His later prohibition against the gospel going to the gentiles until after the Ascension, God never took away the free agency of man to accept or reject Him as their God.
The Bible is replete with teachings that once saved, salvation is not assured no matter what, but in fact, individuals stood in jeopardy of losing their salvation if they did not “endure to the end.” Such are the teachings of Paul and John the Revelator, among others. Author Richard Hopkins points out some of the many teachings of the Bible regarding the role of man’s will and free agency in the process of salvation. Much of the following was taken from, or the concepts were adapted from, Hopkins’ Biblical Mormonism.
Predestination assumes that spiritual justification occurs but once in a person’s lifetime. When “saved,” justification cleanses a new believer of his or her past sins, but most will commit additional sin. This new sin will adversely affect a believer’s relationship with their Lord. They no longer stand spotless or blameless before Him, and hence, are no longer in a state that will allow them to know God.10 God is concerned with man’s present status.11
God is patient with repentant believers who are sincerely striving to obey His commandments12 but, like any other past sin, new sins must be forsaken and remitted, or justified. So, although Christ’s act of atonement was accomplished once for all men,13 each man’s need for justification recurs throughout his lifetime.14 The process in which men are repeatedly justified as they repent of new sins until they learn perfect obedience to God is called sanctification, meaning to consecrate or make holy… to dedicate to the Lord.15
While the Bible speaks of sanctification being by the Lord,16 it also indicates that men have a part in it as they exercise their will and moral agency in an effort to maintain a state of holiness.17 Although the Lord provides the means for sanctification, He expects all men to sanctify themselves to Him.18
Paul explained the elements and process of sanctification in Titus 2:11-14 as follows:
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
The grace of God brings salvation to men through justification for their past sins. This principle teaches men that they must live righteously, repenting and receiving justification anew each time they fall and commit new sin. Men should look forward to salvation as God purifies and redeems them “from ALL iniquity,” until they become “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
The dual role of God and man in the sanctification process is illustrated in 1 Thess 4:3-8 (NASB), as follows:
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”
This passage clearly places upon men the responsibility of maintaining the state of moral holiness that comes through justification. That is why men are commanded throughout the Bible to repent and endure to the end, even after they have been justified. They are saved while in obedience to God, a state of holiness which they will learn to maintain for longer and longer periods at a time, until they are ready for eternal obedience in the Kingdom of God.
Paul illustrates the relationship between salvation and the sanctification process in 2 Thess 2:13 as follows:
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
Ultimate salvation is obtained only through the process of sanctification. By this process men are prepared to live with God in His Kingdom eternally. Scripture clearly teaches this principle: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”19 The expression “see the Lord” refers to the time when men will be ready to enter the actual presence of God.
Paul taught the same truths to King Agrippa in Acts 26:18. There he announced that Christ had sent him to the Gentiles:
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Peter teaches this same principle in 1 Peter 1:2. There, addressing believers throughout the world, he describes them as:
“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
This means that men are saved by faith in Christ and numbered among the “elect” (a term that relates to salvation) through sanctification.
These passages also demonstrate that the purpose of sanctification is to learn obedience. To be fully sanctified is to arrive at a state of consistent obedience that, in conjunction with justification for past sins, will allow men to live in perfection with God. Men who have achieved this goal during their life on earth were referred to as “perfect” in the Bible.20 Even though they were not perfect from birth, as Christ was, they learned obedience through the process of sanctification and were justified with respect to their past sins through the grace of Christ.
The scriptures say that men are sanctified by God’s truth,21 through Christ,22 by the Spirit of God,23 through the influence of others,24 by obedience to the ordinances of the gospel, notably baptism,25 and by the word of God and prayer.26 It is clear, therefore, that a mutual effort is necessary to bring men into a state of holiness that will allow them to enter God’s presence, and that that state of holiness may be lost through sin and turning from righteousness.
Predestination vs. Foreordination
The fact that men lived as spirit children of God before the Earth was created is readily apparent not only from many Bible passages, but also from ancient Jewish Rabbinical tradition, Apocryphal sources, and other ancient historians. One of the prime examples of this in the Bible is given to us by the prophet Jeremiah. God, speaking in Jeremiah 1:5, implies that Jeremiah existed before the creation, and that their relationship extended long before birth:
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before though camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, AND I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (emphasis mine).
Jehovah here clearly tells Jeremiah that he knew him in a permortal existence…that He sanctified Jeremiah, and ordained him a prophet before he came out of the womb.
That this passage speaks of an act requiring an interpersonal relationship is beyond dispute. God ordained Jeremiah a prophet! Please keep in mind that Jeremiah was no stranger to the actual process of ordination, or to what that word meant. Ordination to such a calling, as Jeremiah was most certainly clearly aware, was accomplished by the laying on of hands.27 There is no reason within the boundaries of sound hermeneutics that Jer 1:5 should be interpreted figuratively. The prophet Jeremiah, like all of us, lived with his Heavenly Father as a spirit child for an unknown duration before being born on this earth.
The realization that we lived with God as His spirit children before our sojourn on Earth explains many otherwise mysterious and completely incongruous Biblical teachings, such as Predestination.
First, it solves a great mystery about the origin and nature of the spiritual host referred to in scripture as angels. These servants and messengers of God are none other than the spirits of men, God’s spirit children. The early saints understood this truth and referred to the spirit of Peter as “his angel”28.
The Bible often refers to messengers and ministering spirits by the term “angel”29. As spirit children of God, the spirits of men often act in this capacity to do His bidding30. Angels are usually spirits, but the term can be used to designate physical messengers of God, such as the three who visited Abraham on their way to oversee the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.31
Job 38:7 speaks of the Earth’s cornerstone being laid, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” The word “sons” in this verse is the Hebrew word ben, which literally means “offspring.” Use of this word confirms that “the sons of God” referred to here were men, described by Paul as the “offspring” of God.32 The term “sons of God” is a reference to the spirits of Men in the preexistence, and this verse tells of their joy at the prospect of Earth’s creation.33
Hebrews 2:7 (quoting Ps 8:5) says of man, “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels.” The word “madest” is not in the Greek text, but is part of the word translated “lower”. Thus it does not imply creation at all. The phrase, “madest him a little lower than the angels” could very possibly mean that men were “taken to” or “transported” to a position below all the angels.34
Men could not have been transported from the home of angels if they had never occupied that realm! The NASB indicates that the phrase “a little” in “a little lower than the angels” (KJB) has temporal significance. The translation there is “Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels” (Heb 2:7, NASB, emphasis added). Thus, man’s departure from his heavenly home was viewed in God’s perspective as one of brief duration.
Christ, too, “was made a little lower than the angels,” for the express purpose of “suffering death”, so He could fulfill His mission and be crowned with glory and honor.35 From Adam until the meridian of time, Christ was known to men on Earth as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He acted in that capacity. Thus, His descent from the circumstances He enjoyed in the preexistence to Earthly life was especially pronounced (as described in Phil 2:5-8).
An understanding of the preexistence gives crystal clarity to Ecclesiastes 12:7 (emphasis added), which states: “Then shall the dust return to the Earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Certainly that is the intent of all spirits who leave their heavenly home “for a little while” to be in a place “lower than the angels”. The want to return to God, and, if their hope is realized, their end will be greater than their “first estate,” or occupancy in that heavenly realm (see Jude 6). This explains the joy expressed when the foundations of the Earth were laid (Job 38:7). Unfortunately, not all the sons of God have “kept their first estate.”36
Job 38:7 refers to “the morning stars” singing together. The mention of “stars” in this passage is not a reference to distant suns, as astronomers use the term. It refers to a special group of spirits among the “sons of God”. In Numbers 24:17 (NASB), Christ is called a “star”, which “shall come forth from Jacob”, and in Revelations 22:16, Jesus states that He is “the bright and morning star” (NASB: “the bright morning star”). Thus, “the morning stars” mentioned in Job included Christ in His premortal state.
But Job 38:7 speaks of “morning starS” (plural). Though Christ is uniquely designated “the BRIGHT morning star,” there must have been others in that select group. Surprisingly, Isaiah 14:12 (NASB) refers to SATAN as “a star of the morning”. That evil one was once among the select group spoken of by Job. Indeed, the name by which he was first known, Lucifer, means “the shining one.”
That Satan was a “son of God” is clear from Job 1:6 (NASB): “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” Since it is the same author and the same wording, the term “sons of God” used in this verse must be taken in the same sense as Job used it in chapter 38. The phrase “Satan also came among them” indicates that Satan was also a son of God. It is incongruous to suppose that he was crashing this meeting, especially in light of the extensive and parental conversation God has with him on seeing his arrival (Job 1:7-12).
Psalm 45:7 says of Christ, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath annointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”37 From this verse it is clear that, as spirits, men were capable of making choices and were given free agency to choose evil, as Satan did, or good, as Christ did, and that rewards followed38.
The word “fellows” could not possibly have included God the Father. Only a knowledge of man’s preexistence makes this reference comprehensible. Christ’s “fellows” were His brothers and sisters, the other spirit children of God the Father. “Fellows” literally means “partners, holding with others,” so it may also have had specific reference to “the morning stars” mentioned in Job 38:7.
When one considers the fact of the preexistence of man in light of Predestination, and when we acknowledge the fact that the Greek used for “predestined” also means “foreordained,” we come to a very different conclusion than our Reformed brethren. We learn through this understanding that God knew us before we came to this Earth. He knew what choices we would make, given whatever situation we encountered. With this omniscient foreknowledge, He foreordained us, or called us, to Him and to His Only Begotten Son. Nevertheless, He also respected our free agency, and never took away our ability to reject Him or His Son. He never took away our ability to choose between good and evil.
Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, taught the premortal existence of man, as did the writers of the Apocryphal writings. For example, the Secrets of Enoch states that “all souls are prepared to eternity, before the foundation of the world.39
One could go on and on with ancient Jewish Rabbinical writings and explore Apocryphal literature and find copious examples of the belief in a premortal existence, foreordination, and heavenly councils, but that would be another presentation in and of itself. Suffice it to say, this concept is not a new one, and it was demonstrably lost in the first few centuries after Christ.
Predestination as James White understands it is simply the apostate remnant of a sacred and divine doctrine. The Bible is very clear. God is no respecter of persons. He desires that ALL come unto Him. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive. Not simply a select few.
1 Augustine, Admonition and Grace, Chapt VIII, as quote by Richard G. Grant, Understanding These Other Christians (Salt Lake City, Sounds of Zion, 1998), pg. 121.
2 Ibid, Chapt VII
3 RC Sproul, Chosen By God, p. 156
4 Duane Edward Spencer, TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture, p.12.
5 Ibid, p. 11
6 Ibid, p. 11-12
7 Ibid, p. 12
8 Ibid, p. 13
9 Ibid, p. 14
10 1 John 2:3-4
11 2 Cor 13:5; Ps. 26:2
12 Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:1
13 Heb 9:25-28; 1 Peter 3:18
14 See, e.g. 1 John 1:9
15 See, e.g. Gen 2:3; Exod. 13:2; Lev. 20:26; 27:14-15
16 Jer 1:5; Ezek. 20:12,37:28; John 10:36; 1 Thess 5:23; Jude 1
17 Exod.19:10; Lev 19:2; Deut. 32:51; and Isa 29:23
18 Exod. 19:10; Lev 11:44; Num 20:12; Deut 32:51; Ezek 20:41; 36:23; 1 Peter 1:16
19 Heb 12:14, NASB
20 Gen 6:9; 1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chron 15:17; 2 Kings 20:3; Job 1:1; 2:3; Ps. 37:37; 1 Cor 2:6; Phil 3:15; 2 Tim 3:17
21 John 17:17
22 1 Cor 1:2; Heb 10:10; 13:12
23 1 Cor 6:11
24 1 Cor 7:14
25 Eph 5:25-26
26 1 Tim 4:5
27 Num 27:22-23
28 Acts 12:15
29 e.g. Heb 1:13-14
30 Some act in a similar capacity for Satan – see Rev. 12:7-9
31 Gen 18:1-8
32 Acts 17:28-29
33 Job 38:4-7
34 The context of Hebrews 2:7-8 recalls the act of God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden and giving him dominion over the earth. Thus, when the spirits of men were sent from their heavenly abode to earth, to inhabit fleshly bodies, they were conveyed to a location that is lower than the place where they lived with the other sons and daughters of God.
35 Heb 2:9-10
36 Jude 6
37 That this passage is addressed to Christ is evident from Heb 1:8-9
38 For Satan’s reward, see Rev. 12:9, see also Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4
39 2 Enoch 23:5
Initial Rebuttal of Darryl Barksdale’s Opening Statement
Debates are meant to focus attention upon a particular issue, and allow a full, fair examination of the arguments for both sides. To facilitate this, a thesis statement is used. In formal debate, any side that goes beyond the topic is penalized, or even disqualified. The reason for this is easy to understand: when faced with overwhelming factual argumentation, many tend to obfuscate by bringing in all sorts of irrelevant issues and arguments. Hence, in proper and meaningful debate, the side that sticks to the issues and presses home the argument wins.
Unfortunately, we are rarely in a position to have debate judges control the content of written debates such as this one. Such an unbiased and fair judge would be most welcome, indeed. But without one, you, the reader, are left to act as judge. You must hold the debaters to the thesis. You must recognize the introduction of irrelevancies, unfair argumentation, ad-hominem, etc. Since the ultimate decision lies with you, only you can make the proper decisions.
The thesis of this debate is simple: does the Bible teach predestination? This was to be an exegetical debate; i.e., one based upon the close examination of the text1 itself. All arguments presented that do not support, or deny, that thesis are, by definition, irrelevant. In my opening statement I provided a presentation based upon three passages of Scripture. It is now my duty to respond to, and rebut, Mr. Barksdale’s presentation in his opening statement. Unfortunately, this is most difficult to do, since Mr. Barksdale did not choose to present any meaningful exegesis of the biblical passages that specifically present the doctrine of predestination. However, he did present a defense of his position based upon the unique LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and we shall take the time to respond to those assertions, as they form the majority of Mr. Barksdale’s argument.
The Reformed Position
Mr. Barksdale began his presentation with a discussion of the Reformed doctrine of predestination. As long as he was quoting others, the presentation is accurate. However, his own summary, offered at the beginning, is woefully lacking, especially when, ignoring the citations he himself offers later, he writes, “Simply put, it is the belief that God chose those whom He wanted to save before the foundations of the Earth were laid, and the rest He simply “threw away,” for no other reason than that He felt like it.” The punishment of those who are left to God’s wrath will be based upon full and complete justice. Indeed, outside of God’s mercy, all people would face that wrath, for it abides upon all unbelievers (John 3:36).
Mr. Barksdale then, unfortunately, entered into a rather lengthy discussion of many other aspects of soteriology (justification, sanctification, eternal security, etc.) based upon, as he indicated, the work of Richard Hopkins in his book, Biblical Mormonism. Unfortunately, I believe Mr. Hopkins’ work to be the single worst example of LDS apologetics, and as a result, Mr. Barksdale’s presentation, too, completely misses the point with great consistency.
