Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Dark Side of Calvinism
01/31/2004 - James White
Well, it finally arrived. George Bryson's The Dark Side of Calvinism is finally sitting on my desk. Despite only having "seen it from afar," so to speak, I finally had a chance to look over the work today. The sub-titles are great: "A Biblically-based examination, evaluation, and refutation of the Reformed Doctrine of Redemption and Reprobation" appears at the top of the cover, and under the title we have, "The Calvinist Caste System." Very briefly: it is not a well made book. It is an 8.5 x 11 photocopied "Kinkos" style binding, hence, not overly easy to handle. It has no Scripture index, so, to find out what the book says about any single passage can be very difficult to determine. I likewise noted a number of sections repeated material found earlier in the book (something demonstrating the need of those wonderful folks called "editors").
Of course, the big question everyone is waiting for an answer for: when George Bryson told me to "read the book" to find the answers to Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10, and Acts 4:27-28, was it because we just didn't have time for him to go over his in-depth exegesis of these key passages, or was something else involved? Now, WallyBalt, the Australian/Hawaiian Astrophysicist Guy, had already scanned the book and informed me that there was not a single reference to Genesis 50 or Acts 4 in the book. I certainly trusted someone of Balt's scholarly abilities, but I also wanted to see it for myself, and I wanted to look for Isaiah 10 as well (though, obviously, if someone skips the others, they aren't going to tackle that one!). Having now scanned the entirety of the book, I can say without hesitation that Mr. Bryson showed not the first inkling of interest
in exegeting, let alone mentioning, the three passages that I presented on the BAM debate. They were never mentioned, cited, quoted, or allowed to wave from the bleachers in the far left field. I will be playing relevant cuts from the BAM debate regarding this on next Tuesday's Dividing Line.
Now, I saw a lot of really bad argumentation going by as I was checking each page for citations of those three passages. It is clear that since our debate in 2002 Mr. Bryson has determined it would be best to create some kind of defense regarding John 6. Numerous pages in different sections are devoted to a very passionate, yet utterly muddled and incomprehensibly vain
attempt to get around the teaching of the Lord in the synagogue in Capernaum. And though he directly quotes numerous Calvinists, all of whom point to the same textual issues (especially the fact that John 6:44 says all those who are drawn are also raised up), his tradition is so thick and so impenetrable that he continuously misses the point. In fact, he can go on to make these claims
- Only in the imagination of a committed Calvinist do we see that all who are drawn by the Father come to Christ or believe in Christ.
- Only in the imagination of the committed Calvinist do we see that being drawn by the Father means that the one drawn must come to Christ.
- Only in the imagination of the committed Calvinist do we see that those who do not come to Christ were not drawn.
I invite the reader to review John 6:37-44 for a tremendous example of the power of tradition displayed in these incredible statements. Is it my committed Calvinist imagination that those given by the Father and those drawn by the Father are the same group? Is it my committed Calvinist imagination that all the Father gives to the Son as a result of being given come to the Son (Bryson rejects this simple grammatical and textual fact). Is it just my Calvinist imagination that the "him" who is drawn in 6:44 is the "him" who is raised up (another plain textual fact Bryson ignores)? One thing is for certain: the words of the Lord Jesus recorded for us in this passage continue to refute every vain effort made by men to mute their testimony to God's utter
sovereignty in the matter of salvation.
I should, however, note one positive thing: there are so many citations of good, solid Reformed sources in this book that I truly believe Mr. Bryson has unwittingly lent us a hand in "getting the word out." Evidently he feels his replies are compelling, but in fact, most of the time, he simply does not provide a comprehensible, let alone a compelling, reply. Therefore, I truly believe we will see more folks coming to see the importance of rightly handling God's truth in the matter of His sovereignty as a result of this book.
Back from the Arctic
01/27/2004 - James White
Sorry for the delay in getting back to the blog. Arrived home late Sunday night from New York, and the day after you get home is always very busy. Anymore it takes you an hour just to delete all the spam in your mailbox....
