Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Gospel: God Centered, Free, Powerful
05/19/2008 - James WhiteLet me begin by noting that I am sure I will probably err in the future and double-post videos here. It is very hard to keep what is scheduled to appear in the future, and what has already appeared in the past, straight. So, I apologize beforehand should I post something more than once!
As far as I can tell, I have not posted this before. I put it on my YouTube page May 9th, and in a very short time it has garnered 3,500 views and nearly 120 comments. This is the closing statement I delivered at the end of the debate with George Bryson at the Anaheim Vineyard in Los Angeles. A number of folks have found this a useful presentation. I hope you do as well!
Quick Corrections/Clarifications on the Acts 13:48 Entry
05/05/2008 - James WhiteBob Anderson wrote to me today. He was very kind, apologized for the fact that what had been posted on the Steve Gregg forums was taken from another web forum and hence was not appropriately documented, and likewise indicated that he is not associated in any fashion with the University of Maryland. It seems the person who posted this material, a "Homer," is the one who should be apologizing for not identifying his sources, for cross-posting materials, and for assuming Bob Anderson was associated with the University of Maryland. I appreciated Mr. Anderson's note, and wanted to offer these clarifications as soon as possible.
Bob Ross Declares Joel Osteen "Closer" to Spurgeon: Arizona Cardinals Go Undefeated and Win Super Bowl
05/03/2008 - James WhiteI suppose it has been pretty obvious for a while now that Bob Ross (not the "pretty flowers" Ross, the other guy) is about as Reformed in his theology as...Joel Osteen, since his blog is titled the "Calvinist Flyswatter." Ross' rambling rants (now coming two or three a day) against anything Calvinistic are spinning so far off into the realm of the absurd that it is probably time to remove his feed from the ol' RSS list out of sheer embarrassment for the poor man. His most recent offering, in which he tries to argue Osteen is more consistent with Spurgeon than Founders churches and other "hybrid Calvinists" (the term he uses for those he has decided to skewer, despite how often he has been corrected on their actual beliefs), pretty well demonstrates Ross' "I see only what I want to see" mentality when it comes to argumentation and logic. And as such, it seems best to close the door on the Bob Ross saga, say "thanks" one last time for all those colorful Spurgeon volumes on the shelf, ask him to try to regain some sense of balance or even honesty, smile, and say "good night."
Oh...the Cardinals thing seemed just as connected to reality as Ross' claims.
Acts 13:48 Revisited and Dishonesty Exposed
05/03/2008 - James WhiteYou know you are really busy when something that took place only a matter of weeks ago seems like it took place long ago. A month ago now we did five programs during which I debated Steve Gregg on the doctrines of grace. Since then, I have debated Jalal Abualrub on the deity of Christ, and a sociologist in northern California on gay marriage. My mind has completely moved forward to debates upcoming, including the exciting possibility of a debate in November in Durham, NC, and, of course, the debate with Bart Ehrman in January of '09. Likewise, I am starting work on a revision/update of The King James Only Controversy as well!
So it struck me as very odd a few days ago when someone in channel noted that the conversation on the doctrines of grace was still on-going over at Steve Gregg's forums. It was mainly odd because one of the main participants was confessing he still had no idea what I was talking about when I explained the background of the Greek in Acts 13:48. I have not had time to even think about the subject over the past month, but, evidently, others have. And so I was directed to an article posted there relating to Acts 13:48. It is allegedly by Bob Anderson of the University of Maryland. Now I looked around the UMD website, and the most commonly referred to Bob Anderson teaches physics there. An attempt to e-mail this individual bounced back, so without confirmation I cannot trust that the article was produced by any scholar of the Greek language. Because I have no way of contacting the author to verify accuracy, I will simply refer to "the author" and go from there, since the person who posted this provided no citations, no URL to check, etc.
White's argument is always against the use of the direct middle voice of the verb TASSO in Acts 13:48. When used in this way, the middle voice construction often takes the translation of "disposed" instead of "appointed" or "ordained." At least since his publication of The Potter's Freedom, White has consistently argued that such a construction is impossible. His arguments follow the pattern below.
Of course, I have argued no such thing, and the fact that the author is willing to think I have is very telling indeed. Thus begins a long string of simple misrepresentations of my actual words. I have argued that you cannot simply throw out a middle translation and not defend it, which is what is done 95% of the time in synergistic/Arminian writings. Proper exegetical practice requires one to explain why one "prefers" a particular understanding. Given that the middle (sans deponents) is relatively rare in Luke in comparison with the passive, and given the periphrastic construction, there must be some compelling reason to adopt it. What is the reason? I have never said "such a construction is impossible," and I challenge the author to document the allegation, or withdraw it.
1. Periphrastic construction - White always starts his argument for Acts 13:48 with the fact that we are dealing with a periphrastic construction. He never explains how it is significant, but plays on it rhetorically because most do not know what this construction means.This is significantly less than useful because it is significantly less than honest. Any meaningful discussion of the grammar and syntax of the relevant portion will note the periphrastic construction. Sadly, the majority of synergistic discussions do not mention it at all. It is simply dishonest to say I never explain why it is significant. I have always explained why it is significant. Whether our author understands it or not is another issue. It is significant because a periphrastic construction produces a specific tense-translation for the phrase, in this case, a pluperfect. As a result, however you take the meaning of τάσσw, it points us to something done prior to the Gentiles hearing that the gospel was coming to them. The honest reader who is familiar with what I have written on this topic will reject the author's dishonest accusation of "playing" on the periphrastic for "rhetorical" reasons. Such a false accusation is without basis and is to be rejected.