Since it is not the topic of the debate, I will simply note that Mr. Barksdale confuses justification and sanctification; he ignores Paul’s lengthy presentation of the grounds of justification, the role of saving faith, the concept of imputation, and the very nature of the righteousness which will avail before a Holy Judge. Falling into the same trap as Rome, Mr. Barksdale makes justification a subjective thing, rather than the forensic imputation of the righteousness of Christ that alone can give us true peace with God (Romans 5:1). This opens up the entire field of works-salvation, etc., and would take us far beyond the thesis statement of this debate.2
Only a few passages exist in all of Scripture that can be read in such as way as to support the idea of the pre-existence of human beings prior to birth here on earth. This doctrine, taught in various Gnostic groups in the period of the early church, and found as well in Origen, is unknown to the vast majority of Christians down through the ages, and is much more at home among Greek philosophers than it is with those who find in the Scriptures their source of authority. Plato, for example, believed in the pre-existence of the human soul (and that the Demiurge had created the world out of pre-existing matter). It is ironic that while LDS apologetic writings are filled with assertions that Christian orthodoxy has been “Hellenized,” it is LDS theology that finds itself dependent upon the Greek philosophers, for as we shall now see, there is no basis for this belief in the Scriptures.
When God called Jeremiah to the office of a prophet in Israel, He did so with these words:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5 (NASB)
Mr. Barksdale makes the following assertions about the passage: 1) This passage “clearly” has Jehovah telling Jeremiah that He (Jehovah) “knew him in a premortal existence.” 2) The passage presents an “actual process of ordination.” 3) “There is no reason within the boundaries of sound hermeneutics that Jer 1:5 should be interpreted figuratively. The prophet Jeremiah, like all of us, lived with His heavenly Father as a spirit child for an unknown duration before being born on this earth.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Barksdale only offers us these claims: he never touches the text itself. We must do so before evaluating the claims made.
Jeremiah 1:5 presents God’s calling of Jeremiah to the prophet office. It presents four actions on the part of God: He formed Jeremiah, He knew Jeremiah, He consecrated Jeremiah, and He appointed Jeremiah a prophet. Mr. Barksdale assumes (without proving his point) certain meanings for each of these terms. But, is he correct?
Yahweh formed (rc’y“ , yazer) Jeremiah in the womb. rc’y“ refers to creative activity, much as we see in Psalm 139:13-16, where the Psalmist refers to the time when Yahweh looked upon his “unformed substance” (a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus). This is Jeremiah’s Creator—the one who creates the spirit of man (Zechariah 12:1). Joseph Smith denied to God the power to create the spirit of man. God, in Mormonism, begets the spirits of men in a pre-existence. Note that nowhere does Yahweh say to Jeremiah, “I begat you as a spirit before you were born.” We must remember that in Mormonism, Yahweh is the Son, one of the very spirits of men that Yahweh is said to create in Zechariah 12:1. Hence, in the LDS view, this is merely the spirit-brother of Jeremiah saying to Jeremiah that they knew each other in the pre-existence. But surely that is not what “formed you in the womb” means.
rc’y“ is one of a group of terms used of God’s creative activity. The best known is )rfbf, bara. This term is used only with God as the subject: only God truly creates.3 The other common synonym is h#&f(f (asah), to make. These terms are used in parallel with each other numerous times, especially with reference to God’s creative activity in Isaiah.
So how would Jeremiah have understood this revelation from God? What is Yahweh saying when He says he “formed” Jeremiah in the womb? Note briefly the semantic range of the term indicated by the following considerations. The term is often used in the Qal participial form and is translated simply as “Creator” as in Isaiah 27:11, or, in the story of the Potter and the clay, it is rendered “Potter” (Jeremiah 18:2-11, especially significant in our context). This is especially striking in two contexts that are directly relevant to the LDS view of God, Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9:
You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (29:16)
“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker — An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? (45:9)
In Isaiah 44:9-12, the term is used of “fashioning” an idol. In Isaiah 45:7, God is described as the one “forming light and creating darkness.” In Psalm 95:5 the “dry land” is “formed” by God. The same use of rc’y“ is found elsewhere in Jeremiah’s work: 10:16, 33:2, and 51:19. In every single one of these instances rc’y“ is used of creative activity.
A common element of Hebrew poetry (and Jeremiah 1:5 is poetic in form) is parallelism. By placing phrases and words in parallel, the writer can expand upon the meaning he is communicating. Note the form of the passage:
Before I formed you in the womb
I knew you
before you were born
I consecrated you
I have appointed you
a prophet to the nations
As we can see, the parallel to being “formed in the womb” is “born.” Given the meaning of rc’y“ in the above passages, and its parallel here, we can see that Yahweh is 1) Jeremiah’s Creator (not his spirit-brother); 2) speaking of the time before Jeremiah came into existence. B. Otzen, writing from a liberal viewpoint far removed from my own, confirms the obvious meaning of the text and the use of rc’y“. Speaking of the use of terms with rc’y” that refer to calling and election, Otzen writes in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament:
If we then compare the passages from the Servant Songs with Jer. 1:5 and Ps. 139:16 (both of which use yasar), we gain the impression that the notion of creation has yet another function in these texts: election actually precedes creation, so that Yahweh’s sovereign elective authority is emphasized. We may also interpret the Servant passages in this sense: just as Jeremiah was “known” and “consecrated” even before being created by Yahweh, so too was the Servant.4
Now the next item to address is Mr. Barksdale’s eisegetical assumption that the statement “I knew you” (K1yt@i(;day;) must mean that Yahweh had intellectual knowledge of the existence of Jeremiah in a pre-mortal existence. We have already seen that the temporal frame of reference is prior to Jeremiah’s creation. Nothing in the text even hints at the idea of a pre-mortal existence. So what does (dayf (yada) mean in this passage?
There are a specific group of passages that bear very directly upon this concept. From the very beginning of the Bible, (dayf carries with it a meaning beyond the mere intellectual knowledge of things. When Adam “knew” Eve, she conceived and bore a son (Genesis 4:1). In Jeremiah 9:6 we find the use of (dayf in the context of people refusing to “know” God, that is, refusing to acknowledge Him and worship Him as God. Obviously, the dimension of “know” here is far beyond mere knowledge of God’s existence: they refuse to enter into relationship with Yahweh. In the same way, in 24:7 Yahweh says, “I will give them a heart to know (t(adalf, qal inf. const.) Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” Again, (dayf here refers to relational knowledge, not mere intellectual apprehension of a fact. And in 31:34 the effect of the New Covenant is seen in that all who have been given that new heart will know (w1(d;y’, qal imperfect) Him. Hence, the usage is clearly found in Jeremiah. But it exists elsewhere. In Hosea 13:15 the KJV speaks of God “knowing” Israel in the wilderness. The NASB more accurately captures the meaning of (dayf by rendering it, “I cared for you in the wilderness.” The personal aspect of (dayf is again seen.
But most important for our purposes is the parallel use of (dayf in Amos 3:2, where in the KJV we read, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” But again the NASB (and NIV) correctly catches the meaning: “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth.” The concept of sovereign choosing in (dayf ends up coming into the New Testament via the Septuagint’s translation of (dayf as ginwvskw, and then to proginwvskw (Romans 8:29).5
Now, why take the time to demonstrate this element of the meaning of (dayf? Because as we see in the above chart, (dayf is here paralleled with two other terms: to consecrate and to appoint. So, we can put these terms together and see the clear indication of what Yahweh is saying when we see how know can, and does, mean “to choose.” Yahweh chose, consecrated, and appointed Jeremiah as a prophet before Jeremiah came into existence. That is, God, in His sovereign power, determined that Jeremiah would function as His prophet in Israel at a particular time in history. Just as God raised up Pharaoh for His own purposes, so He chose and appointed Jeremiah. There is no need to eisegetically insert the foreign concept of pre-mortal existence into this passage: the eternal God of the Bible is simply informing His servant that He chose and appointed him to the role of prophet before Jeremiah had come into existence. Botterweck, again writing from a liberal perspective far removed from my own, notes many of these same concepts, and writes in TDOT:
We find yd’ in Am. 3:2 as an expression for the special relationship between Yahweh and Israel or election to service. . . . Yahweh entered into a special relationship of selection and election with Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and David. . . . In Jer. 1:5, the appointment of Jeremiah to prophetic office is characterized by is characterized by yd’ par. qds hiphil; long before his birth (ys par. ysr), Jeremiah had been chosen as a prophet (5:468).
At this point Mr. Barksdale gives us a tremendous example of eisegesis. He asserts that Yahweh here raises the issue of ordination to a particular calling via the laying on of hands! Mr. Barksdale, limited to the English text, does not seem to realize that the KJV used the term “ordain” in a much more mundane, non-specific sense, merely that of “making” or “appointing.” The Hebrew term used by Yahweh is
Ntanf, the standard term for “to give, set, appoint, make, constitute” etc. 6 It is used a scant thirteen verses later: “Now behold, I have made (Ntanf) you today as a fortified city….” Obviously, God did “ordain” Jeremiah a fortified city. The term simply does not carry the connotation in this passage that Mr. Barksdale inserts into it.7
In conclusion, then, we find that a thorough examination of the text (which Mr. Barksdale did not even attempt to offer) reveals a much different concept than that offered by my opponent. No basis for a “pre-mortal existence” has been found, and none of the three assertions made by Mr. Barksdale can be substantiated by real exegesis of the text.
More on “Pre-Existence”
Mr. Barksdale goes on to make a number of unfounded and undocumented assertions regarding the Bible and the concept of “pre-existence.” Again, while never offering a shred of exegesis, my opponent weaves together a thread of texts, unrelated to one another, with concepts provided to him not by the Bible, but by LDS teachings. Taking as a basis his unsubstantiated (and exegetically contradicted) understanding of Jeremiah 1:5, he posits the entire concept of God’s “spirit children,” and says that this “solves a great mystery about the origin and nature of the spiritual host referred to in scripture as angels. These servants and messengers of God are none other than the spirits of men, God’s spirit children.” What substantiation does Mr. Barksdale offer for this sweeping conclusion? “The early saints understood this truth and referred to the spirit of Peter as ‘his angel.'” He cites a single passage: Acts 12:15, which reads, “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.'” While the Bible tells us that angels are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14), it never says that angels are spirit-children of a theomorphic man in heaven. God creates angels; He does not beget them (Psalm 104:4,
h#&e(& translated by oJ poiw’n in the LXX). They are created as men are created, but the Bible does not confuse them. As Dr. A.T. Robertson points out in reference to Acts 12:15:
It is his angel ( ~W aggelo” estin autou). This was the second alternative of the disciples. It was a popular Jewish belief that each man had a guardian angel. Luke takes no position about it. No scripture teaches it.
The men were not saying that Peter’s spirit was standing outside. Angels had already been involved in rescuing believers (Acts 5:19). The fact is, the New Testament never confuses men and angels the way Mr. Barksdale does.
Having fabricated a context, my opponent then goes to Job 38:7 which speaks of a time when “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” He notes that “sons” is the Hebrew term
Nb’@ “which literally means ‘offspring.'” Yes, Nb’@ can mean that. However, is Mr. Barksdale suggesting that it can only mean that, and, is he prepared to demonstrate on the basis of this text that it must mean that here? All we are given is his assertion, “The term “sons of God” is a reference to the spirits of Men in the preexistence, and this verse tells of their joy at the prospect of Earth’s creation.” No exegesis is offered in support of this assertion outside of the singular assertion noted above concerning Nb’@. No lexicons are cited, no grammar presented, no context considered. Later a rather interesting assertion will be made concerning the term “star,” but as for any truly meaningful exegesis, we are offered nothing.
But we need not expend a tremendous amount of energy here. Mr. Barksdale provided a number of citations regarding the need to examine context and allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves in his first rebuttal presentation. We both, obviously, feel that the other is violating the canons of sound hermeneutical interpretation. We both believe the other is ignoring context. But, while Mr. Barksdale may assert that I ignore context, I can demonstrate that Mr. Barksdale is the one doing so. And this citation of Job 38 is an excellent example. You see, when you back up and simply read the passage, its import is clear. God is asking Job rhetorical questions. The whole point of each question asked by God in this section is simple: Job can’t answer, because Job wasn’t there. Job has gone too far in his questioning of God, so God puts Job in his place. Job never answers God (though, if the LDS position is correct, he could!), but instead says: “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth” (40:4). Job knows there are no answers to these questions. They are meant to show him his creatureliness, that he is the pot, God is the Potter.
But it is just this basic, obvious consideration that utterly refutes the LDS use of this passage! For if Job is one of the spirit children of God the Father, did he not exist prior to his birth here on this planet? Is he not one of the very “sons of God” that rejoiced to see the founding of the earth? This shows that Job did not think for a moment that he existed as one of the “sons of God” who are poetically described as rejoicing at the creation. Instead, the meaning, in context, is crystal clear: the passage is not presenting a discussion of pre-existence, the nature of man’s soul, or anything of the kind. Instead, the Lord was quite clear:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
 “Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
 “Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
The point is that Job wasn’t anywhere when God laid the foundation of the earth. Job did not yet exist. Hence, Job is in no position to question God’s providence. And, therefore, to make such a passage teach pre-existence is to engage in the very act of eisegesis: reading into a text that which would never have crossed the mind of the original writer and audience.
My initial presentation mentioned only briefly the tremendous words of Jesus in John 6:35-45. Mr. Barksdale did not engage in any meaningful rebuttal of my comments on the passage, choosing instead only to cite a secondary source (a Roman Catholic commentary on the passage). So I would like to expand upon my comments, and ask Mr. Barksdale to attempt to demonstrate why the following is in error. But I ask that he do so on the basis of the text. I am well aware that there are those who disagree with my beliefs. We are not debating that. We are supposed to be debating whether the Bible teaches predestination, and that in an exegetical fashion.
First, I would ask my opponent to explain the words of Jesus, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (John 6:37). Who are these who are given by the Father to the Son? We know it is not all people, because of other things Jesus says. He tells the Jews (John 8:48) that they do not believe because they are not
ejk tou’ qeou’, they do not “belong” to God or, literally, they are not “from God.” Many invert the order given by Jesus, insisting that your act of believing makes you one of God’s own. Yet, Jesus’ order is the opposite: if you are one of God’s, you will believe. Salvation, biblically, is always God-oriented, not man-oriented. That is, it is God’s work, not man’s work. It focuses upon what God does, not what man does. In the same way, Jesus said to the Jews, “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” Christ’s sheep hear His voice. They believe because they are His sheep. They do not become His sheep by believing. Christ determines the make-up of His flock, not the sheep. In His High Priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus specifically says, “”I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours” (John 17:9). Obviously, each of these passages introduces a distinction between those who are God’s, Christ’s sheep, who are given by the Father to the Son, and the “world” of unbelievers. So, I ask Mr. Barksdale: who are these who are given by the Father to the Son? How is it that Christ can promise that ALL who are so given WILL come to Him, without fail? How does “free agency” fit into such an assertion? Indeed, where does this passage, or any passage, mention “free agency”? Mr. Barksdale speaks of our “free agency” and says that God “never took away our ability to choose between good and evil.” No one claims He did. If Mr. Barksdale would familiarize himself with Reformed literature he would find that man’s sin enslaves him (as Jesus taught, John 8:34), so that there is no “God seeker” (Romans 3:11). Just as the drunkard has no excuse for his actions while drunk before the law, so man is not excused from his guilt simply because he has a sinful nature.