Very briefly: the "blog wars" have devolved to the level of "oh yeah!" I shall allow the various folks out there to slap each other on the back and congratulate each other on their ability to repeat their a-contextual traditions ad nauseum. Those who desire to be subject to Scripture and derive their beliefs from the text have already come to their conclusions on the meaning of Galatians 2:4-5. Here is a tremendous example of how tradition can overthrow exegesis. Oh, by the way, did anyone else notice that no one bothered, in offering allegedly sound meanings for "false brethren," to note the only other place it is used in Scripture? The only other reference is 2 Corinthians 11:26:
I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
The context makes it plain that Paul was not using the term in a favorable light here, just as in Galatians 2:4. What kind of dangers would false (but actually covenantally true) brethren offer to Paul? But looking at cross-references is really irrelevant when, in the final analysis, the Scripture is subject to your inescapable traditions anyway. Let the wise person take note.
Importance of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide
01/17/2004 - James White
I recognize that there is a fair amount of confusion on the part of some regarding the current controversy noted in the recent blog entries. It is my hope that over time that confusion can be cleared up, and in the process, some of God's people will be blessed. Even with the gaseous cloud of vituperative sarcasm being belched out by "Purist," his rank humor can be used to illustrate many points in the debate.
Going back to the response offered by "Alastair," I note again the utter absence of exegetical interaction with the invitation I offered Mr. Enloe, that being to explain the presence of "false brethren" amongst the baptized members of the leadership of the church. He, and other AAPC devotees, have expressed the idea that the Roman Catholic is my brother merely because of the "sign" of Trinitarian baptism. This text seems to contradict such a conclusion. Next, I have no interest in debating Alastair's peculiar take on NPism. Yes, the comments I have made on NPism are focused on Wright for the obvious reason that it is his work that is impacting the churches in the United States more than anyone else. Moving on to the sub-section "Christian Knowledge" Alastair quoted from my blog:
Folks, the foundation of the Christian life is knowing who God is, what He has done in Christ, and that I have peace with God not because of anything I have done but solely because of what Christ has done. Until that relationship of peace is established and understood, the rest is just window dressing. You can sprinkle water on somebody’s noggin until they drown, but without that foundation you will never build a proper, balanced Christian life.
For those who recall what I was talking about, I was responding to the constant denigration in TGE's writings of my deep, constant, and abiding concern for the doctrine of justification, the importance of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, etc. I was saying that outside of the establishment of that divine condition of eirene, shalom, peace which comes about only through the much-maligned truth of sola fide, faith alone apart from works of righteousness, all the rest of TGE's "Second Christendom" rhetoric has no meaning. Alastair missed the context:
The foundation of my Christian life is not my knowledge of who God is, what He has done in Christ, and that I have peace with God not because of anything I have done but solely because of what Christ has done. My Christian life is founded upon the reality of these things, not upon my knowledge of their reality. This is no small distinction. Someone can taste of the reality without being able to articulate it in an orthodox manner.
I never said it was my knowledge, but how can I have a Christian life if I am ignorant of my justification before God? Here again the text steps in: what comes after Romans 5:1 and the establishment of peace is, in fact, the rest of the Christian life itself. But that life comes about as a result of justification by grace through faith alone, and that standing as a justified person is what gives rise to all the rest of Romans 5:1-10. Where does the text tell us about those who are ignorant of their peace with God? Since the text says by faith (not by baptism, which is the key here), what, or more properly, who, did they believe in? All the Christian characteristics noted in the following verses assume the state of justification exists, by faith, so that peace exists between the individual Christian and their Lord. Despite all the cries of "individualism!" and "Donatism!" that might be raised, the fact is that these are personal terms. No Christian society will ever exist outside of the regeneration of the individuals that make it up. Hence the problem with TGE's sacralistic usage of the Oak of Geismar: no one is justified by destroying their idols as long as they remain an idolater at heart. Cut down their idol, then stand there with a garden hose and sprinkle them down in the name of the Trinity if you wish: such is not Christian evangelism. The tragic element of that section of TGE's comments was placing the action of chopping down the oak in opposition to the proclamation of the very heart of the gospel message. And that was my point.
