I sorta stumbled into my office this morning, doing my best to get the brain working before a 7:15am radio program. I’ve become a bit of a night-owl, as I can get a lot more done in the late hours than in the morning hours, seemingly (fewer distractions, and the phone goes silent!). Anyway, I was on with Tim and Al this morning once again on KJSL in St. Louis, but it was “sans Al” and “joined by Jerry Thornberg,” an Arminian fellow who was my “opponent” this morning to “give the other side.” Oddly, a fellow came in channel prior to the program and was telling us that they were already “priming the pump” on the program, saying that John 3:16 is “great against Calvinism” and that Calvinism is opposed to the cross and the gospel. Nothing like a fair little interview here! But then I found out this was another one of the “Dave Hunt will not come on the program with James White; he will come on first, but then you should probably have White on as well.” I wonder, was there a Calvinist in studio to oppose Hunt when he was on?
Anyway, you wake up pretty quickly when you immediately discover the interview isn’t an interview but is a debate, of sorts. Tim asked me why there was so much discussion about Calvinism these days, and I pointed out that in fact this isn’t a new debate at all, and I went over some of the historical material, Augustine/Pelagius, the Reformation, Whitefield/Wesley, etc. Then Jerry was given a turn, and he started off by saying I had just given my foundation, but his is the Bible! I knew I was going to be spending the rest of the hour putting out one flaming strawman after another, and I was right. Every old, worn-out misrepresentation of Calvinism was trotted out once again. It wasn’t difficult, however, to rebutt them, and eventually Jerry stopped replying (he was going to be on the hour after me without me around to contradict, so why not?). Obviously, I hope at least a few in the audience actually heard what I was saying, especially when a caller on “my side” got through and once again raised John 6 and John 8. Jerry side-stepped them and answered the questions raised in the exact opposite way the Lord Jesus did, and I had a good opportunity to point this out.
Doing these programs where I am discussing Debating Calvinism keeps reminding me of what it must be like to be Dave Hunt. I simply can’t imagine it. “Hello, Dave? This is Multnomah. Yes, the folks at KJSL would like to interview you on Debating Calvinism. Yes, yes, I know you won’t go on with James, so we told them that and they have found two days in a row where they can address this subject. Which day would you like?” He knows I would be on with him anytime, anywhere. He knows I would debate the subject before a live audience with him. What is it like to go around speaking on a subject when you have to look out at that audience and ask yourself every time, “I wonder…is White here? What will I do if he is?” I would be working in a gun store or a computer shop if I had to live like that.
I am reminded of what happened years ago when The Potter’s Freedom came out. I got a call while I was teaching in Mill Valley from a radio talk host on whose program I was a frequent guest. He said he had arranged to have Norman Geisler on his program, but when the day came for the interview, Geisler was nowhere to be found. They called and called, no answer. After contacting the publisher again, Geisler finally called him and asked him what his intention was in doing the interview! That’s a pretty odd thing to do when you are promoting a book (in this case, Chosen But Free). It finally came out that Geisler knew I had been on his program, and so after explaining how I should have just kept my nose out of this argument (it is between him and Sproul anyway, proving that the title of Chosen But Free was, in fact, a direct response to Sproul’s Chosen By God), Geisler laid down the “conditions” on which he would do the program: 1) James White would be on the program first. 2) A tape of the program would be sent to Geisler. 3) At least two weeks would elapse before Geisler would be on after White. 4) The host would not say the names “James White” or “Potter’s Freedom” at any time during the interview. 5) A delay feature would be used on any callers, and any caller using the names “James White” or “The Potter’s Freedom” would be dumped before the words made it to air. If these were acceptable, he would come on. In case you are wondering, the host had me on a few weeks later, but never had Geisler on.
Don’t get me wrong. There are folks who should not debate. No two ways about it. I just happen to be of the opinion that if you can’t debate, don’t pretend you can. But more importantly, if you write something, and you publish it, and yet you know you have to “protect” it from criticism by silencing that criticism or just making sure you can duck it, what does that say?