Next, I wish to direct our attention to the will of the Father for the Son in salvation revealed in John 6:39, “this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” To be raised up on the last day is to receive eternal life. 8 It is the Father’s will for the Son that He be a perfect Savior. It is the Father’s will that the Son lose none of those the Father has given to Him. How can this be, if, in fact, salvation is determined by a cooperative effort between the Savior and the saved? How can the Father expect perfection on the part of the Son if, in fact, the Son’s work of salvation can be thwarted by the mere will of the creature, man? So I ask Mr. Barksdale: who are these who have been given to the Son by the Father? And how can the Father hold the Son accountable for the complete salvation of all who are so given?
Another Important Passage
Briefly, I wish to expand the exegetical basis of my position by pointing out the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:9, where the Father is described as the one “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (NASB). We have here a summary of what we found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8-9. 1) God is the one who saves. 2) The object of His work of salvation is again specific: the same use of the accusative direct object “us” is found here as in Ephesians 1. 3) God is the one who calls. 4) His call to salvation is not based upon our works (
kata; ta; e[rga hJmw’n). 5) The basis of His calling is His own purpose and grace (ijdivan provqesin kai; cavrin, the emphatic use of ijdivan contrasting strongly with the idea that man’s purpose is the deciding factor–compare Romans 9:16). 6) This grace, which brings salvation, was granted to us (again note the personal direct object) not when we decided to make it effective, but “from all eternity,” and again, in only one place: in Christ Jesus. This passage simply re-enforces the lengthier explanation provided by Paul in Romans. He can summarize here simply because Timothy would already well know the truths of the gospel to which Paul refers.
So we can see that the thesis of our debate remains very clearly decided: the Bible does teach predestination. Mr. Barksdale may suggest other passages for consideration. That is fine. The fact remains that to successfully undertake his position, he must deal with these passages and demonstrate that they do not teach predestination. The passages he himself cites regarding the need to allow Scripture to speak for itself should force him to see the necessity of explaining these texts in their own context. I invite him to do so.
1 I will gladly use the NASB as my translation of choice, as I am privileged to work as a Critical Consultant on this fine English translation of the Bible.
2 For those who wish to gain an accurate knowledge of the subjects raised outside of the topic by Mr. Barksdale, there are many excellent summaries: Justification by James Buchanon (Banner of Truth, 1991); Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray (Eerdman’s, 1955), R.C. Sproul’s fine works such as Chosen by God, Faith Alone, and Grace Unknown. Likewise, John MacArthur’s works in the field are excellent. I have addressed these issues extensively in print and in debate: God’s Sovereign Grace, Justification by Faith, Drawn by the Father, and The Roman Catholic Controversy all address the broad issues of soteriology. See also the debate with Fr. Mitchell Pacwa on justification (San Diego, 1991), and with Gerry Matatics (Boston College, 1993).
3 Mr. Barksdale provides a very brief, tremendously unbalanced article written against creatio ex nihilo on his website (/http://www.fair-lds.org/Research/Theology/th0103.html) that completely ignores any and all evidence to the contrary, including such works as Thomas Finley’s article in Bibliotheca Sacra “Dimensions of the Hebrew Word for “Create” ()rfbf) (V 148 #592, Oct 91) as well as Paul Copan’s valuable contribution, “Is Creation Ex Nihilo A Post-Biblical Invention?: An Examination of Ferhard May’s Proposal,” Trinity Journal 17NS (1996). No mention is made at all of the fact that )rabf is used only of God, and that the idea of “pre-existing matter” is not a part of the usage of the term at all in the OT.
4 6:263 (1990)
5 The LXX uses ejpivstamai rather than ginwvskw at Jer. 1:5.
6 BDB p. 678, Holladay, pp. 249-250.
7 Mr. Barksdale’s citation of Numbers 27:22-23 regarding the setting apart of Joshua as the leader of Israel by the “laying on of hands” seems to be meant to connect this with the LDS practice of laying on hands to ordain to the priesthood. However, one will search in vain for any laying on of hands in the actual ordination of priests in the Old Testament law, aside, that is, from the laying on of hands on the head of an animal about to be sacrificed.
8 This is seen by noting the parallel use of the phrases ajnasthvsw aujto; ejn th’/ ejscavth/ hJmevra/ and e[ch/ zwh;n aijwvnion in John’s Gospel.
Word Count: 4906
Rebuttal to Mr. White’s Opening Argument
Darryl L. Barksdale
Some time ago, I encountered my esteemed opponent in an AOL chat room, as he has already indicated in his opening statement. Jokingly, I told him that I would be happy to give him a “lesson in exegesis” regarding his claims regarding the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination. Even though I spoke in jest at the time, little did I know just how extensively I would need to tutor him on this subject.
Mr. White opens his argument, as is frequently his wont to do, with an imaginary encounter with a Mormon “patsy” that allows Mr. White to create an artificially bright shining moment wherein his dazzling brilliance is made clearly known to all. Such situations in Mr. White’s world are almost always fabricated and intentionally one-sided. 1 One has to wonder what White would do if he encountered a Mormon who actually was well-versed in matters of Christian History and textual criticism. I highly doubt he would publish that encounter in any of his articles or books.
One of the most shocking accusations that Mr. White makes in this opening “dialogue” is directed to the fictitious Mormon “patsy” and claims that he (the Mormon) insists on “pick[ing] and choos[ing] what parts [he] will, or will not, believe.” The irony in this statement is that this eisogetical practice is exactly what Mr. White himself engages in. Mr. White does not accept the whole of the Bible’s teaching on salvation. Instead, he demands that we accept his definition and declaration of a “canon within a canon” which can only be considered, according to White, while ignoring the balance of the Bible’s teachings, including those of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Indeed, in Mr. White’s view, his interpretation is the only one possible or plausible. Everyone else who disagrees with him, whether their arguments are substantive or not, is simply in his view “picking and choosing” from Scripture.
Bible scholar Peter H. Davids, Ph.D., comments on the “canon within a canon” eisogesis in his essay, “Authority, Hermeneutics, and Criticism”:
“We do not believe that one has any real authority if he or she removes material from its context. To snatch a few paragraphs from this chapter and read them out of context of the whole would be to distort their meaning. To look at Paul in isolation from the teaching of Jesus is to distort Paul’s message and thus not to draw from Biblical authority at all.”2
Dr. Davids goes on to articulate very clearly what the real weakness is in Mr. White’s argument for Predestination:
“Hermeneutical discussion assists one in discovering how one is interpreting Scripture and thus what one might be filtering out of Scripture. Interaction with the full world of critical scholarship means that one is looking at Scripture from a variety of angles and traditions, many of which will be different from one’s own. The result will be a tendency to see one’s own blind spots and correct the shortcomings of one’s theology.”3
This, Mr. White has failed miserably to do. Instead of considering the “full world of critical scholarship,” Mr. White insists instead that he, and he alone, is a sufficient “authority” to pronounce any matter of religion “closed” to further discussion or discourse.4 Further evidence of this kind of unjustifiable arrogance can be seen in White’s endnotes, particularly in numbers 4,6, 11, and 12.. where he uses HIMSELF as a primary source to bolster his arguments. This kind of arrogance forms a common thread throughout all of White’s writings. When he cannot find corraborating evidence to prove his point.. he merely quotes himself as a primary source. How convenient. And how unscholarly.
Indeed, the venerable Bible scholar Werner Stenger cautioned against the tendency to be selective with Scripture, and claims that theologians who succumb to the temptation to “pick and choose,” as Mr. White does regarding Predestination, “belong to that group of poor readers who find in texts only what they already know. What echoes back to them from Scripture is the very words that they themselves have shouted into the forest.”5
Stenger quotes Friedrich Nietzsche as demanding that true Biblical exegetes “[read] facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand.”6
Finally, Stenger relates what he considers to be the true standard for correct exegesis:
“One prerequisite for [correct exegesis] is to transfer the Biblical texts from their apparent familiarity into an unfamiliar context, one that enables the reader to hear the Bible itself speaking, not merely the echo of his or her own voice. It is only such distance between reader and text that makes it possible to exclude any projections of meaning prompted by one’s own ideas and desires and to open one’s ears to the often alien voice of the text itself.”7
Has White done this? The answer is a resounding ‘No.’
First of all, I believe some boundaries would be useful to establish to facilitate a completely unbiased treatment of White’s exegesis. And since, in reviewing his biography, I see no advanced degrees from any institution of higher education in the field of ancient languages, much less ancient Greek, I respectfully decline to use or accept James White’s English translations, but rather will lean on those of genuine, accepted scholars with legitimate, accredited advanced degrees.
In beginning his presentation, White methodically sets up his straw man…that the Scriptures “plainly teach the divine truth that God predestines men unto Salvation.” If this were so, one would think that there would not be any other belief system in existence within Christianity. Yet such is demonstrably not so, as any Methodist can readily attest.
White’s premise (and the major weakness of his position) is not simply that it is plausible to find a Predestination teaching in Scripture, he actually demands that it is the only way that Scripture can be legitimately interpreted. In making this drastic assertion, White opens himself up to the harshest of scrutiny.. for he has made the job of his opponents.. in this case myself.. infinitely easier. The task that White has dictated for his opponents by his rigid proclamation is not to prove that Predestination is wrong, but simply that other interpretations are hermeneutically possible, or at least legitimately plausible. If such can be accomplished, then White’s claim that his interpretation is the only one possible is fatally flawed, and must be rejected on its face. That having been said, let us begin.
What of Ephesians 1:3-11?
White claims that from Ephesians 1:3 we learn three major tenets.. namely that 1) God is the one who blessed us; 2) that Paul is not speaking of “all mankind” here, but specifically of the redeemed; and 3) that the phrase “in Christ” is central to God’s thought. As to this conclusion, I would find objection only to White’s demand that “us” be interpreted as meaning the elect or redeemed. This assumption demands that the text of Scripture be overlaid with the template of Calvinistic bias in order to be interpreted, which is in direct opposition to the direction provided to us by Davids, Nietzsche, and Stenger, whom I cited earlier.
White proclaims that verse 4 is “central to our subject.” And so it is. But even as it appears to White that it is “central” to his argument, it also poses some interesting questions in its own right. The verse reads, “…just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
This verse, interpreted as White demands, begs the question. If we did not exist before the world was created, how could He “choose us in Him”? How can something that does not exist be “chosen”? According to White’s view, this would be somewhat akin to walking into an art gallery and “choosing” a work of art that had not yet been painted. Without a knowledge of the premortal existence of man and of our pre-Earthly relationship with our Heavenly Father, this is the kind of absurdity that one is reduced to.
White claims that “The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere ‘plan’ was chosen, or a ‘process’ put in place.” Interestingly, that is certainly not how genuine scholars have interpreted this passage. For instance, scholar Rebecca Lyman translates this passage as follows:
“For he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to the purpose which he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of time…” (Eph 1:9-10, emphasis added)8
Clearly, attempting to set God’s WILL against His plan is nonsensical. Pheme Perkins says, “Those who come to believe in Christ find themselves participating in God’s eternal plan“9 Following this line of reasoning poses other problems for White, not the least of which is how to deal with why Paul stated that the Jews who reject Christ will be included in salvation.10
White then proceeds to declare that because we were chosen “before the creation of the world”, that our salvation “therefore cannot possibly be based on anything that we ourselves do or “choose”. This is sovereignty–free and unlimited.”
One has to legitimately wonder how White can draw the conclusion that “sovereignty” is “free and unlimited” from the fact that we were chosen before the foundation of the world. White certainly doesn’t tell us.
One clue, I suppose, might be found in White’s 3rd endnote wherein he declares, “I reject the LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and there is nothing in Paul’s theology, or the Bible’s teaching, that presents such a concept…”
As for the Bible not teaching of the premortal existence of man, I provided copious references to such in my opening statement, and am very eager to see White’s exegesis of those passages. White himself seems to acknowledge that if the premortal existence of man were a reality, that his own arguments would collapse under their own weight. Therefore, he forms a logical fallacy to hide behind.
Mathematics teaches us a basic construct. If A=B, and if B=C, then A=C. This formula only holds up, however, as long as A=B, or B=C. If either of those are incorrect, the formula is false. One can posit that all dogs are blue. One can further posit that Rover is a dog. One can then, use this formula to say that Rover must be blue. But since the first “leg” of this formula is factually false, the conclusion is as well.
Such is the case with White’s argument. His logic takes the following form:
There is no Biblical doctrine of the Preexistence of Man.
Predestination requires that Man did not Preexist the Creation.
Therefore, Predestination is true.
In this example, White’s first assumption, that there is no Biblical doctrine of the preexistence of man, is fatally flawed. Therefore, his conclusion is also in error.
In his attempted definition of the Greek for “predestined”, White attempts to pull the wool over our eyes a bit to avoid having to address this issue. White is most emphatic about the definition of the Greek proorizo which appears in vs 5 and 11. He says, “The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “predestinate.” (emphasis mine)
Any true linguistic scholar would howl at this statement. As soon as anyone says that there is “no ambiguity” about the meaning or usage of ancient languages (scripts or orthographies), alarm bells should be ringing off the hook somewhere. Someone is trying to “sell” you something. So it is in this instance.
While the definitions mentioned by White are certainly valid definitions, Strong’s also lists “foreordained” as a valid definition. One must wonder why White neglected to mention this possibility? Why was he so selective in his definitions? Since “foreordained” fits the text much better, especially in light of Jeremiah 1:5, one must wonder why White did not include that definition? Very simple. Foreordination assumes the prior existence of man, which is what White does not want the reader to consider.
One can only speculate on how White explains John 9. In this passage, we have an individual born blind. This fact is emphasized several times, including the testimony of his parents that he was, indeed, born blind. Christ’s disciples asked Him a very interesting and instructive question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he born blind?” (John 9:2, emphasis mine) White clearly fails to see how an individual could “sin” prior to birth.
It is more than significant that the core of White’s argument, his rejection of the preexistence of man, upon which rests the entirety of the credibility of his argument, is relegated to one footnote which quotes no primary source, no evidence, no authority…other than James himself.
What Does “Predestined” REALLY Mean?
