Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Reflections on Geisler's Chosen But Free
01/26/2011 - James SwanI take a trip down memory lane every time Dr. White discusses Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free. During the 1980's I was quite a fan of Dr. Geisler's work. I first came across Dr. Geisler while flipping through the channels on my television one evening. He was debating secular humanist Paul Kurtz. I had no idea what show I was watching. In fact, it was already half over by the time I tuned in. I had never seen a Christian present an articulate defense of the faith. Sure, looking back now twenty-five years later some of Geisler's arguments make me cringe. But back then I was an amazed garden-variety Evangelical teenager. Dr. Geisler was the first Christian I had ever seen get into the arena of ideas with an intellectual non-Christian and hold his own.
Reformed? I had no idea what that was. "Reformed" was probably one of those awful liberal denominations my church had warned me about. Off to college I went, but not totally unprepared. At this time I probably had a dozen or so books by Dr. Geisler (as well as books by Josh McDowell and few other popular apologists). Even with Geisler's books, by the end of my college years I found myself scrambling to make sense of my Christian worldview.
Fast forward a few years: I'm still trying to make sense of my Christian worldview. I figured watching Dr. Geisler had helped me before, so I contacted the John Ankerberg Show and ordered Dr. Geisler's debate with Rabbi Kushner on why bad things happen to good people. In what I can only describe now as blessed providence, Ankerberg sent me the wrong tapes. I was sent a few tapes on the King James Only controversy. I had no idea what that was, but I listened to it anyway. One of the guests was so articulate, I looked him up on my computer. So, it was actually my desire to hear a Dr. Geisler debate that actually introduced me to the work of Dr. James White.
In 1999, a dear friend bought me the first edition of Chosen But Free. When he assured me that Dr. Geisler settled the issue of sovereignty and free will once and for all, I excitedly began going through the book. I didn't realize at first that Dr. Geisler was going to stand clearly opposed to the Reformed view rather than presenting "a balanced view of divine election." I didn't get very far before my pen came out marking up the book. I couldn't believe Dr. Geisler had actually written Chosen But Free.
I eventually called Alpha and Omega Ministries because of this book. I distinctly remember getting Rich Pierce on the phone and asking him if he was aware of Chosen But Free. Indeed he was, in fact Dr. White had begun reviewing the book on his radio show. Back then Alpha and Omega compiled a six cassette tape set reviewing Dr. Geisler's book which is still available now. This pre-Potter's Freedom audio review is still valuable. I would encourage any of you interested in this topic to get this early review and hear Dr. White's initial reaction and response to Norman Geisler.
In August of 2002 Dr. Geisler visited a church near my house. There, he discussed the material in Chosen But Free. Dr. Geisler stated something like "James White is running around like a chicken with his head cut off." So, I sent the tape off to Arizona. To hear Dr. White's response, see this link.
I still continued to go through Chosen But Free. I eventually began sifting through Geisler's Calvin quotations in which he asserts Calvin was not a Calvinist. It appeared to me that Dr. Geisler didn't actually read Calvin. He probably took the quotes from secondary sources. As I document here, one of his citations is bogus.
Well, that friend who gave me Chosen But Free no longer talks to me, and I miss him dearly. He went on to be an avid Dave Hunt supporter, giving away copies of What Love is This? to those Calvinists he comes across. Did Dr. Geisler's book have an impact on me? Surely it did, but not the one my friend expected.
Radio Free Geneva Portion on Norman Geisler's Claim
01/26/2011 - James WhiteYes, Norman Geisler claims to be the first "major" scholar to critique Calvinism. I know, I know...
Human Responsibility Does Not Imply Human Ability
01/19/2011 - Alan KurschnerHuman responsibility is dependent on an objective entity (God's law), not a subjective entity (human moral ability). Human responsibility relates to a moral standard. It does not imply a so-called free will.
If a teenager boy gets drunk and runs a red light, is he no longer responsible because of his condition? Yes he is responsible because he has broken the law, even if he did not have the ability to obey the law because of his condition.
The Bible teaches that humans are held accountable to God's law, not based on their moral ability to obey that law. The assumption by the Arminian is if God commands something, then we must have the moral ability to fulfill his command (with some added coaxing by God's grace). But their axiom is not taking the biblical human condition into consideration.
The Bible describes our human condition as slaves to our sinful will. Both Jesus and Paul use that terminology. Jesus did not come to affirm a free will; he came to set the will free. Both teach that the unregenerate person does not posses any moral free will:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44 )
“because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7–8)They both use the exact same language "no one can" and "nor is it able" (ou dynatai). The Greek means "inability." In this context "moral inability." This is why Paul and Jesus use "slave" language. It is not that sometimes they can choose God, or occasionally they can please God. No, it is much more severe. Certainly, they have a will but only in the sense that they can choose according to their strongest desires, which in the unregenerate state is to only choose their fleshy desires.
God's commands do not imply moral ability. This debate is not new! May we continue to pray Augustine's famous prayer: "Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire."
