Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
What a Tremendous Debate!
08/27/2005 - James WhiteIt is very late so I won't go into details now, just a quick note to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The debate went far better than I could have possibly imagined. I was particularly happy with the interaction between myself and Dr. Crossan during the cross-examination. Kudos to Rich Pierce and all the gang who worked so very hard to pull all of this together---Mike O'Fallon and all his folks with Sovereign Cruises, and all the volunteers who put in countless hours and a lot of hard work (including my son Josh!). The list is long and I won't start it lest in my tired state I forget someone. In any case, it was a tremendous blessing, and as I said, I could not have imagined it going any better. Thank you once again for your prayers!
New Article in the RBTR
08/18/2005 - James WhiteI just received my copy of the July, 2005 issue of the Reformed Baptist Theological Review (www.rbtr.org). I have a new article in this issue titled "Textual Criticism and the Ministry of Preaching" (3-26). Not too late to subscribe!
A Deep Sigh
08/17/2005 - James WhiteIt came in the mail today. I almost didn't bother looking at it. I mean, who knows better that Dave Hunt has no interest in speaking truthfully about Reformed theology than I do? I'm overwhelmed with preparations and details in reference to next week's events, so why even bother looking at Hunt's new little anti-Calvinism book, the one he did not need to write because, of course, he's said all he needs to say (that's his excuse for backing out of debating me live, in front of an audience)? But I made the mistake of picking it up, and on every page I ran into eye-rolling foolishness. Just a few examples.
Hunt holds to the Wilkin anti-Lordship nonsense, and uses it as a bat to beat on Calvinism. Such may please his cadre of followers, but it would not work well in debate. Hunt promotes the "dead faith saves" concept so that you have "absolute certainty"; then, on the basis of this, continues to run with the simply ridiculous "Calvinism is crypto-Catholicism" nonsense he pushes on a regular basis.
Next, I somehow had missed this awe-inspiring subtitle, "Calvin's Weakness as an Apologist." I had to force my eyes to the next few paragraphs...yep, Hunt displaying still more stultifying ignorance of basic apologetic issues (i.e., epistemology, presuppositionalism, etc.). Followed, of course, by the wonderfully logical follow through of how this proves Calvinism is all wrong.
I don't know...maybe it is because I've been spending so much time in Crossan and Wright and on issues like harmonizing Synoptic parallels and Q theories and Second Temple Judaism's view of resurrection and the presuppositional nature of the approach used by the Jesus Seminar, etc., but going from Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God to the dishonest, simplistic, and just plain silly arguments of Dave Hunt, is a bit of a challenge. It is truly distressing to see such blind Crusaderism on the part of an "evangelical" who is clearly ignorant of the issues and utterly beyond correction. And yet, the temptation is to just dismiss his meanderings for that very reason. Yet, the task of the Christian scholar is not to dwell upon what is most "interesting" to himself, but to always keep in mind the benefit of the people of God in general. And so I force myself to interact with the repeated errors of Hunt, even while seeking to be prepared to respond on a completely different plane to the Crossans of the world.
A Word from Mike O'Fallon
08/14/2005 - James WhiteBack in 1999 (if my memory is serving me correctly) Mike O'Fallon contacted me and asked if I would speak at a conference at his church and then go on a 4-day, 3-night cruise thereafter. And so it started. Mike comments on how we started this aspect of the ministry.
If you have followed the ministry of Dr. James White for any length of time, you have probably wondered “Why does Alpha and Omega Ministries cruise on an annual basis?” Well, the answer will most probably surprise you and might even inspire you to continue to strive for the cause of Christ in your own experience.
As a member of a large Southern Baptist Church 7 years ago, I viewed a tremendous amount of confusion within our congregation regarding even the most basic of doctrinal considerations. What is the Gospel? What is a Christian? What is Salvation? None of our church faithful had Biblical, historical, grounded, workable answers to these questions yet they continued to push forward enormous efforts in “evangelism” without any real hold on the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints. Doctrinal chaos only increased as Billy Graham and Promise Keepers marched through our area and dispersed a well-intentioned fog of ecumenical disorder among the evangelical community. As our church only increased in our population of “almost Christians,” several theologically-minded friends and I regarded the situation at our church as grave and closing in on irreparable. We recognized that if modern protestant evangelism was to truly grow a church as a result of God-ordained conversions of the heart and mind (in comparison to false professions of faith and emotional “decisions”), then it certainly doesn’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed about Biblical Christianity being distinct and particularistic, and secondly, that if the current ambivalence in evangelicalism towards theological reflection were to continue, then evangelicalism as a movement would most certainly succumb to liberalism and pragmatic methods of church-growth and shallowness in the discipling of new converts.