Scholar Markus Barth teaches us that in verse 11 (which White refers to), “The Greek original uses a verb (kleroo) which meant originally to ‘cast a lot,’ or more specifically, ‘to appoint or designate an officer by lot.’ When the procedure of using a lot was forgotten, the world assumed the meaning, ‘to assign something,’ or in the passive, ‘to be in possession.’ Ephesians 1:11 is the only NT passage where this word occurs. Probably because of its ambiguous meaning, but perhaps also due to careless copying, some ancient MSS and the Vetus Itala substitute the better known verb, ‘we have been called.'”11
Far from stating that “The meaning of the term is not ambiguous,” Barth actually directly contradicts White and says that it is ambiguous, and then goes on to say “The complicated problems posed by the present text must be met, and a choice among three possibilities faces the interpreter:”
This is most curious indeed. White asserts that only his definition must be used, and that that definition is “not ambiguous.” Now we have a genuine scholar directly contradicting White’s assertion. Who are we to trust? More importantly, what does this do to White’s argument that the scriptures “plainly teach predestination”, and that only his interpretation is the only plausible possibility?
What White does not seem to comprehend very well is the overall context of this Ephesians passage. Let us consider carefully verses 11-13 for a moment. In this passage, Barth notes that “The congregation of the saints is suddenly no longer described only by the anonymous pronoun “we.” It is not an amorphous mass in which each individual may be exchanged for another; rather it has a structure. Christ is at its head; the apostle and other servants installed by God address it with authority and are its foundation. Thus there is a vertical difference of authority in the Church, and now a differentiation on the horizontal level becomes apparent. A group called “we” is distinct from another group addressed as “you.” Though both participate in the same love, election, and grace of God and are one body, some were first called to constitute god’s people, others were added later.” 12
Quite simply, this passage speaks of the “election” or “calling” of the Jews, and the subsequent addition of the Christians as God’s “chosen people.”
Barth suggests that of the three possible interpretations of this text, one of them is “We were given a share.” Col 1:12, the parallel text to Ephesians 1:11, speaks distinctly of a “part in the share of the saints.” To the notion of “blessing” (1:3) such a distribution fits beautifully. This interpretation leaves room for further additions to the bequeathed property.. as indeed according to 1:14 the Spirit now given is but an “earnest” of the total that is to come. Barth notes that “Ephesians 1:11 can be translated as “We have been made God’s clergy,” and the Christians can be considered a sort of “levitical community.””
Indeed, the third possibility that Barth presents (and which he indicates is the most correct interpretation), is that the proper translation is “We have been appropriated,” or “Claimed as God’s own,” in the same manner as Jehovah told the ancient Israelites in the covenant formula “I will be your God, and you shall be my people”, which points back to the liberation of Israel.
White goes on to embark on a rather tedious sermon of sorts, asserting that there are three “bookend” points come from the Ephesians passage, none of which I disagree with.
The first point raised is that Christ is the center and author of our Salvation, and that outside of Him, there is no other. I agree that salvation is strictly and completely in, and through Christ Jesus. I have no issue with the idea that we do nothing of ourselves that in any way merits salvation, for that is Christ’s and Christ’s alone to effect.
The second point raised, as White articulates it, is that God’s people.. AS a people.. are “possessed by Him,” as He has made known so eloquently regarding the Jews, and then the early Christians. As a people, they were.. and are, His chosen. I find no disagreement in this statement either.
His third statement is equally innocuous, as far as it applies to God’s people as a whole. His purposes will not be frustrated. His will is sovereign.
The point on which White errs is the unBiblical extension of the predestination of a people to the “irresistable grace” of individuals. This is clearly not the case, and cannot be found in scripture.
As Dr. Davids warned, we must not pull passages out of context, lest we completely lose our Biblical authority. Along with his teachings regarding the predestination of groups of people, Paul also teaches us that Christ is the author of eternal salvation to “all them that obey Him”. This statement is clearly conditional and cannot be ignored. It places a requirement of obedience on the believer to gain salvation, which falls squarely outside of the realm of “irresistable grace.”
The ancient Israelites are a perfect example of this principle. As a group, they were “possessed” by the Lord as “His people” in covenant relationship. Inasmuch as they, as individuals, adhered to the laws given them, they as a people were accepted and “predestined” to be God’s people. When they as individuals strayed and were disobedient, God showed His displeasure of them, and His rejection of them because of their behavior. The key to understanding the principle of predestination in the case of the ancient Israelites lies in their covenant relationship with God.
To reject this obvious truth causes numerous problems for Calvinists. For instance, if God predestinated the Israelites, and if they were truly “regenerate”, why did they so often turn from the Lord? Wasn’t it His “will”, being “predestined”, that they follow Him? Was He then powerless to bring to pass His will? Was it truly His will that they apostatize and worship idols, as was their wont to do?
What about the early Christians? If they were “predestined”, why did a general apostasy take place after the ascension of Christ? Why did Christ Himself prophesy of such an apostasy occurring? Why did He not exercise His “sovereign will” to ensure that his elect would not fall away? Why were the very same saints who were “predestined” according to Paul then warned by John on the Isle of Patmos that they were in danger of LOSING their salvation? Was this the will of God, or was God thus powerless to bring about the salvation of this group of people?
The truth is very simple and far more congruent with Scripture. GROUPS of people, in different circumstances, have been predestined to be “God’s Chosen”. However, God in His infinite wisdom and compassion still grants them, as individuals AND as a group.. their free agency to choose who they will serve. For some, it was Satan, even though they had previous been identified as “God’s Elect”. Others quietly and humbly attested that “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Paul affirmed this truth quite clearly when he wrote that our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, “…being made perfect…became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Heb 5:9) Notice that if Paul had meant that individuals were saved no matter what had they had the “happy accident” to be predestined individually for salvation.. he surely does not mention any hint of that here. In fact, he seems to take great pains to contradict such a position.
Replacing the predestination of “God’s Chosen” people and the foreordination of individuals with absolute predestination of individuals poses another interesting question for Mr. White. As noted in Romans 8:29-30, we learn that those who are predestined are called, and the called are then justified, and then glorified. Note that they are called… not bound and gagged under the guise of “irresistable grace”. Matthew 10:1-4 lists those that Christ called to him: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Lebbaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. Following White’s logic, and the concept of “irresistable grace,” one can only assume that Mr. White believes that Judas is in heaven.
The predestination of “God’s Chosen” people, but the “free will” accountability of each individual saint formed the backbone of Paul’s theme throughout his writings. As a people, the Christian saints were “God’s Chosen”, as were the ancient Jews. Individually however, they had their free agency to choose God, or Satan. And as a people, a predestined people at that, they ultimately chose to be reject God, to reject His apostles, and be beguiled by the paganistic wiles of the Greek Hellenistic philosophers, just as Christ and Paul and others had foretold.
Mr. White, incredulously, attempts to use Christ’s sermon in the synagogue at Capernaum to “prove” his fallacious theory. His “proof” however, falls completely apart in the first two sentences, which Mr. White desperately attempts to rationalize away in his endnotes, using no other authority than his own reasoning. It doesn’t work.
The passage cited by Mr. White is John 6:35-40, which reads:
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Mr. White would have us believe that Jesus’ words in verse regarding “all that the Father giveth me” refers to the predestination of the individual. Does it? Is this the only plausible interpretation, as White suggests?
Raymond Brown, in the Anchor Bible, sheds some light on the meaning of this passage (as does the rest of the passage itself, in context): he says:
“The stress in vs. 37 that God destines men to come to Jesus does not in the least attenuate the guilt in vs. 36 for those who do not believe. One might conjecture that the reason that they do not believe is because God has not “given” them to Jesus. Yet it would be unfair to NT thought-patterns to elaborate this as a psychological explanation of the refusal to believe. The NT often gives its explanation on a simplified level wherein all happenings are attributed to divine causality without any sharp distinction between primary and secondary causality. Nor do these verses resolve the disputes about predestination that have been the subject of theological debate since Reformation times. With all John’s insistance on man’s choosing between light and darkness, it would be nonsense to ask if the evangelist believed in human responsibility.” (emphasis mine)13
Christ makes a number of very clear statements here that John captures, which completely oppose the overlay of a Predestination template on this passage. Those who make the choice to come to Christ will never be hungry. Those who make the choice to believe in Him shall never thirst. “Indeed, this is the will of the Father, that EVERYONE who look upon the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.” (vs. 40) Everyone. All-inclusive. Not some select, exclusive “club.” Everyone.
Mr. White has certainly not disappointed his loyal followers. He has yet once again proffered the same level of scholarship and accuracy for which Evangelical scholars Paul Owens and Carl Mosser observed concerning another paper written by White:
“The article by James White, Of Cities and Swords: The Impossible Task of Mormon Apologetics, was an attempt to introduce evangelicals to LDS apologetics, to the work of FARMS, and, in the process, critique the group. This article failed on all three points. White’s article does not mention a single example of the literature we have presented in this paper. He does not accurately describe the work of FARMS, or of LDS scholarship in general. He gives his readers the mistaken impression that their research is not respected in the broader academic community. We believe that we have demonstrated that this is simply not the case. His attempted critique picks out two of the weakest examples. Not only does he pick weak examples, he does not even give these an adequate critique. This is nothing more than ‘straw man’ argumentation.”
Consider the facts. Mr. White entered this debate with a written agreement that we discuss Predestination from a Biblical perspective only. This was not a Mormon/Non-Mormon debate. This was the debate of a Biblical principle between two opposing apologists. Even Mr. White states at the beginning of his opening statement, “I hope that this debate will, in fact, focus upon… the meaningful, fair, scholarly exegesis of the text of Scripture. Indeed, for my part, I shall do all I can to keep the focus where it needs to be.” (emphasis mine)
White seems to ignore his commitment even in his opening statement, where he takes numerous irrelevant and inappropriate pot-shots at Mormon theology and doctrine, attempts to drag non-canonical Mormon statements into the debate (see his remarks about the King Follett Discourse), and cannot otherwise resist throwing out numerous insults and condemnations of Mormon doctrine in general. One certainly would have hoped that Mr. White would have followed his own injunction at least throughout his own opening statement.
Mr. White has insisted that his interpretation of the text of Scripture is the only plausible interpretation that can be made. I have shown that this is not the case, using scholars such as Markus Barth, Raymond Brown, and others.
Mr. White insists that Predestination cannot refer to God’s Plan for us. I have presented several other scholars who beg to differ with his translation.
Mr. White has denied the reality of the premortal existence of man, without any Scriptural justification whatsoever.
Mr. White has insisted that passages that deal with God’s Chosen people as a whole must apply to the absolute predestination and “irresistible grace” of individuals, denying them any choice in whether they follow Christ or not. I have shown that this is clearly not a biblical concept, and is in contradiction to the statements of both Paul and Christ.
Mr. White demands that the absolute sovereignty of God can only be what HE defines it to be, denying the basic foundational principle that he himself labors so diligently to prove: namely, that God can do whatsoever things He wishes. Even if that means that God wishes to allow us the freedom to choose whether we will follow Him or not.
Mr. White has preached a good sermon. But he has produced very little, if any, substance to back up his claim. Instead, he has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutics to force-fit a Reformed theology onto Sacred text which contradicts it in innumerable places. He even managed to be insulting and ill-behaved in the process.
1 See introduction to Letters to a Mormon Elder, which is the only place in the entire book where the “Elders” are identified as “fictitious”.
2 Peter H. Davids, “Authority, Hermeneutics and Criticism”, New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, David Alan Black and David S. Dockery, Editors (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991) pg. 32.
3 Ibid, pg. 33
4 For instance, in discussions with those of opposing views in the Christianity Online area of America Online, Inc., when asked for citations from valid Biblical scholars to support his assertions, Mr. White has repeatedly demanded that his word alone stand as the final authority against which all matters religious be weighed and determined, and that no other authority other than himself is necessary to consider.
5 Werner Stenger, Introduction to New Testament Exegesis, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pg. 2.
6 Friedrich Nietzsche, “The AntiChrist”, The Portable Nietzsche, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954) pg. 52.
7 Stenger, pg. 2
8 J. Rebecca Lyman, Christology and Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 20.
9 Pheme Perkins, Ephesians (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 38 Emphasis mine.
10 Rom 11:25-32
11 Markus Barth, Ephesians: The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1974) pp. 92-113
13 Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII: The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Co.) p. 276
Second Rebuttal to Darryl Barksdale
This response will come in two parts. First, I will respond to those statements made by Mr. Barksdale that are relevant to our debate. The second portion will respond to the many statements and accusations Mr. Barksdale makes in his first rebuttal that are utterly gratuitous, irrelevant, and hence distracting to the debate itself.
Mr. Barksdale begins his response by citing from various sources regarding the need to engage in proper hermeneutical procedure and to closely observe context. Aside from the citation of the nihilistic atheist Friedrich Nietzsche who coined the phrase, “God is dead,” (a true biblical scholar and resource for guidance in exegetical studies), I find little to disagree with in these statements. Of course, Mr. Barksdale insists that all these statements are relevant to me: however, he somehow forgot to prove his allegations by citations from my writings, hence, his allegations are without merit or weight and must be dismissed in any meaningful debate.
Mr. Barksdale failed to respond to the vast majority of the exegesis offered of Ephesians 1 in my opening statement. Here are examples:
When responding to my demonstration that “we” or “us” is the constant grammatical direct object of the verbs describing God’s act of salvation (including “predestine” in 1:5 and 1:11), Mr. Barksdale insists that this requires the assumption of Calvinism, “which is in direct opposition to the direction provided us by Davids, Nietzsche, and Stenger, whom I cited earlier.” Of course, asserting that I am eisegetically inserting such a template of “Calvinism” requires Mr. Barksdale to prove his point, and he does not even try to do so. Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate. I believe it is Mr. Barksdale who is engaging in eisegesis. I proved this with reference to Jeremiah 1:5 and Job 38:7, and will give many further examples below.
Next, in responding to the demonstration that God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (1:4), Barksdale writes, “This verse, interpreted as White demands, begs the question. If we did not exist before the world was created, how could He ‘choose us in Him’? How can something that does not exist be ‘chosen’?” Mr. Barksdale identifies this as an “absurdity.” Yet, later, Mr. Barksdale speaks of God’s “omniscient foreknowledge.” What does “omniscient foreknowledge” mean? We are not told. In any case, Christians have always acknowledged that God knows all things, including the future. If Mr. Barksdale does not believe God knows the future, we should address that assertion. The Bible is very clear on that subject.1 If he does, however, his objection here is meaningless, because we are simply asserting that God chose us before creation itself since He is eternal (i.e., He exists outside of time). Our existence, due to His absolute sovereignty and control over all things (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:34-35, Psalm 135:6, Isaiah 43:13), has been an eternal reality to God. To say that God could not choose us before we existed (which is Barksdale’s position) requires proof from him as well, and we are offered none.
Next, Mr. Barksdale commits a tremendously obvious error of simple logic and research. He cites my assertion that “It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere ‘plan’ was chosen, or a ‘process’ put in place.” I stated this right after saying, “Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hJma'”, accusative, indicating direct object of ‘to choose’).” These comments were made while exegeting Ephesians 1:4. How does Mr. Barksdale respond to the simple fact of Greek grammar that “we” is the direct object of the verb “to choose”? When I challenged him on this in the AOL chatroom, he had no response. And, in this debate, he has likewise failed to respond. Instead, he replies as follows:
Interestingly, that is certainly not how genuine scholars have interpreted this passage. For instance, scholar Rebecca Lyman translates this passage as follows:
“For he made known to us the mystery of his will according to the purpose which he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of time . . .” (Eph 1:9-10, emphasis added).