A Classic Illustration of God's Sovereign Electing Freedom
01/19/2011 - Alan KurschnerOften it takes an illustration to help non-Calvinists break out of their categorical and cultural assumptions about the precious truth of predestination. The following illustration has floated around in Calvinist circles for many years, and has been very effective:
You have 100 criminals on death row. They are all equally guilty and deserving of death. Every single one of them hates the governor of the state. So much so, that all of them conspired together and successfully killed his only son. One of these death row criminals is you. The governor has the freedom and right to pardon and give clemency to any of them. It could be one person, ten, all of them, or just none of them. If he chose to pardon none of them, would he be perfectly just to do so? Yes. And he is not obligated to choose between a dilemma of bestowing mercy either on all 100 of them, or none of them---he could choose any number in between, if he wills. He can do whatever he wishes because of his right as governor. But let us say he chooses to have mercy on 10 of the 100 justly deserved death row criminals. The ten are just as guilty and deserving of death as the other 90. And one of those ten to be graciously pardoned is you. You are free! You are pardoned! You have been granted mercy! Now as you are stepping out of that prison into freedom, are you going to look back and point your finger at the governor and utter, "How dare you pardon me, and not everyone else." You would be an ungrateful halfwit.
Calvinism is the Only Basis for Evangelizing the Lost
01/19/2011 - Alan KurschnerGod's sovereign election is the only basis by which any believer has confidence to evangelize the lost. We do not know who the elect are in this lifetime, but what we do know with certainty is that there are elect out there.
Has God ever revealed to us why we should evangelize the lost? Indeed he has. In Acts 18, Paul was opposed vehemently in his gospel mission. He was about to leave Corinth out of fear and discouragement, but God in a vision at night revealed to Paul a confident truth:
“And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:9–11).Notice that God did not say, "Paul, there is a possibility that some people might get saved if only they use their free will to cooperate with my grace." Nor does God say, "According to my crystal ball, I foresee that there will be people who will be in the right place at the right time and the right disposition who will get saved." Nor does God say, "there are a lot of people in this city, play the numbers game and you are bound to get some saved." Instead, this is about God's purposes, and his people. And this is precisely what gave Paul the confidence to stay in that city for a year in a half.
Why is it that most people do not play the lottery? (forgive my carnal analogy for a moment). It's because they have no guarantee that they will win. Suppose people had the guarantee that if they played the lottery every day for a year, they would eventually win the lottery on a given day. Everyone would play the lottery!
It is roughly the same phenomenon with Evangelism. Calvinists have the confidence that God's elect are out there, and they know that if they consistently proclaim the gospel, God's people, the elect, will hear his voice and become saved.
Arminians do not have this foundation or confidence since in their theology it is possible that at this point of time until the Lord comes back, there will not be another soul saved, since for them salvation is not decreed, but ultimately dependent on the enslaved human will.
Believer: Where do you want to find your confidence in evangelism? God's sovereign grace, or the enslaved will of Man?
All of you and none of me! Praise God that you have ordained it to be!
First MCTS Podcast
01/17/2011 - James WhiteWe recorded some podcasts for the Midwest Center for Theological Studies last week while I was in Owensboro. The first has been released:
Cross Examination Period from the RTS Jackson Debate
01/14/2011 - James WhiteI found out today that someone may have video taped the entire debate, and if I can get hold of that footage, I will post it on the YouTube channel. Till then, here is the cross-ex period from last night's debate at RTS Jackson.
Yes, We Can Identify the Elect!
01/13/2011 - Alan Kurschner“After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. They were shouting out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” (Rev 7:9–10)
Calvinists are Now Theological Racists
01/13/2011 - Alan KurschnerErgun Caner has stated that Calvinists are worse than Muslims. This week Norman Geisler has added to this vitriolic rhetoric calling Calvinists theological racists. Wait a minute, I thought it was Calvinists who are the mean nasty people?
Geisler said: "These people [meanie Calvinists] teach that Christ only loved the elect and only died for the elect. And I think that's some kind of theological racism."
At 30:30 into this radio show you can listen to human tradition in all its glory.
A Fast Dose of Human Tradition!
01/11/2011 - Alan Kurschner
"Especially when it comes to human evil, that we would call sin in theological terms. That God does not will this, he does not promote it. But because of our free will, he permits it." -William Lane Craig, August 12, 2007, Reasonable Faith, "Problem of Evil"
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” -Acts 4:27–28)Ironically, a minute later in his radio show he cites the event of the crucifixion as a good example of an evil that God does not ordain, but instead is brought about by the actions of man's free will. Then he indicates that God basically picks up the pieces and makes something good come out of the crucifixion. Of course, Acts 4:27-28, or any Scripture for that matter, was not brought into the discussion. Don't you love philosophy!
When you hear a professed Christian philosopher explain Christian theodicy for Christian listeners, without citing Christian Scripture, you are witnessing human Tradition.