The truth is that the construction has nothing to do with the voice of the verb/participle. It has to do with the tense of participle, making a pluperfect participle from a perfect participle by adding the imperfect verb of "to be" to the perfect participle. Periphrasis is simply a round about way of saying something, using a verb of being (eimi or huparcho) with a participle of another tense. The combination may change the tense of the verb in question or just provide more of an emphasis.The reader will see that obviously the presence of the finite form of a verb of being together with the participle resulting in a pluperfect sense is completely relevant to the proper interpretation of the text, and how it is directly relevant to the question at hand.
2. Pluperfect participle - White argues that the pluperfect participle places the completed action of that participle before the action of the primary verb. Therefore, this action must occur before the events of the story takes place.My argument has been that in describing "as many as" the action of the periphrastic construction is, in fact, "completed" with reference to the time frame of the text itself. That is, the ordination that marks out those who will believe is a reality not dependent upon concurrent or future actions.
This is only a partial truth, and may even be questionable. Under normal circumstances, a pluperfect participle would precede the main verb ("believed") in this clause. However, that in no way means that the event is not given in the story itself. In the case of Acts 13, we have two key events that occur immediately before the belief. The first is the declaration of Paul that he is now turning to the Gentiles to preach the gospel (13:47). This would make the "appointment" or "setting" to eternal life complementary to that event. (It is the rhetorical flip-side of Paul's calling.) The second event is found in the first clause of 13:48 where there is a clear change of disposition among the Gentiles where they rejoice as the word of God - Paul's words that gospel now is coming to them. This seems to be the most direct tie to the events of the second clause of 13:48, but requires us to translate the participle phrase as "had been disposed to eternal life."Here we have true rhetoric that is plainly designed to avoid giving a straight answer to the question at hand, and is itself not even mainly true. We are given assertions without substantiation. Why is this not a "normal circumstance"? ἐπίστευσαν is directly before ὅσοι; there is no reason whatsoever to look for any syntactical context outside of that provided by the phrase itself. The author simply throws out a number of claims, evidently hoping to do what he has falsely accused me of earlier. Are we to seriously believe that the idea is, "and as many as had disposed themselves to eternal life right then and there believed"? What competent scholar has ever translated the text this way? What translation? Not even the Jehovah's Witnesses were that bold! No, those who had been ordained to eternal life believed. The idea of "disposing oneself to eternal life" is an outlandish concept anyway---how do those who have not believed "dispose" themselves to something they have not yet heard of or had explained to them? Or, how does one "dispose" oneself toward eternal life instantly upon hearing of it? This kind of "it can mean almost anything as long as it doesn't mean THAT" kind of "translation" is utterly without merit.
Now, you will note that at this point, the author has not provided us with anything even resembling a sound basis for translating the text as "disposed themselves to eternal life." It has been asserted, but no evidence has been given.
The Calvinists are also caught on the horns of dilemma here. For this to be an "ordination" to eternal life in the sense that they mean it, we must say that this is a state that always exists for those individuals who are so ordained. That means that the there is no real action involved. We simply have an existing state of being for these people. However, in verbs of state, or stative situations (per Carl Conrad), the pluperfect operates as an imperfect verb, which makes the action continuous and not complete. Some modern translations have recognized this and translated this as an imperfect participle ("were appointed"), instead of as a pluperfect ("had been appointed"). But unfortunately for the Calvinists this places the "state of being elected" in time and makes it incomplete! Therefore, the verb cannot be a state, but an action that is taking place in the narrative itself. They are simply caught in a formal linguistic paradox.It would be nice if our author would provide basic citations, you know, so you can check his work? That is evidently a bit much to ask. Is our author suggesting that God's decree cannot enter into time? Let's accept Conrad's statement (he is a classical scholar more than koine, but Luke is more classical than most of the rest of the NT). Is the divine action of "ordination" a "state"? Does Conrad include divine ordination as a "state"? Are there extra-biblical parallels to such a usage? And even if one translates this as an imperfect, how does this make the action "continuous and not complete"? How so? The imperfect at John 1:1 tells us the Word pre-existed creation: the imperfect simply refers to continuous action in the past: in the same way, those who were appointed believed. How does this change the essential fact that the periphrastic is delimiting the number of those who believed, and that on the basis of a pre-existing reality? It doesn't. The divine choice indicated in ἦσαν τεταγμένοι really does not fit into a description of "state," and without a reference to examine, we can only point out that "appointedness" as a "state" is a pretty far stretch once again. ...
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Approaching Christian Counterfeits
05/01/2008 - Jeff DownsThis past Sunday I began teaching a course titled "A Biblical Approach to Christian Counterfeits." The audio (MP3s) for this course will be parked online here (the first class is there now). Keep in mind this is a Sunday School course, not "seminary" level.
The class on Acts 17 was done two weeks prior to the beginning of the Counterfeits class, as I was filling in for someone else. But the class on Acts 17 is somewhat a preview for the Counterfeits class.
I will not keep posting updates on this blog when classes are put online. Hope you enjoy!