The careful reader immediately detects the problem: I was talking about Ephesians 1:4. Mr. Barksdale then quotes what he calls a “genuine scholar” talking about….verses 9 and 10! How is it a valid procedure to take my comments on verse 4 and reply with a secondary citation of someone’s comments on verses 9-10? Such is obviously without merit. We are offered no direct exegesis of this passage by Mr. Barksdale. No response is given to the text itself, only a citation from a secondary source that is not even on the same passage I was discussing. Such is hardly worthy of one who continues to offer “tutoring” in how to do “exegesis.”
Hence, it should be emphasized, Mr. Barksdale has not responded to one of the chief elements of this debate. The text is plain. The direct object of the verb proorivzw in Ephesians 1:5 and 1:11 is personal. It is not a plan. This has been proven by the direct citation of the text and the discussion of the accusative case of hJma'”. If Mr. Barksdale cannot refute this information, his position is lost. All other attempts to get around this truth cannot save him. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and not be distracted. He must respond to these facts.
But the errors in his reply do not end here. Under the subtitle “What Does ‘Predestined’ REALLY Mean?” Mr. Barksdale offers us one of the most glaring errors presented in this debate thus far. He attempts to deal with Ephesians 1:11 and my comments regarding this passage. When I introduced the term proorivzw (“predestine”) in my opening statement, I wrote:
This is the first appearance of the word “predestined” in the text. The exact same term (proorivzw) is used in verse 11 as well. The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “to predestine.”
I then provided endnote 5, which reads, “See any standard lexical source, such as BAGD (p. 709) or Louw & Nida (pp. 360-361).” How does Mr. Barksdale respond to this information? He does so by citing Markus Barth’s comments on Ephesians 1:11. Unfortunately, he cites Barth’s comments not on
proorivzw (proorizw) but on klhrovw (klerow), a completely different Greek term. Barth notes that klhrovw appears only once in the New Testament (a fact that should have caused Barksdale to recognize his mistake, since, obviously, “predestined” appears both in 1:5 and 1:11, as well as four other places in the NT!), and is “ambiguous” in meaning. Barksdale comments:
Far from stating that “The meaning of the term is not ambiguous,” Barth actually directly contradicts White and says that it is ambiguous, and then goes on to say “The complicated problems posed by the present text must be met, and a choice among three possibilities faces the interpreter:”
This is most curious indeed. White asserts that only his definition must be used, and that that definition is “not ambiguous.” Now we have a genuine scholar directly contradicting White’s assertion. Who are we to trust? More importantly, what does this do to White’s argument that the scriptures “plainly teach predestination”, and that only his interpretation is the only plausible possibility?
As we can see, Barksdale has erred grievously. Barth does not “directly contradict” me because, of course, Barksdale has confused proorizw with klerow. Hence, he is accusing me of error on the basis of his own inability to deal with the text in a direct manner. Please note that it is not ad-hominem argumentation to point out such errors of fact and citation. Indeed, Mr. Barksdale asks us to consider what this does to my argument that the Scriptures plainly teach predestination. Indeed, what does it do to consider that Mr. Barksdale has failed to even begin to respond to the exegetical issues raised, but has only responded with such fallacious, confused, and erroneous argumentation as this?
But should anyone actually believe that the meaning of the term is unclear, and does not find the standard lexical sources I cited (which go without comment by Barksdale) to be sufficient, I quickly add the comments of K.L. Schmidt in the highly acclaimed TDNT as further confirmation that “genuine scholarship” is not confused on this topic:
This comparatively rare and late word is used in the Gk. Bible only 6 times in the NT in the sense “to foreordain,” “to predestinate.” Since God is eternal and has ordained everything before time, proorivzein is a stronger form of oJrivzein. . . . The omniscient God has determined everything in advance, both persons (emphasis added) and things in salvation history, with Jesus Christ as the goal.2
In attempting to get around the meaning of the text in Ephesians 1, Barksdale asserts,
Quite simply, this passage speaks of the “election” or “calling” of the Jews, and the subsequent addition of the Christians as God’s “chosen people.”
But again, we find Barksdale engaging in eisegesis. Where does he get this from the text? None of the secondary citations he provides says this, and he does not even attempt to deal with the text directly to substantiate his claim. Yet, he uses this unfounded, eisegetical conclusion as the basis of his assertion, “The point on which White errs is the unBiblical (sic) extension of the predestination of people to the “irresistable (sic) grace” of individuals. This is clearly not the case, and cannot be found in scripture.” Again, we are simply given this bare assertion: nothing is connected with the text at all. We are given no exegetical argumentation. Does Barksdale deal with the use of the personal pronoun “we” as the direct object of the verbs describing God’s action of choosing, predestining, glorifying, etc.? No. Does he deal with the fact that the actions of God undertaken in Ephesians 1:3-11 are obviously relevant to individuals and not just groups of people? Just a quick glance at the text shows how there is no connection between Barksdale’s claims and the words of Scripture: verse 4 says that we are to be holy and blameless. Is this not personal? Verse 5 speaks of adoption as sons. Is this not individual? Verse 7 speaks of redemption through His blood. Do not individuals experience redemption? Verse 7 also speaks of forgiveness of sins. Is that not personal? This is a tremendous example of the difference in theology that comes from the Scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the Scriptures.
Mr. Barksdale seems to believe that citing Hebrews 5:9 where Christ is said to be the source of eternal salvation “to all those who obey Him” is somehow a refutation of predestination. The assumption seems to be that by obeying Christ, you gain salvation. Of course, the text can be understood descriptively rather than prescriptively. That is, Christ is the source of eternal salvation; those whom He saves He does perfectly, and they are the ones who obey Him. Obviously, the unregenerate God-hater does not wish to obey Christ or submit to Him. Therefore, the only ones who obey Christ truly are those who are saved. Again, we see the difference between looking at the Gospel in a God-centered way (God saves men perfectly, hence, He changes them and they long to obey Him, and do so) and a man-centered way (God’s work of salvation is dependent upon my obeying Christ, hence making Him able to save me). Taking the advice of the scholars cited by Mr. Barksdale who tell us to take all of Scripture into consideration, I ask a simple question: if salvation is based upon my obedience to God (i.e., if by my obedience I actuate, continue, or complete, the “process” of salvation) rather than my obedience being the result of salvation, then how can God the Father hold God the Son accountable to save all those that are given to Him, and not lose one? If salvation is a cooperative effort, how can the Son possibly fulfil the Father’s will for Him perfectly? I would like to see Mr. Barksdale answer this question.
Next, we are pointed toward the concept of the “covenant” as an important issue, and it surely is. But Mr. Barksdale seems to miss the fact that there is an old covenant and a new covenant. He points to Israel as the covenant people of God and says, “if God predestinated the Israelites, and if they were truly ‘regenerate,’ why did they so often turn from the Lord.” I don’t believe that the Israelites, as a people, were regenerate. The Old Covenant did not guarantee regeneration of the heart. As the writer to the Hebrews pointed out:
(Hebrews 8:6-13) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.  For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;  NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.  “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.  “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.  “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”  When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
The new covenant speaks of a “new heart,” a regenerate heart. Hence, that objection is hardly relevant, since Reformed theologians have never identified Israel as a regenerate people. But he goes on:
What about the early Christians? If they were “predestined”, why did a general apostasy take place after the ascension of Christ? Why did Christ Himself prophesy of such an apostasy occurring? Why did He not exercise His “sovereign will” to ensure that his elect would not fall away? Why were the very same saints who were “predestined” according to Paul then warned by John on the Isle of Patmos that they were in danger of LOSING their salvation? Was this the will of God, or was God thus powerless to bring about the salvation of this group of people?
Again Mr. Barksdale assumes what he has yet to prove. Paul warned that many would arise in the church speaking perverse things (Acts 20:30). But, he just as clearly indicated that these men were not Christians, and that the Church would continue on “to all generations forever and ever” (Eph. 3:21). The Church is meant to fight false teaching throughout the time prior to the coming of Christ. This no more indicates that the Church has failed and disappeared than the existence of splinter groups in Mormonism proves the Salt Lake element is automatically apostate. Barksdale says Christ prophesied that an “apostasy” would take place, but gives no references. Remember: if one person, or a lot of people, commit apostasy, this does not mean that all have done so. God did make sure that His elect did not fall away. Indeed, God’s promise that none He has saved would ever perish is prima facie evidence against the LDS concept of a universal apostasy of the Christian Church. As to the reference to John, again, since no reference is given, no response can be offered. God’s will is to save His people: and He has done so, perfectly, throughout the years, decades, and centuries since the Lord Jesus returned to the Father.
The only other statement made regarding this issue that needs to be responded to is the statement that since Jesus called Judas Iscariot as an apostle that this somehow means I must believe Judas is in heaven. I do not believe this. The calling Mr. Barksdale refers to was a calling to apostleship, not to salvation. Instead, mentioning Judas only proves my point: the Scriptures are plain in teaching Judas was predestined to the role he took (John 6:70-71, 17:12).
I mentioned in my first rebuttal that the substance of Mr. Barksdale’s response to my presentation drawn from John 6:35-45 was to be found in a single citation of a Roman Catholic commentary. But he did make a common response based upon isolating John 6:40 from its context and turning the entire section on its head. That is, Barksdale refers to the Lord’s statement that “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life,” and on this basis says, “Everyone. All-inclusive. Not some select, exclusive ‘club.’ Everyone.” Of course everyone who looks receives eternal life. But here again Barksdale violates his own stated position regarding maintaining context and allowing the Scriptures to define themselves. Verse 40 comes after verses 35 through 39. Who are those who come to Christ? Who are those who believe? The elect, those who are given by the Father to the Son. As pointed out in my original presentation (and ignored by Barksdale), coming to Christ follows and is the result of being given by the Father to the Son. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” Jesus says (6:37). Grammatically, being given by the Father precedes the coming of the elect to Christ. If one is not given, one will not come! This is exactly what is said in John 6:44, another passage Mr. Barksdale chose to ignore. Hence, it is quite true that “everyone” who looks and believes will have eternal life: but looking and believing are things done only by the elect! Only the elect are “enabled” to do these things (John 6:65). Every one of the elect will look and believe, that is certain. If I were to say, “Everyone with Windows 98 can run this program,” I am not, by that statement, saying that every single individual can run the program. There is a condition. In the same way, “No one is able to come to me unless the Father, who sent Me, draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Prior to the elect’s coming and believing must be the giving of the Father, the drawing of the Father.
Mr. White has insisted that his interpretation of the text of Scripture is the only plausible interpretation that can be made. I have shown that this is not the case, using scholars such as Markus Barth, Raymond Brown, and others.
We have seen that Mr. Barksdale erroneously cited Barth about a term other than the one I used; we have likewise seen that he cited Raymond Brown merely to show Brown doesn’t believe John 6 answers questions on predestination—he did not even cite a single element of exegetical refutation of my assertions.
Mr. White insists that Predestination cannot refer to God’s Plan for us. I have presented several other scholars who beg to differ with his translation.
Barksdale presented no one in his defense: he cited one scholar about verse 11, but left my entire exegesis of 1:4-6 untouched. No one disputes that boulhv can be translated “plan” in verse 11. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the direct object of proorivzw. Mr. Barksdale could not answer this simple fact of exegesis when we first discussed this in AOL. And nothing has changed. Facts remain facts.
Mr. White has denied the reality of the premortal existence of man, without any Scriptural justification whatsoever.
I presented Romans 9:11 twice in my presentation as evidence against “pre-existence” in the LDS view. Mr. Barksdale ignored my comments, hence, the line, “without any Scriptural justification whatsoever” is simple misrepresentation.
Instead, he has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutics to force-fit a Reformed theology onto Sacred text which contradicts it in innumerable places.
I believe it is obvious who has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutical procedure. Mr. Barksdale has offered no exegesis that takes into consideration context, and citing secondary sources regarding verses other than the one under discussion is hardly the stuff of “correct hermeneutics.”
Before responding to some of the miscellaneous charges included by Mr. Barksdale, I wish to refocus our attention yet once again. The thesis of our debate is, “Does the Bible Teach Predestination?” I have presented a number of passages wherein the text plainly, clearly does this. I have demonstrated grammatically that the object of predestination is plainly personal. I have discussed the meaning of the relevant terms, the forms in which they are found, and the conclusions to be drawn from the text. Darryl Barksdale has, thus far, not offered a single paragraph of exegetical argumentation. He has cited sources as far flung as God-hating atheists like Nietzsche, to conservative Roman Catholics like Brown, but he has so far utterly avoided doing the one thing he so confidently offered to do originally: provide a “lesson in exegesis.” Instead, he has made basic, fundamental errors regarding what terms are being examined, what verses are being discussed, and has, so far, not shown that he is able, or willing, to engage the topic as promised. Unless Darryl Barksdale can present a thorough, fair, scholarly, and accurate exegesis of Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 9:11ff, and John 6:37ff, he will fail to uphold his side in this debate. He must explain why Paul presents as the direct object of proorivzw the personal pronoun hJma'”. If he cannot deal with this reality, his position is lost. I strongly encourage Mr. Barksdale to focus his attention upon providing a direct, first-hand exegesis of these passages. Do not limit our readers to mere second-hand citations of commentaries any of us could read. Let’s do what we have promised to do: exegete the text. I have upheld my side of that agreement. I call upon Mr. Barksdale to do the same.
A Litany of Errors
I shall be as brief as possible here since, in reality, none of this is relevant to the topic of the debate, outside of the impact it has to consider the amount of improper argumentation and error of fact found in Barksdale’s presentations. I do not enjoy correcting such errors, and the reader may wish to ignore this section and move on with the body of the debate.
- I created no “Mormon patsy” (a highly offensive term to begin with) and was not disingenuous in the story I presented at the beginning of my opening statement. It happened just as I said, and I challenge Mr. Barksdale to prove otherwise.
- “The irony in this statement is that this eisogetical (sic) practice is exactly what Mr. White himself engages in.” We have already seen documentation that the truth is exactly opposite of this assertion.
- “Indeed, in Mr. White’s view, his interpretation is the only one possible or plausible. Everyone else who disagrees with him, whether their arguments are substantive or not, is simply in his view “picking and choosing” from Scripture. . . .Instead of considering the “full world of critical scholarship,” Mr. White insists instead that he, and he alone, is a sufficient “authority” to pronounce any matter of religion “closed” to further discussion or discourse.” An endnote (#4) is attached that says, “For instance, in discussions with those of opposing views in the Christianity Online area of America Online, Inc., when asked for citations from valid Biblical scholars to support his assertions, Mr. White has repeatedly demanded that his word alone stand as the final authority against which all matters religious be weighed and determined, and that no other authority other than himself is necessary to consider.” In response: If what Mr. Barksdale means is that I believe that there is only one consistent interpretation of God’s Word (i.e., that God does not contradict Himself), of course. But that is not what he means, his further comments demonstrate. Barksdale’s assertions are simply unsubstantiated, false ad-hominem argumentation. He cannot produce a single shred of documentation of his outrageous claims. I insist that he either document from my writings such a claim, or withdraw it with an apology.