Angel Finds Spurgeon Bound and Gagged!
01/11/2004 - James White
Now for our contingent of humorless Calvinists: Angel's cartoons come from listening to the Dividing Line and other tapes and materials presented by this ministry. They are meant to make a point. They do so with humor and yes, sarcasm. That's how they get the message across in a way it will be remembered. Dave Hunt grossly misrepresented Spurgeon (see the documentation
in my entry for 1/07, now in the blog archive). Despite being corrected repeatedly, Hunt has remained adamant in his error. So think about it, which is more likely to make the point and get remembered: the blog entry with its nice table, or the wonderfully composed cartoon above?
Further, it is apologetically relevant as well: if we do not call folks on "our" side like Dave Hunt to be accurate in his handling of such materials as the sermons of Spurgeon, how can we complain when our enemies mishandle documentation? If Hunt is willing to stand behind such obviously erroneous statements, despite the corrections of his friends, what does this say? In case you are wondering, Dave has called myself, and numerous other Calvinists, "elitists" many times (lots of documentation on that one), and as to the high praise for the book, well, I personally have always found it outrageously funny that Tim LaHaye, after saying Calvinism comes "perilously close to blasphemy" (would I debate LaHaye on the issue? At a moment's notice! Think of how many folks would get to hear about the doctrines of grace!), would say of a book copyrighted in 2002 that "This may well be the most important book written in the 21st century." Comments like that are begging for an "Angel-ic" response. :-)
Finally, one of our regular participants in channel, Mark Ennis, really summed it up well. He said, "The way he is handling Spurgeon is the ultimate example that proves Dave Hunt has no idea what language Calvinists speak." Exactly! Spurgeon was talking about the merit of the cross, not the intention of the cross, and as in so many other situations, those who oppose the doctrines of grace do so by not listening to what is being said to them. BTW, if you would like to join the conversation in the chat channel, click on the "A&O Chat" button to the left.
Now to quote folks from the chat channel when I first posted this, "Angel r0x0rz!"
A Worthwhile Review of "What Love Is This?"
01/09/2004 - James White
Click here for the review. It begins, "The debate over God’s sovereignty in salvation has reached a new low with the publication of this book." Nice to hear others saying the same thing.
Dave Hunt and Spurgeon
01/07/2004 - James White
Anyone who has taken the time to read much of Charles Spurgeon knows he believed in, and preached, the dreaded doctrine of "limited atonement," or as many of us prefer to put it, "particular redemption." I took the time last year when Dave Hunt's new book came out to read a sermon from Spurgeon that made the point rather clear. Many have pointed out his glaring error in asserting that Spurgeon denied limited atonement in "unequivocal" language. Hunt has waffled on the subject (the term "unequivocal" doesn't really leave you much meaningful wiggle room), and about as close as he's gotten to an admission he was wrong is to say that perhaps he was somewhat "strong" in his language. It would be very nice if Dave would just say, "OK, sorry, I blew it," but that does not seem a possibility.
Well, a few weeks ago Phil Johnson of spurgeon.org pointed out the probable source of Dave's error. He points to Samuel Fisk's book, Election & Predestination. Hunt lists Fisk as one of his sources (Hunt relied heavily upon such secondary sources, and I have always surmised, given the character of the quotation, and how the sermon goes on to identify limited atonement as Christian doctrine, that Hunt had simply grabbed this from somewhere else). Compare these two citations for yourself:
|Fisk, p, 149-150||Hunt, p. 19|
| But |
it is best to let Spurgeon speak for himself here. And that he did
in strong words: "I know there are some who think it necessary to their
system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological
system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot,
I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near
akin to blasphemy. In Christ's finished work I see an ocean of merit; my
plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient
efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved
not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed
their Maker's law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out
of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent
to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to
the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application
of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work."
