A few days ago I noted, very briefly (all of a single paragraph at the end of a longer blog entry), the continued campaign of Watchtower apologist Greg Stafford in reference to Reformed theology, and in particular, the sovereign decree of God and Yahweh’s exhaustive knowledge of future events. I doubt our Open Theist friends are overly appreciative of the assistance offered by Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it is a well known fact that the Watchtower (to the surprise of many) has denied Yahweh’s exhaustive divine foreknowledge for a long time. In fact, Duane Magnani, if I am not mistaken, wrote a book/booklet titled “The Heavenly Weatherman” about the subject quite some time ago. In any case, my brief notation of his last installment in his series (which did not even bother providing a rebuttal, as Open Theism and its odd off-shoots is not my primary focus at the moment) brought the following retort, posted 1/15:
You know, sometimes I hear things. No, not those kinds of things. But things from the mouths, or pens, or as they appear on the blogs and web sites of others. Take Dr. James White, for example.
A debate with him over the merits of Calvinism, a system of belief that has no business being associated with the name “Christian,” let alone “Jesus Christ,” appears unavoidable. That’s a good thing. But until that happens, Dr. White can talk all he wants on his blog. He can post here, or there, or anywhere, if he chooses. But until he takes the stage with me, or until he gets on the radio to defend his traditions, he’s just talking to himself, or only to those who already think as he does. Frankly, though he’s talking, he’s not really saying much of anything.
As I told you months ago, Dr. White, and as I have offered to your friends at “The Bible Answer Man,” and through others, by all means let us bring our differences out in the open, as we did with the Trinity. If you are so confident in your beliefs about the knowledge of God and the will of man, then surely you can pull some strings, somewhere, and talk to me, not just to yourself on your blog, or elsewhere only to those who think like you.
I respect you as a person, James, and I admire your accomplishments. But you are teaching false doctrine, still, and so I cannot allow you to hide behind the shallow, in fact, hollow words of “amazing forms of argumentation,” “lengths to which he [me] will go,” and the like. There’s nothing of substance there, and you know it. Yet you say it anyway, and so where does that leave us? The same place it always leads. So let’s hurry up and get there.
Now, I am more than a little bit surprised by this response, on many levels. A while ago someone by the name of Richard Rawe began calling our ministry offices, wanting to set up another Trinity debate with Greg Stafford. When Rich Pierce informed me of this, I indicated I had no interest in repeating the debate, and found the request rather odd. Then I heard the “debate” (I hesitate to use the term) with Bob Morey and began seeing the rather passionate denunciations of Reformed theology flowing from Greg Stafford’s pen. A while later Jeff Downs sent me a note indicating that he had raised the idea of a debate with Stafford on God’s exhaustive knowledge of future events. I said I would be willing to engage such a debate, but Stafford seemed to think Downs was trying to interfere with some future Morey debate. Given that my focus right now is elsewhere anyway, and that I have formally engaged Open Theism in scholarly debate in the past (against one of the leading proponents of the concept, John Sanders, at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando), I did not invest much time in pursuing the idea. But when Rawe raised that topic as a debate topic, I told Rich Pierce that I would be waiting for Mr. Stafford’s e-mail. Surely he has my address. I have never gotten any response.
Now, it seems from the above that Greg Stafford wants to debate. That’s fine. Greg has done a lot of research in the past on Trinitarian issues. But I do believe he has stepped way outside his area of specific research on this one, smack dab into the middle of a subject upon which I have written, spoken, and debated, extensively. I noted in my comments a few days ago that surely when you throw in the element of the Watchtower’s influence, Stafford’s arguments take on a different hue than those commonly used by Arminians, Socinians, and Open Theists in general, but the fact remains the central issues do not change. Odd theories about all sorts of “beginnings” aside, the Bible’s teachings on the subject of God’s sovereignty are far too clear to be overthrown.
But what also seems to be the case is that Greg Stafford is not nearly as busy a man as I am. Mr. Rawe has actually talked about setting up a debate within a single month from the time of his contacting us. A single month? I am currently talking about scheduling debates in Scotland, Canada, and the United States, all the way through 2007. If we are going to do a debate, there are tons of details to be attended to. I do not get the feeling Mr. Stafford has ever had to take care of that end of things, so he thinks they can be thrown together over night. They can’t. If you actually want to produce a professional DVD and sound recording, and actually manage to have a few folks there as well, it takes a lot of time, money, and planning. And all of that is not taking into consideration the fact that I happen to invest a great deal of time and preparation on my own part in any debate I do. And given that I am an elder in a congregation, just finished teaching a seminary class, have a tremendous number of published book reviews, journal articles, and the like, to be working on, wisdom demands a limited number of debates per year. Mr. Stafford, evidently, does not have my schedule, which is fine, but he might want to keep that in mind before suggesting, as he seems to above, that I am avoiding debating him. I honestly do not get the feeling that he is familiar with just how often I have addressed this subject in public debate and published writings. He surely has little knowledge of the great Reformed authors of the past.
In any case, I would be glad to arrange a debate with Mr. Stafford. I am more than happy, and quite confident, to defend the great doctrines of grace against his attacks upon these divine truths. But I will not be rushed into anything by this kind of rhetoric. I do debates so as to bless as many believers as possible today, and in the future. This means these things must be done “decently and in order.” Since I already have engagements all the way into the end of October, is Mr. Stafford seriously suggesting this indicates “fear” on my part? I would surely hope not. Be that as it may, if a proper venue could in fact be arranged for, say, July, for a debate on God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, followed up, perhaps, the next night with one specifically on election, or, as I would love to see, an exegetical debate on John 6 (like anyone would ever do that!), I would be open to that. I had considered finding a Roman Catholic debate for that time period, but nothing has yet appeared as a possibility, so this could fit in. So I await Mr. Stafford’s contact. Should there be a church or organization out there that would be desirous of helping to arrange such an encounter this summer, please let me know. It always helps to have “boots on the ground” in the local area, to be sure. Till then, let’s remember these inspired words:
Isaiah 41:21-24 21 “Present your case,” the LORD says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” The King of Jacob says. 22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; 23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. 24 Behold, you are of no account, And your work amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.