- Barksdale goes on: “Further evidence of this kind of unjustifiable arrogance can be seen in White’s endnotes, particularly in numbers 4,6, 11, and 12..(sic) where he uses HIMSELF as a primary source to bolster his arguments. This kind of arrogance forms a common thread throughout all of White’s writings. When he cannot find corraborating (sic) evidence to prove his point.. (sic) he merely quotes himself as a primary source. How convenient. And how unscholarly.” This is probably one of the most ridiculous assertions I have encountered. First, it is untrue. Look at the endnotes he cites: in #4 I cite numerous primary sources; I merely added a reference to an article I have written on the subject at the end. Barksdale is being dishonest to say I could not find “corraborating (sic) evidence” when the citations are right there. Look at #6: this is a comment on the syntactical function of the phrase, and a comment regarding its importance. Can Barksdale refute the statement? Is he saying that I cannot make comments on Greek syntax? I have taught Greek professionally for a number of years, and am a critical consultant on a major Bible translation. Does he dispute these facts? Look at #11: here I simply refer the reader to a fuller exposition of the text. Does Mr. Barksdale dispute that I have written such a work? What point hinges upon my mere reference to such a work? None at all. The point is not in dispute in the first place. And #12 is a mere comment on the text: does Barksdale deny the information presented? Hence, there is nothing “arrogant” found in any of these endnotes. But let us use this as a test-case for the consistency of Darryl Barksdale€s argumentation. On page 197 of How Wide the Divide? we find an endnote by Dr. Stephen Robinson of Brigham Young University. Dr. Robinson, in endnote #7, cites himself. He refers to his previous book, Are Mormons Christians? Has Mr. Barksdale contacted Robinson concerning this “unscholarly” and “arrogant” action? In the next endnote Robinson refers people to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which, of course, he contributed to. Is this “convenient” as well? Over and over again Robinson refers readers to his own works. Is Mr. Barksdale consistent here? Does he condemn Robinson as vociferously? But let€s look further: Warfare in the Book of Mormon is a FARMS production edited by Stephen Ricks and William Hamblin, both of BYU. And again we find numerous endnotes wherein the authors refer readers to other writings by the same authors. Could we find a letter from Mr. Barksdale somewhere in the FARMS offices chiding these LDS scholars for their actions, calling them arrogant and unscholarly? You see, there is nothing “unscholarly” about noting the fact that you have written more extensive discussions of a subject. If Barksdale were a published author, it would be perfectly acceptable for him to refer readers to his works in the manner I did in my presentation. Nowhere did I make a contested point and say, “You need to believe this just because I say so.” To assert otherwise is nothing short of dishonest, for it involves a glowing double-standard.
- Barksdale asserts that I “cannot otherwise resist throwing out numerous insults and condemnations of Mormon doctrine in general. One certainly would have hoped that Mr. White would have followed his own injunction at least throughout his own opening statement.” I will allow the reader to decide who has constantly thrown out insults.
- Mr. Barksdale concluded his comments by saying, “He even managed to be insulting and ill-behaved in the process.” I will leave it to the reader to determine who has been insulting and ill-behaved. I simply ask that my opening presentation be re-read in the light of the errors I have documented above. Any unbiased person can see the truth of the present situation.
1 See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), pp. 190-193.
2 TDNT, V:456.
Word Count: 4841
I wish to thank any reader who has taken the time to read this far through this rather lengthy exchange. It is my hope that you have been benefited by the sections that actually managed to focus upon the topic of the debate: an exegetical discussion of the simple fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of predestination.
Having reached the concluding comments, I wish to be very focused in making sure that everyone is fully aware of the fundamentals of the debate so that a meaningful and biblically-based decision can be rendered by each reader—not that the truth of this debate is determined by vote or popular opinion, for it is not. Instead, God’s truth judges each of us, and we are each held accountable to that truth, whether it is popular or not. If only a few, or even none, were willing to believe God’s truth, that would only condemn us all as unbelievers. It would not change God’s truth. My presentation has not been designed to convince the person who is not willing to bow before God’s Word and conform himself/herself to that revelation. I can’t help such a person. But, if you wish to know what the Bible teaches, and follow after that truth, I hope you have been benefited.
In my closing statement I wish to do four things: 1) document further errors of fact made by Mr. Barksdale in his second rebuttal; 2) Summarize the biblical evidence on the point of the debate; 3) Offer a word to the LDS reader of this debate; 4) Offer a word to the Evangelical reader of this debate.
Many More Errors
In my previous response I documented the fact that Mr. Barksdale not only uses some rather interesting sources for his arguments (including world-famous nihilistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche), but his exegesis is marked by simple, basic errors in research and understanding. I documented that he would often respond to comments on one verse by citing commentary on a completely different passage. In another instance, he criticized me for comments on the meaning of one Greek word by citing a reference about a completely different Greek word. Unfortunately, this kind of mishandling of the most basic elements of the text continues in Mr. Barksdale’s second response. Not only is the biblical text completely misrepresented, but even my own words are made to say something they did not originally say. These errors are significant for any person wishing to weigh our respective presentations on the basis of accuracy and cogency.
Mr. Barksdale attempts to respond to my exegesis of Jeremiah 1:5, but in doing so demonstrates that he has badly misread my words. For example, he writes:
Mr. White claims that “formed” in Jeremiah 1:5 is the “same” as Psalms 139:13-16 and refers to “unformed substance,” which he immediately announces is “a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus.” The term Mr. White is referring to is the Hebrew y’tsar, which literally means “to form,” or “to make.” Nowhere in scripture is it used to denote an embryo or fetus. Mr. White needs to show us some examples in scripture where this term is used in the manner he describes, and thus justify his exegesis.
What I wrote, however, is:
Yahweh formed (rc’y“ , yazer) Jeremiah in the womb. rc’y“ refers to creative activity, much as we see in Psalm 139:13-16, where the Psalmist refers to the time when Yahweh looked upon his “unformed substance” (a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus).
The term “same” does not appear in what I wrote; it is obvious that I did not say that rc’y“ refers to an embryo or fetus, but am referring to Mlego which, of course, any lexical source defines as “embryo, fetus.” In the same way, he completely misreads my comments regarding the same term’s use in Jeremiah 1:5. He begins by denying the obvious: that yatzer is used in parallel with bara in numerous passages, and is part of a group of terms used to refer to creation (just one example: Isaiah 43:1). Then Mr. Barksdale writes, “Is Mr. White seriously suggesting that yatsar is only used in the Bible to refer to creation by God alone? Yup.” He then goes on to disprove this false assertion. I never made the claim, however, that Mr. Barksdale refutes. In fact, any person who read my presentation can see that I said bara is used only of God (see footnote 3), but I never so much as intimated that this is true of any other term. Mr. Barksdale has simply misread my words.
But of far more concern and import to our debate is the attempt to deal in some fashion with the words of the Lord Jesus at John 6:35-45. There is truly no passage that is so clear, so cogent, so weighty in its teaching of the sovereignty of God in salvation and election than this. And certainly there is no end to the attempts that have been offered to get around the plain teaching it presents. But the text is clear. Jesus explains why men who have seen Him do not believe (6:36). He insists that ALL (not some, not most, but ALL) that the Father gives to Him will come to Him (6:37). Grammatically and syntactically, the act of giving by the Father must precede the coming to the Son. God acts in giving to the Son (election), the elected ones respond by coming infallibly to Christ in faith. Mr. Barksdale’s only way around this simple fact is to leave John completely and go to a disputed passage in Mark 16 which nowhere even attempts to address the relationship between the election of the Father and the response of the elect person. It is this “coming one” that is never cast out (6:37). The Lord goes on to explain the Father’s will for Him (v. 39): that of all that the Father has given to Him (here using the perfect
de,dwke,n rather than the present di,dwsi,n used in 6:37 due to the gathering of the elect into a single whole, seen through the use of the neuter singular pronouns in 6:39), He lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day. He then identifies those who are so given by the Father as those who are coming and believing in Him (6:40). Remember, however, that Jesus has already indicated the relationship between being given and coming: the Father’s action precedes the action of man, and therefore determines it. This is re-iterated in 6:44, where the Lord makes it plain that no man has the ability to come to Him outside of the divine drawing of the Father, a drawing obviously that is limited to the elect, since it likewise results in their being raised up to eternal life. This is directly contradictory to Mr. Barksdale’s assertion that “ANYONE can come to Christ and be saved.” Instead, Jesus taught that “whosoever will” is the key: and since no one will unless enabled by the Father (6:65), only the elect “will” do so.
But most instructive for us is the attempt by Mr. Barksdale to introduce us to a completely new, never before seen “translation” of John 6:39 that, seemingly, removes his difficulties with this passage. He begins with the seemingly obligatory insult: “The text of this passage allows for some other possibilities that Mr. White is loath for our readers to see.” To be honest, I had never seen Mr. Barksdale’s “possibility,” since, as we shall see, it doesn’t exist to anyone who actually engages in exegesis of the text. Here is his assertion:
One of the ways that the Greek word for “given” (didomi) is translated is “made.” Given the context that John provides in verse 40, a more accurate rendering of verse 39 might be as follows:
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath made I should lose nothing, but should raise up again at the last day.”
This is certainly consistent with verse 40 and with other similar passages, such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4.
Now, I hope we all remember that Mr. Barksdale rejects any translations I offer, yet, we have here an offered “translation” from him. Surely, if there is merit in his assertion, this would alleviate him from many problems with this passage in John 6. Yet, isn’t it a little strange that he would offer us a translation of a language he does not claim to be able to read? And given that I am not familiar with a single English translation anywhere that renders the passage as Mr. Barksdale, what does it mean that he would go to these lengths? Let’s look at the claim, as it speaks to my opponent’s entire effort to engage in “exegesis” in this debate.
The first assertion to examine is his statement that divdwmi can mean “made.” We are offered no lexical sources for this assertion. Where does it come from? The standard scholarly lexicon, that of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd edition, gives reference to a majority of the 446 appearances of divdwmi in the New Testament (75 in the Gospel of John). The vast majority mean “to give.” The only exception is the fifth section under the third definition, which reads, “equivalent to tiqevnai put, place…put money in the bank Lk 19:23; appoint someone…judges Ac 13:20; w. double acc. appoint someone someth….(to be) apostles Eph 4:11….make someone head 1:22″ (p. 193). Here is the only reference to “make” in the entry, and it is obviously not “make” in the sense of “create,” but “make” as in “make someone head” or “place” in a position, a meaning utterly different than that presented by Mr. Barksdale.1 Further, BAGD lists John 6:39 not here, but under the meaning “entrust someone to another’s care,” which is exactly what the Father does: He entrusts His people to the Son’s care for their salvation.
Hence, Mr. Barksdale is in error to say that divdwmi can mean “make” in the sense he then uses it. The word means to give, to entrust, and even when used as an equivalent term to tithemi, still means “to place in a position.” None of these meanings, however, comports with the use made by Barksdale. This is one of the reasons why no English translation produced by scholars translates the passage as he does: the word doesn’t mean what Mr. Barksdale says.
But there is an even more startling problem with Mr. Barksdale’s “translation.” It takes only a moment’s comparison to see the problem: an entire word, moi, the dative singular pronoun translated “to Me” in all English translations, is, quite simply, missing in Mr. Barksdale’s “translation”! That is, all English translations recognize that the passage speaks of the Father giving to someone, and that someone is the Son. “All that the Father gives to Me” is the phrase. “To Me” is completely missing in Barksdale’s “translation.” Where did it go? Look again at his suggested rendering. I will place a line where the term moi should appear:
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath made _____ I should lose nothing, but should raise [it] up again at the last day.”
Obviously he can’t include it, since that would result in “which He made to Me,” which is utter nonsense. The presence of moi makes the translation “made” utterly impossible. This is the other reason no English translation renders it this way—no person who can read the language would ever suggest it. The meaning of the word is thereby misrepresented by Barksdale, and the text itself is altered, with an entire word “skipped over” simply because my opponent does not wish to accept the plain teaching of the passage.
Now, we should stop for a moment to reflect upon this situation. The foundation of this debate was to be the exegesis of the text of Scripture. When one side has to change the text of Scripture by skipping over words and mistranslating basic words such as
divdwmi, is this not an indication that the position being presented is unable to remain faithful to the text under consideration? The very first day I challenged Darryl Barksdale on this topic I pointed him to the fundamental structure of the text, and I have not changed my position since then. Yet, we have now seen that not only are his past attempts to respond to the exegesis of Ephesians or Romans marked by a singular inability to interact with the specific texts cited (resulting in his confusion as to what words are being discussed), but now we find him willing to offer his own “translation,” along with the assertion that I am “loath” to allow anyone to consider it, which is in fact a complete mistranslation, based upon an erroneous understanding of one Greek word, and the complete dismissal of another! If Mr. Barksdale’s position is exegetically sound, why can’t he demonstrate it from the text itself?
In response to the citation of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 that follows this attempt to deal with John 6:39, I quote God’s Sovereign Grace, a work I wrote in 1991 (and offered to send to Mr. Barksdale at the commencement of our debate, but he declined):
Q: 2 Peter 3:9 indicates that God does not want anyone to perish. Doesn’t this disprove the doctrine of election?
A: We must always apply sound rules of exegesis to the Scriptures. Peter accepted the Old Testament’s teaching about the nature of God. He knew Psalm 135:6 and 115:3, and the truth that whatever God pleases, He does. And, since we have already seen that repentance is the gift of God, could He not give repentance to anyone He chooses? Finally, the context of the passage must be consulted. 2 Peter is written to the elect, as 2 Peter 1:1 shows. In chapter 3, Peter is explaining the delay of the parousia, that is, the coming of Christ. He explains that Christ will indeed return, and that the delay is in order that God may gather His people. “He is patient with you,” Peter writes to God’s people, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The “everyone” is in reference to all of God’s elect. The only reason that you are reading this book nearly 2,000 years later is because God has been patient, giving the world all this time, so that all of God’s elect could be gathered in.
Q: 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Doesn’t this disprove the concept of election?
A: Again, the entire context of Scripture, as well as of the passage, must be considered. Aside from all the passages that clearly indicate God’s ability to save all men, and bring all men to a knowledge of the truth if He so desired, we again note the context of the passage. Verse five speaks of the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, and, as we saw in our examination of the atonement and intercession of Christ, this work is undertaken in behalf of God’s people. Therefore, the term “men” in verse 5 is limited to the elect of God. As John Owen noted in this regard,What then, I pray? what will be concluded hence? Cannot Christ be a mediator between God and men, but he must be a mediator for all men? Are not the elect men? do not the children partake of flesh and blood? doth not his church consist of men? What reason is there to assert, out of an indefinite proposition, a universal conclusion? Because Christ was a mediator for men (which were true had he been so only for his apostles), shall we conclude therefore he was so for all men? (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 78.)