My wife and I decided to approach our pastor about the idea of staging a conference dealing with foundational doctrine, apologetics, and cult evangelism at our church during the next calendar year which yielded the response, “Well O’Fallon, we’ll do it if you want to pay for it.” One of my consistent faults (which at times has been my greatest assets) is a Petrine exuberance that looks at every obstacle as a challenge instead of a defeat (as a former professional athlete, I’m extremely competitive). The last thing that I ever want to hear from someone is “we can’t” which can only be worsened by sarcasm from the one making the declaration. So, within the space of only a few hours, the genesis of an apologetics cruise was borne as a means to fund the land-based conference at my church.
To make a rather long and detailed story short, our sponsoring of conferences and debates with Alpha and Omega Ministries has done well to encourage the emergence of sustained serious theological reflection in several different venues across the United States. Our conferences have had the pleasure of having men such as Dr. Eugene Merrill, Dr. Robert Thomas, Michael Gendron, Dr. Thomas Ascol, Phil Johnson, Sam Shamoun, Dr. Jobe Martin, David King, Dr. Eric Svendsen, Dr. James Renihan, and Steve Camp, all of whom have contributed greatly to the goals of our conference and cruise. During this same time, scholastic debates between Dr. White with Robert Sungenis on papal infallibility, Dr. John Sanders on inclusivism and open theism, Greg Stafford on the deity of Christ, Douglas Wilson on the salvific state of Roman Catholics, and currently, the debates with Dr. John Dominic Crossan and Dr. Marcus Borg on the Historical Jesus and the veracity of the Biblical resurrection accounts coming up in just a few short days in Seattle, Washington, have furthered the cause of a defined and Biblical faith. We have consistently believed that an informed laity (for lack of a better term) is a genuinely evangelistic church that should never compromise its role of heralding the Gospel in a fallen world. While I am no longer at the church where the conferences began ( I have since joined a congregation where verse-by-verse Biblical exposition is the distinctive hallmark of the church), our mission has been to bring to the churchman an understanding of core, orthodox Christian doctrine in a historical framework, an understanding of proper exegesis and the applied practice of proper hermeneutics, and to engage through debate both those within the camp of orthodoxy that with whom we have important theological differences and those with aberrant and heretical tendencies. This realm should no longer be understood to be the hallowed ground of seminarians alone, for the elect of God, men and women of every stripe or position in the church, are still under the command of Scripture:
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” 1 Peter 3:15 NASB
If we are to seriously follow this command and “be ready” to give a defense “with gentleness,” then it is necessary that a goal for all Christians should be to know what they believe and why they believe it as opposed to the tired answer I have heard so many give in response to someone with serious questions, “you should talk to my pastor….” Our goals today in our conference and cruise remain the same as they have always been:
1. To focus both devotionally and theologically on the finished work of Jesus Christ
2. To clearly declare Scripture as the ultimate authority in all matters of doctrine and practice
3. To understand our faith within a Biblical and systematic framework
4. To be able to share and communicate this faith to those outside of the pale of orthodoxy
5. To live by this faith in both word and deed
To properly achieve these established goals, we must also be aware of the tendency to frame those that disagree with our theological conclusions in the worst light possible, or even worse, to misrepresent their views in order to demonize their belief or hermeneutic. I must admit that I agree completely with the assessment of Dr. White’s next opponent in debate, Dr. John Dominic Crossan:
"I am not too happy with... the recent shift from academic argumentation ('I will make your case as accurate and strong as I can before I demolish it') to political argumentation ('I will make your case as dumb and silly as I can before I demolish you')”
We should always deal with those that we have disagreements with in clear and honest terms without erecting positional straw-men to attack as we attempt to delude others into thinking that we have accomplished some sort of victory for God by misrepresenting one another’s beliefs. Sadly, I have seen this most often occur from those within reformed evangelical community and it truly grieves me. Those of us who are monergists, or reformed in our soteriology, should be engaging one another, not continuing to marginalize each other by creating fictitious and insincere positions of those that we disagree with (Credobaptists vs. Paedobaptists, Dispensationalists vs. Covenantalists, pre-mills vs. post-mills vs. a-mills etc). We must always be able to admit that we do have differences, and be willing to confront and engage one another in those differences, but always in the context of 1 Peter 3:15 “with gentleness and reverence…” As a community of faith, we should look forward to the times that we can come together in honest, sincere debate as we seek to work through the Scriptures and sharpen one another as brothers in Christ honestly should. If Scripture is our only source of true authority, then all arguments and positions should begin and end with God’s perfect and infallible Word.