Spurgeon himself, so often quoted by Calvinists to support their view, rejected
Limited Atonement, though it lies at the very heart of Calvinism and follows
inevitably from its other points --- and he did so in unequivocal language:
"I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology
to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed
such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow
the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy.
In Christ's finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom,
my eye discovers no shore. ... Having a Divine Person for an offering,
it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are
terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice."
And then read what both authors somehow missed on the very next
Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him. Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, "It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself," they say, "to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty." I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ's intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.
Could someone help me with the meaning "unequivocal"? :-)
The Impromptu E-mail
01/06/2004 - James White
For some odd reason someone unknown to me recently posted to a discussion forum one of those e-mails you write because you really feel strongly about something. I had forgotten, but a few years ago Marc Carpenter, one of the more famous Internet Hyper Calvinists, had sent out one of those unsolicited e-mails to a large group of folks (you know the type that has a huge 'cc' list?). I actually took the time, for some reason, to sit down and write a fairly full reply. I'm not sure why the person who reposted it did so, but I thought my reply was worth providing to a larger audience. The issue does come up frequently, and real Calvinists are often unfairly painted with the hyper-Calvinist label, so here are some thoughts on the subject. I don't know if the follow up he wrote is on his website or not, but since this isn't his website, but mine, you can look for his response if you are so inclined to do so. :-)
01/05/2004 - James White
A fine young fellow that I've been seeing a lot of lately (has something to do with my lovely daughter, I do believe) showed me a periodical titled "The Arminian." I was first amazed that there are still folks left on planet earth that willingly, gladly, without a word of remonstrance, accept the name of themselves. But what was far more interesting was the fact that there was an article in it by Steve Witzki written against "eternal security." You can see the article Here. Right at the beginning you will find the author quoting James Akin, staff apologist for Catholic Answers, from the debate notes he posted on his website from our radio debate from many years ago. This is the same debate where Akin misidentified various elements of the Greek language, as we documented in a previous Dividing Line broadcast. What was so strange is that this Arminian writer seemingly has no problem borrowing from a Roman Catholic when he is arguing that church history stands opposed to a belief in the perfection of the work of Christ. Of course, would the author likewise follow Akin’s historical arguments on such topics as the Mass, purgatory, or the Marian dogmas? We think not. But for those who get all upset when I point out the confluence of Arminianism and Roman Catholicism (based upon the centrality of synergism to both systems), please take up your complaint with Mr. Witzki.
God's Sovereignty Illustrated
01/03/2004 - James White
We received a phone call at PRBC this weekend. A woman in northern Utah called, seeking help. Seems someone from a "Reformed Baptist Church in Phoenix" had given some literature to her husband years ago outside the Salt Lake City Temple. She had read these books and wanted to know more about what she had now come to believe was true (we have contacted fellow believers in Utah to follow up in a more personal manner than we can from Arizona). What books had this man been given? Drawn by the Father and God's Sovereign Grace. Those not familiar with the books should know both are presentations and defenses of Reformed theology, i.e., Calvinism. Drawn is about John 6:35-45, and God's Sovereign Grace is my friendly presentation of the doctrines of grace (both have been reprinted and are available in our bookstore). Now, many, many folks would find passing out clearly, openly, unashamedly Reformed literature in Salt Lake City at the General Conference of the Mormon Church to be sheer lunacy. But we have known for a long time that the God of Scripture is so far beyond the anthropomorphic "exalted man" of Mormonism that the contrast of divine truth to human error can be used by God to draw His people unto Himself. It is such a joy to not have to worry about shaving off the rough edges of truth so as to mollify the "libertarian will" of man. Christ's sheep hear His voice. We just need to proclaim His truth with clarity and leave the rest in God's hands.