The same is to be said for verse 6, where the ransom sacrifice of Christ is mentioned. We have seen that this sacrifice was made in behalf of the people of God, not for each and every individual. Therefore, if verses five and six specifically mention the work of Christ in behalf of the elect, verse four does as well. This fits consistently with the entire teaching of Scripture. “All men” here is the same “all” that are given by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.
Q: Doesn’t the Bible exhort “whosoever will” to come?
A: Yes, it does. The Gospel message is addressed to all men. However, just who “wills” to come? We know that the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and that no man seeks after God (Romans 3:11). We also know that the Lord Jesus said that no man is able to come to Him unless the Father draws him. So, outside of God’s initial move in regeneration, no man will “will” to come to Christ.
Q: If God has already chosen who will be saved, why share the gospel, since they will be saved whether we are involved in evangelism or not?
A: This is probably the most common objection that is voiced against the doctrine of election. There is a clear answer, but before getting to that, we should note that the question is not a proper one; that is, our questions should be based upon the teaching of the word of God, not what we can or cannot necessarily understand. Even if we did not have an answer to the question, would this necessarily mean that Ephesians 1:11 does not teach what it obviously teaches?
But, we do have an answer anyway. First, we evangelize to glorify God. We do not go out to “save” anybody, since we are incapable of doing that in the first place. We share the gospel because by so doing, we bring glory to God. If that is all the reason we had, it would be sufficient. But there is more. We know that God has given us a great privilege to be used by Him in His work in this world. He has given to us a blessing to be able to share the gospel with men. God has decreed both the ends and the means. He has decreed to use men in sharing the gospel with His elect. Why has He done so? I do not know. I only know that His Word reveals that it is so. God has not seen fit to give us knowledge of who is, and who is not, His elect. Therefore, we share the gospel with all men, and trust God to honor the proclamation of His message by drawing the elect unto Himself. We can share boldly with all men, knowing that God is powerful to save, and as long as we seek to glorify Him, He will care for us and bless us with His Spirit.
The Matter Concluded
The Bible teaches that God predestines men to salvation through Christ Jesus. It is clear that the elect are known to God, and are chosen on the basis of His own mercy, grace, and will. We have already seen this plainly presented in Ephesians 1, Romans 8-9, and John 6. Try as anyone might, it is a fruitless task to attempt to deny these plain facts. Every effort to overthrow this doctrine has failed, for the Word is too plain, too consistent. Mr. Barksdale could not answer that first day in the AOL chat room why it was that the accusative direct object of “predestine” was the plural personal pronoun, “us.” To this day, he cannot overthrow that simple fact.
Few of those who reject God’s electing grace have any accurate knowledge as to what they are denying. Most react solely out of emotion, not out of thought or study. When one truly begins to consider what it means that “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) and that it is “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30), certain truths come flooding into the mind. First, that God is truly worthy to be worshipped and praised, since He is truly God (and not man, Hosea 11:9), the Creator, the Potter, in whose hands I am but the clay. The arrogant pride of man is shattered by just a glimpse of the true God, and it is that pride that is so badly crushed by the sovereignty of grace. All grounds of boasting, all reasons for arrogance and pride, are cut off by the gospel of grace. I am no better than any other. I am not “smarter” in that I have “figured it out” while the lost do not. I am not “more righteous” because I somehow “worked the plan” while those in eternal punishment did not. No, there is only one thing that separates me from the sinner undergoing righteous punishment in hell: grace, a five letter word that becomes to the believer life itself. That is why in eternity to come it is grace that will be our song, grace that will be the object of our praise (Ephesians 1:6). And that is why it is that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), for “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (v. 13). The fear and trembling I have is in recognition of the holiness and awesomeness of the God who is at work within me, doing His good pleasure!
I am under no illusions that the majority of folks will like what I have to say. God’s truth is not a matter of vote or popularity: indeed, truth is rarely very close to popular opinion. And when it comes to telling men and women of the sovereignty of God, and how men are enemies of God, lost sinners utterly without hope (Romans 3:10-18), and that they are completely and totally dependent upon God and His mercy to save them, I well know how the heart as yet to be touched by grace responds to that message. But I boldly proclaim it anyway. Why? Because it is true, and because God will honor His truth. His sheep hear His voice. His people will not be caused to stumble by His Word. The message will get through to the elect, and no power in heaven or earth can stop God from bringing His people into relationship with Himself. Conviction and conversion is God’s work—I am but privileged to be an instrument to bring His truth to His people in His time and in His way.
A Word to LDS Readers
Over the past decade and a half I’ve spoken with literally thousands of LDS people. I well know how very different this message is to your ears. It is truly my hope that you will consider well the teaching of Scripture: that you will recognize that one cannot skip and jump about seeking to find some other passage to explain away the meaning of the one under consideration. Take the time to check out the sources cited, but more importantly, the text itself. Listen to Paul describe election in Ephesians 1, and see if there is, indeed, anything “human” mixed into it. Listen as Jesus says “no man is able to come to Me” in John 6:44, and that “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me” in verse 37. Follow the Golden Chain of Redemption in Romans 8, and see if it is not the work, completely, of a sovereign God.
Mr. Barksdale has accused me of taking “digs” at Mormonism by doing such things as citing Joseph Smith’s own words in the King Follett Discourse. Such are not, of course, digs, anymore than Stephen Robinson or Daniel Peterson are taking “digs” at Mormonism when they, likewise, cite the same words. The simple fact of the matter is, electing grace has no ground in Mormonism simply because there is no corresponding God in Mormonism who could produce it. That is, it is theology proper (the doctrine of God) in Christianity that supports soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). But in Mormonism’s theology, there is no eternal, omnipotent Creator, hence, there is no possibility that a Mormon, assuming the LDS doctrine of God, could understand the concept of sovereign grace. If you believe God is an exalted man, one of our own species, the idea of election, predestination, and even sovereignty, can make no sense to you. I am well aware of this. One might well say, “Then why bother talking to Mormons about such things?” Because, I have seen my God reveal Himself through His Word to LDS people. I’ve seen Him utterly remove the false concepts about His existence, and replace them with the truth of His eternal power and sovereignty. I’ve seen Him open eyes to the depth of sin, and the absolute necessity of grace. That’s my confidence, and it is truly my prayer that you will be the recipient of His grace even this hour.
A Word to My Fellow Evangelical Christians
Years ago I began saying this, and I will say it again: the Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit. We have no right to shave off the “rough edges” in the interest of making the Gospel “look better” to our modern, self-absorbed world. We have no business meddling with the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the Gospel that changes hearts, and makes those who hate God love Him. It is the only power given to the Church, and we should treat it as precious.
There are many in Evangelicalism who have relegated the discussion of election and predestination to “deep doctrine we don’t need to worry about,” or a topic “upon which good men have differed.” Yet it is definitional, fundamental, and determines the very nature of our theology, our evangelism, our view of the Church, and our apologetic. We are deprived of our foundation and depth in truth when we ignore these topics, or fail to proclaim them, fearing the face of men. The great London Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said it in terms granted by divine ability:
There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation — the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands — the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.
On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as; the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except upon His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of Heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His scepter in His hand and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.2
I ask you to join with me in revealing to our LDS friends the truth about God: who He is, and what He has done in Christ Jesus. They speak often of the Gospel, but have not heard it. They need bold Christians who share in love: love for God, love for His truth, which leads to a love for those who need to hear that truth. We are not loving the LDS people when we give them only half-truths. We show our love most fully when we lay ourselves on the line, absorb the slings and arrows that come from sharing with them, and trust God with the results. Only then are we truly fulfilling Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God’s free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God’s grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others. —John Calvin
May God be glorified as His truth is made known.
1 For those interested, this usage is even further removed from the use made by Mr. Barksdale: it refers to a double accusative (as in Ephesians 1:22), and there is, of course, no accusative direct object of divdwmi in John 6:39!
2 Sermon delivered May 4, 1856 on Matthew 20:15, The Spurgeon Collection CD-ROM, Ages Software, 1998.
Word Count: 4991
By Darryl L. Barksdale
I would like to begin this statement by extending a sincere thanks to my opponent, Mr. James White. He has certainly kept me honest within these proceedings and has shared some valuable insights into the rationale behind his position, for which I am most grateful. I certainly wish him well in life.
Let me be brutally honest for a moment. I am not a Greek scholar, and, because of this, I have made several glaring errors in this debate which have proven to be most embarassing. I attribute them solely to the hastiness in which I prepared my responses to Mr. White, and realize in hindsight that I should have spent more time reviewing my responses before I posted them. He is quite justified in correcting me in the areas where I misspoke.
My request to the reader, however, is to carefully examine the bulk of my arguments, especially the numerous arguments that I posed from which Mr. White tiptoed away, and compare them with Holy Writ to see if they are not reflective of the truth. Even if one removes the arguments that contain errors of translation, the remaining arguments are staggering in their cumulative condemnation of the doctrine of the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation.
From the previous statements and rebuttals of this debate, I would like to present a summary of Mr. White’s main arguments for the position that we are individually predestined to salvation or damnation, and that no other interpretation of Holy Writ is plausible.
A Brief Summary
Ephesians 1:3-11 is used as the mainstay of White’s argument in favor of the predestination of individuals to salvation and damnation.
White asserts that in verse 3, among other things, only the “redeemed” are being addressed because Paul uses the personal pronouns “us” and “we,” and thus this is proof that God the Father predestinates individuals to salvation or damnation.
Besides the obvious fact that we know that Paul did not even write the epistle to the Ephesians, curiously nowhere does Mr. White explain why these very common pronouns should be restricted to the “redeemed,” rather than to those who were the intended audience of the author of this epistle.
This is a logical fallacy called “begging the question.” In other words, the truth of White’s conclusion that this verse teaches the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is assumed entirely from the premise that “us” and “we” should be used in an overly restrictive sense.
I suppose if you want to get really technical about it, the entire “us” argument falls apart because it is a syllogistical error of existential fallacy. White is drawing an unwarranted specific conclusion from universal premises… that “us” refers to only the redeemed, when it clearly refers to a much broader and more universal group.
When I addressed this erroneous assumption on White’s part, he sidestepped the real issue and accused me of responding to the fact that “us” was the direct object of the “verbs describing God’s act of salvation.” Apparently Mr. White thought that no one would catch his error. I was not responding to White’s “demonstration that ‘we’ or ‘us’ is the constant grammatical direct object of the verbs describing God’s act of salvation,” but rather to his insistence that “us” and “we” refers ONLY to “the redeemed,” and that his unsubstantianted interpretation in any way proves the idea that individuals are predestined to salvation or damnation.
Mr. White continued his objection with a most interesting statement:
“Of course, asserting that I am eisegetically inserting such a template of “Calvinism” requires Mr. Barksdale to prove his point, and he does not even try to do so. Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate.”
I challenged White specifically about his rendering of “us” as to be referring only to the redeemed! What is there on my part to prove? The word is not there! Mr. White has yet to provide any justification for defining “us” and “we” as only the “redeemed” or “elect” from the text itself, and yet claims that I have not proved my point and nor did I try! He has not provided us with even one quote. Not one reference to context to prove his point. Not one cite of any authority agreeing with his exegesis. Not one example of the author using the plural pronoun “us” in reference to only the redeemed or the elect in any other passage.
So, where did he come up with this idea? White explains that the “us” of Ephesians 1:5 is the “we” of Ephesians 1:11 and the “elect” of Romans 8:33 and those who are “given” by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.
Where in the world does Mr. White find justification for this? Is this Mr. White’s idea of proper “exegesis”? Is this how he deals with difficult passages? To simply fabricate a connection between two different passages, clearly written by two different authors to two different audiences years apart? Does he present any exegetical reason why the pronouns in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 are in any way related exegetically to the “elect” in Romans 8:33 and John 6:37? No. Apparently, Mr. White is unwilling, or unable, to deal with the actual text within its proper context.
I would submit to our readers that this is an excellent example of the weakness of Mr. White’s entire argument for predestination. As I originally observed, in order to force-fit the clear, plain text to conform to Calvinistic dogma, one must “add to” the Word of God meanings that are simply not there. One must create a “canon within a canon.” One must twist the purity of God’s Word excruciatingly beyond recognition in order to force it into a Calvinistic paradigm. I do not believe that this was the intent of the original authors.
Mr. White insists that the idea that we are to be holy and blameless, that we are to be adopted as sons, and that we are redeemed through the blood of the savior is “personal,” and is not referring to the collective audience to which the epistle is addressed. Where does the text itself support this? Nowhere. Mr. White never shows us even one instance of where the text clearly teaches this concept as he has presented it.
In the Old Testament, Jehovah laments to the Israelites how long He has waited as a hen to gather them under his wings. According to Mr. White’s exegetical methodology, the Israelites should have been able to rest comfortably, assured of the fact that only one individual was being addressed, because Jehovah directed His lamentation to the pronoun “you.”
Mr. White states that this is a “tremendous example of the differences in theology that comes from the scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the scriptures.” I, for one, would agree. Mr. White’s attempt to force-fit a 6th century paradigm of predestination onto scriptural passages which clearly do not teach them certainly falls into this category.
To summarize, I would ask Mr. White to reflect seriously upon his own statement, “Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate,” and to apply that standard of efficacy to his own arguments, for White is clearly preaching a sermon here, not engaging in scholarly exegesis. Nothing more, and nothing less. By his own standard, nearly everything that he has presented that is not supported by solid, documented hermeneutically-sound evidence within the text of this debate must be rejected.
Shooting the Messenger
White has responded consistently to arguments that he cannot answer by attempting to shoot the messenger and hope that no one notices the message or its impact on his arguments.
For instance, he completely ignored a very germane discussion in my opening statement on sanctification and justification and our own actions and the effect they have on our salvation, calling the author of one of my cites “one of the worst” that he has seen. Of course, no justification was ever given for this for this inflammatory and unfounded accusation, and White never mentions this topic or the author he slandered again, nor has he ever bothered to address the very germane issues presented therein, which by themselves destroy the most basic premise of the doctrine of predestination.
When I quoted Werner Stenger, who in turn quoted Nietzche to stress a most pertinent point, White erroneously accused me of quoting Nietzche directly, condemned Nietzche (and me for quoting him), and completely ignored the actual message of the quote, which stated that true Biblical exegetes should “[read] facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand.”
Does Mr. White take exception to this message or Stenger’s use of it? If not, then why attack the messenger? If so, what part of this message does Mr. White find to be objectionable, and why? The answers are very simple. By demanding, for instance, that words like “us” be too narrowly interpreted, or that when the Father says that He desires that all be saved He is really only speaking of the elect, White is violating the very principle that Stenger, not just Nietzche, is trying to teach. James White has, throughout this debate, created a “canon within a canon” to justify his doctrine. When the tough questions have come, he has chosen to shoot the messenger instead of addressing the message and has quickly changed the subject.
White has ignored a veritable mountain of arguments that he cannot address.
He has failed to explain to us why Paul stated that the Jews who reject Christ will be included in salvation. Given Mr. White’s view of predestination, I for one would have been most eager to hear his explanation for how this is possible.