All this to say that as we look forward to this year’s Alpha and Omega Conference, Debate, and cruise, try to remember this article and the purpose and mission behind the convention and debate. Please pray for all of us, particularly Dr. White, as we seek to be obedient and pleasing to Him in all that we do and say. I pray that in all that we do our efforts shall continue to be to His glory and for His glory.
Sovereign Christian Cruises
A Thirst for Godliness: Christ and Hermeneutics (II)
08/02/2005 - James WhiteI will not belabor a thorough line-by-line examination, but I will address a few more comments made by our author. In what seems to be an attempt to create a lack of confidence in hermeneutics, we are presented with the following assertion:
Not only did the original authors of the New Testament generally avoid the sort of historical/grammatical method of interpreting the Scripture they had available to them, they often employed methods that today would be declared unacceptable by those who feel free to call biblical hermeneutics a science.He seems to borrow part of Peter Enns argument without following it to its conclusion wherein at least Dr. Enns offers a solution (albeit, a controversial one).
Without granting legitimacy to the blog writer’s assertions, as I am currently studying much of the interpretive methods in that time period before I make any argument on that at this point, I would ask him to offer a demonstration of how he would use the “pesher” interpretive method in the 21st century. One of the points that Enns examines is that such a method is foreign to our culture and us and quite impossible to duplicate. Longenecker, cited by Enns, suggests that the historico-grammatical method is the choice for the church to understand the Apostles. Enns disagrees somewhat and adds some caveats. I will not engage that disagreement other than to make the point that while our blog author references this controversial matter in passing as though it were incontrovertible, he ignores that there is scholarly dialogue and support for using the historico-grammatical method in order to understand the text of Scripture.
[JRW: I would simply add that the Apostles were most often seeking to utilize the Tanakh in the demonstration of the Messiaship of Jesus. In this case, then, they were approaching texts that most today would admit of dual fulfillment as historically given prophecies with relevance when given but a second, greater relevance in Christ. Obviously, this places the conversation in the majority of instances in a different context than that which we face in interpreting, for example, the direct assertions of Paul regarding the historical existence of "false brethren" in the church.]
So, while we are told that the Apostles are using a particular method, we are never told why the historical-grammatical method is therefore invalid. In fact, we are never explicitly told anything about the method, only that it was not used by the Apostles. ...
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A Thirst for Godliness: Christ and Hermeneutics (I)
08/01/2005 - James WhiteI began writing an article in response to a "reformed Catholic" who took aim at John Samon's article posted 7/28, and wrote a few paragraphs before Mike Porter asked if he could respond, so I thankfully handed the task to him. But I had already sent the first few paragraphs to John, so, I include them here, followed by the first portion of Mike Porter's response.
I saw some pretty amazing words today coming from that concentration of post-reformational ecumenism and source of opposition to all things biblical and apologetic, the "reformed Catholics." I read,
We make a mistake if we think that our central concern as Christians should be to properly exegete the text of Scripture. Nor should we be entertaining the idea that such should be the primary concern of the Christian minister. Bible study of course is important but our central concern should be Christ. Men thirst for the Living Water, not how we ought to practice hermeneutics. Catholicity is based on our identity in Christ, not our ability to agree with one another on the meaning and interpretation of the biblical text.
Of course, the writer is responding to the blog article immediately below regarding honoring God by honoring His Word. I searched in vain through the article for anything that said exegesis was the "central concern" for a Christian over against Christ. That's because, of course, there is nothing in the article that could lead any person to think that was John Samson's meaning. But some--especially those who continue their pilgrimage away from believing, conservative, Reformed beliefs--do not read anything that comes from their former backgrounds with even a modicum of fairness. The caricaturing of "the old ways" is epidemic today.
There is no conflict, of course, between practicing hermeneutics and thirsting for the Living Water. But, I may ask, should it not be that those who thirst for the Living Water will thirst for the truth about the One they worship and follow? Will not such a person desire to hear only the Shepherd's Voice? And how else is one going to properly honor God and His Word than by handling it with the awe and reverence and respect it is due, and I mean by that not the physical act of handling, but that of applying our best to its interpretation? ...
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