Mr. White has failed to articulate for us how it is in any way “just” that one be damned before the foundation of the world, before the stain of “Original Sin” would come upon him, and before an individual even exists. Perhaps a concise definition of “justice” from Mr. White would assist us here. Since individuals do not exist in Mr. White’s view prior to mortality, they have no acts or choices upon which judgment could be based. And if they did not exist prior to mortality, and if God’s judgement to salvation or damnation is based on what they will be when born based on God’s omniscient foreknowledge (though not due to any choice of theirs, for predestination denies Free Will), is not God guilty of creating evil, sinful monsters from the very beginning that have no other purpose than to be damned to the depths of Hell, screaming in agony for eternity? Perhaps Mr. White would explain just how “justice” fits into this scenario.
Mr. White intentionally neglects to include the definition of “foreordained” for the Greek proorizo, even though a considerable number of lexicons list it before “predestined.” And yet he claims that the definition of that term is “without ambiguity.”
Mr. White also fails to address the many citations I presented which pointed to an interpretation of Ephesians 1:3-11 not in an individual sense, but in a collective sense… of collective groups of God’s people, such as the ancient Israelites. In fact, verse 14 uses that very term.. “God’s people.” No, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Mr. White demands that “us” is personal, and refers to individuals as direct objects of God’s will. But the author of Ephesians never hints at this interpretation whatsoever, nor does he use the word “us” in this sense in any other passage. Mr. White never explains this curious phenomenon. He also never explains why he doesn’t seem to want to consider the rest of the book of Ephesians in his discussion of the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation.
Mr. White rejects the notion that the author of Ephesians is discussing a plan that has been laid for “God’s people,” even though this is exactly what the text clearly states, and several experts that I cited confirm. Mr. White ignores the fact that the text states that we are “predestined” or “foreordained” not that we will, but that we should be saved. Not that we are sons of God, but that we may be adopted as such. Mr. White has never yet explained why a more forceful, distinct, and unambiguous phraseology was not used in this “God-breathed” infallible passage.
White also curiously neglects to explain how we can possibly “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) if we are predestined to salvation or damnation from before the foundation of the world through no act of our own, through no fault of our own, and are thus powerless to effect that outcome. Perhaps Mr. White would have been kind enough to share with us exactly what “salvation” we can “work out with fear and trembling,” given his position. According to Mr. White, this was all decided long before we suddenly “flared into existence” out of nothing.
White also fails to acknowledge his blunderingly erroneous interpretation of the Jacob and Esau example given in Romans 9, demanding that it be grossly misinterpreted… that is interpreted literally to support his thesis, when any barely literate Biblical scholar knows that the story is figurative, and refers to nations, not individuals.
White also fails to explain anywhere in his treatise the informative statement in Hebrews 5:9, that Christ “is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.” Isn’t obeying Him something that “man does” that affects his salvation? White insists that nothing we can do will effect our salvation. That has all been decided long before we came into being. So why then can our obedience, or lack of it, affect our salvation and why is this ability even articulated, when according to White it doesn’t exist? White fails to tell us. He also fails to explain where the author of Hebrews restricted this statement to the “elect.”
In one of the most egregious examples of blatant eisegesis in this debate, White dismisses the clear, plain statements of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim 2:4 that the Father desires all to come unto Him with a spammed answer from another work that he authored that clearly exposes the fallacy of his argument, and which gives us rare insight into the extent of scholarly dishonesty to which White will descend in order to lovingly protect his logical fallacy.
White explains that neither passage of scripture can be interpreted as they stand, and that they must be altered to force-fit Calvinistic theology. In a truly dizzying display of circular logic, White explains that 1 Timothy 2:5 “Speaks of the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, and, as we saw in our examination of the atonement and intercession of Christ, this work is undertaken in behalf of God’s people. Therefore, the term ‘men’ in verse 5 is limited to the elect of God.” Can Mr. White be serious? The only way that this explanation works is to redefine the “us” in Ephesians 1:3 to refer only to the redeemed! Is this Mr. White’s idea of scholarly exegesis? Does White present any evidence from this author to demonstrate that this term is used in this manner in other passages? No. Does White present any hermeneutical evidence whatsoever to justify this gross eisegesis other than that it is necessary to be able to discard this contradictory passage, making his thesis more tenable? Again, no.
Perhaps Mr. White would explain to us why the authors of 2 Peter and 1 Timothy were so mutually incompetent as to somehow neglect stating this most crucial of facts, as was John, apparently in John 6:39,40. Were they not inspired? Was the Bible not “God-breathed”? If so, why then does God need James White to properly “interpret” it for the rest of us by overlaying the clear, plain meaning of the actual text with Mr. White’s assumptions and cherry-picked definitions? Why, if Mr. White is correct, would these authors articulate these sacred concepts using such consistently erroneous and misleading phraseology? In reality, this is yet another instance on Mr. White’s part of begging the question. But that should not surprise us. White’s entire premise is built upon the sandy foundation of logical fallacy.
Fortunately, Evangelical scholarship has distanced itself far from this kind of embarassing eisegesis. A prominent Evangelical reference says this about the two passages in question:
“Timothy 2:3-4 states, ‘God our Saviour… wills (thelei) all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ Second Peter 3:9 expresses a similar sentiment: ‘The Lord… does not will (boulomenos) anyone to perish but that everyone might come to repentance.’ It should be emphasized that neither text says that all will be saved regardless of their disposition toward the gospel. In the first text, ‘to come to a knowledge of the truth’ is a formula that means to make a rational decision about the gospel, that is, to respond to the gospel message. The second text similarly relates God’s will to save the all-inclusive ‘anyone’ to the volitional element involved in repentance. Consequently, while these texts tell us that God’s will to save extends to all people, and that he desires to save rather than to condemn, they do not remove the necessary element of the faith-response to the gospel.”1 (emphasis mine)
At this point, I cannot help but hear Mr. White’s own words ringing clearly in my ears. Is this not a “tremendous example of the differences in theology that comes from the scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the scriptures”?
The Preexistence of Man
White rejects the preexistence of man without any justification at all. He simply does. This is the logical fallacy of exclusion. The fallacy of exclusion occurs when evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration. Mr. White has done this repeatedly in refusing to consider the considerable evidence pointing to the premortal existence of man.
When confronted with the fact that the Lord told Jeremiah that he knew him before he was born, White attempts to wiggle out of the obvious by claiming that other definitions of “know” exist. But do any of them apply to this passage? No. The text is clear. And Mr. White is either unwilling, or unable, to address the text itself in any responsible manner. Either the passage has been badly mistranslated and is in error, or it is very succinct and clear and should be considered in the plainness in which it was written. God knew Jeremiah before he was born. This clearly implies the existence of Jeremiah prior to birth. We are still waiting to hear a plausible explanation using sound hermeneutical principles from White.
White insists that the Bible never hints of a preexistence of man. He dismisses the Sons of God shouting for joy at the creation of the Earth in the book of Job without any merit or reason whatsoever. He admits that the Hebrew for “sons” that I presented was correct. He does not claim that the verse was mistranslated. He does not provide any evidence that I have not correctly interpreted the text. He simply denies it, and demands that I prove that the text means exactly what it already says it does. This is another excellent example of how Mr. White deals with text that he cannot explain away. There were “Sons of God” who were literal offspring, as the passage clearly states, shouting for joy in the premortal realm at the creation of our Earth. Mr. White has yet to deal with this fact.
What of the blind man? In yet another example of an excellent argument ignored for rather obvious reasons, in John 9 we have an individual born blind. This fact is emphasized several times, including the testimony of his parents that he was, indeed, born blind. Christ’s disciples asked Him a very interesting and instructive question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2, emphasis mine)
This passage poses a most difficult challenge to Mr. White. According to Mr. White’s view, it is impossible for an individual to “sin” prior to birth, since he simply doesn’t exist. Given this view, it would be interesting to see Mr. White explain why the apostles thought he could sin prior to being born if the premortal existence of man was an unknown concept, and why the Savior, in the midst of a sterling teaching moment, failed to correct their misunderstanding. The Savior had every opportunity here to teach all of us that the man couldn’t have sinned because he didn’t exist prior to birth. But the Savior accepted their premise without flinching, without comment, and most notably, without correction. Mr. White fails to address the enormous implications of this passage in any way whatsoever. He simply pretends the argument was never raised.
White claims that neither the Bible nor the early Christian Church held any concept of the preexistence of man. Once again, he ignores volumes of evidence which contradicts his assertion, and to be honest, he has to. Why? Because if man preexisted this mortal life, the entire predestination heresy would collapse under the weight of its own faulty logic. If the preexistence of man is true, predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is false.
If premortal man had the ability to choose and to be known by the Father of our Spirits before coming to this Earth, then it makes sense that his calling or foreordination as an adopted Son of God (or not) came as a result of the choices he made in that sphere, rather than from the arbitrary whims of an unjust, tyrannical God. We would then understand that God is indeed who scripture teaches us that He is; a loving, just Heavenly Father.
Contrary to Mr. White’s assertions, belief in the premortal existence of man was very real in the early Christian Church, and continued until 553 AD, when it was extinguished by an edict known as the Anathemas Against Origen, promulgated by the Roman emporer Justinian. The Pope consented to this edict, although under extreme duress. In The Secrets of Enoch in the Apocrypha, Enoch was told that “men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous.”2
Josephus noted that the Essenes believed in the soul’s premortal existence, and R. H. Charles describes it as a “prevailing dogma” in later Judaism. The concept of the premortal existence of man was very common to Greek thought, and is given prominence in the Koran.
Most Latter-day Saints would be struck with the clearly familiar ring of the following, taken from The Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel:
“In the beginning of things God the All-Father also created a great number of souls destined one day to inhabit a human body. There is a treasure or storehouse in Heaven where these souls are kept until the moment arrives for each of them to descend upon the earth and be united to ‘mortal coil.’ According to some myths these souls are hidden beneath the throne of All-Father, whilst in other places it is maintained that the souls yet unborn walk freely in the celestial fields in company of the souls of the pious who have already passed through a body. Some souls are spirits sent down upon earth and ordered to inhabit a human body as a punishment for faults committed. For others it is a test and an opportunity to show their strength. In the struggle of the soul, the celestial inmate, against the passions and instincts inherent in matter, the soul has an opportunity to show its worth and remain faithful to its celestial origin or to betray it.”
In 3 Enoch (Hebrew Enoch), Rabbi Ishmael, the recipient of the vision, is shown the spirits of the righteous who are yet to be born.3 He is then enabled to understand a phrase in Isaiah 57:16. The text in the KJV of the Bible states, “The spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” But the Enoch text is significantly different: “For the spirit clothes itself before me, and the souls I have made.”4 The interpretation given the passage is that righteous spirits need to be clothed with physical bodies in order to return to the presence of the Holy One.
Space will not allow any further excursions into the writings of the Apocrypha such as Esdras, the Apocalypse of Baruch, 1 and 2 Baruch, or the Early Church. Suffice it to say, Mr. White is wrong when he suggests that the doctrine of the preexistence of man is not presented, at least indirectly, in the Bible. And he is most definitely wrong in suggesting that this doctrine was not present in the early Church.
If we had the time, I would love to see Mr. White address ancient Jewish tradition regarding the Heavenly Councils, and who composed those councils, and what significance they had on Jewish belief. I would love to see his commentary on Psalms 82. I would further love to see Mr. White address the glaring errors he has made elsewhere regarding the “monistic monotheism” of the Jews and the early Christians, and to have him address the outstanding scholarship done by Larry Hurtado and many others on this topic,5 with which I have confronted him previously, and which he has yet to address.
I would also be most eager to see Mr. White explain the Synodal letter of the African Bishops banished to Sardinia from the year 523:
“The question as to the origin of souls, whether they come ex propagine (as offspring or posterity), or whether for every new body a new soul is created (sive novae singulis corporibus fiant), we will pass over in silence. The Holy Scripture does not decide this question, and it should be examined with pre-caution.”6
This passage indicates most clearly that even in the first quarter of the 6th century, the doctrine of a premortal existence of souls was still being held by some, at least, of the Christians and was being actively discussed.
Mr. White has the audacity to proclaim that “the Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit.” And yet, we have seen throughout the entire debate that all of Mr. White’s arguments rely exclusively on his “creative editing” of Holy Writ to force it to conform to Calvinistic thought. He has used ad-hominem attacks to promote his message. He has shot a number of worthy messengers bearing truth that he simply does not want you to hear. He has used circular arguments and a veritable boatload of logical fallacies. And he has used his personal hatred of Mormons to turn this debate into yet another of his anti-Mormon pulpits. Not to mention self-aggrandizement opportunities.
He has relentlessly and viciously attacked me and insulted me for making several errors of translation, while turning a blind eye to his own glaring mistakes, logical fallacies, and misrepresentations of fact. He deliberately misrepresents LDS theology with blatant, flat-out lies such as “…in Mormonism’s theology, there is no eternal, omnipotent Creator,” when he clearly knows, or should know, that such is not the case. If Mr. White’s position were true, would he have to resort to such invective and personal attacks? Surely not.
Again, I remind our readers that White’s premise (and the major weakness of his position) is not simply that it is plausible to find a predestination teaching in Scripture, he actually demands that the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is the only way that Scripture can be legitimately interpreted. The task that White has so arrogantly established for me is not to prove that predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is wrong, but simply that other interpretations are hermeneutically possible, or at least legitimately plausible. I believe that I have accomplished this many times over. One only has to look at the mountain of arguments that Mr. White carefully avoided to see evidence of this fact.
Has White accomplished his task of showing that the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is the only plausible way to interpret Holy Writ? I will leave that up to our readers to decide.
Let me close this most insightful and revealing debate by sharing with you, our readers, the conclusions of a prominent Evangelical reference on the subject of predestination:
“It would be hard to fit together a predestination to judgement and the operation of human free will and our responsibility. The failure to find the salvation offered to humankind by a gracious and loving God seems more wisely assigned to the way men and women ‘reject God’s purpose for themselves’ (Luke 12:30) rather than to a prior, unalterable rejection by God.”7
God is Sovereign, my friends. God is omnipotent. That does not mean that God is a tyrant. Nor does He need to be to measure up to those divine attributes. Our Heavenly Father is a just God. He loves us. He desires that all of us come to Him through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. But He loves us enough to let us decide if we will or not.
He has called us. He stands beckoning. Will we accept His invitation? Our ability to truly answer that fundamental question for ourselves is the greatest gift He could have ever given us. Of this I so testify in His holy name. Amen.
1 Philip H. Towner, “God’s Will”, Elwell’s Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1996), p. 822
2 1 Enoch 69:11
3 3 Enoch 43:1
4 3 Enoch 43:3
5 Hurtado, L.W., “What Do We Mean by ‘First-Century Jewish Monotheism’?”, in Lovering, E.H., Jr., ed., Society of Biblical Literature 1993 Seminar Papers, (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), pp. 348-368.
6 Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, vol 4, ed. William R. Clark (T&T Clark: Edinburgh, 1895), 125
7 Francis Foulkes, “Predestination”, Elwell’s Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1996), p. 629