Monday, August 31, 2009

Does Arminianism "Depersonalize" the Gospel?

James White claims Arminianism "depersonalizes" the gospel in this video. I will comment on certain parts of it.



As an Arminian, I obviously take umbrage with just about everything White says.

He starts off by poisoning the well saying "Arminianism is a man-centered faith." That is false. Arminians give all the glory to God in salvation. We do think, as 1 John 2:2 states, that Jesus died for all men and wants all to repent, as 2 Peter 3:9 says.

He then claims we think God makes salvation a "possibility." he saves in response to our faith, that does not somehow make it him and us doing the saving. That is a completely unusual use of language. If a doctor performs an operation on me in response to my consent, that does not somehow make it me and the doctor who performed the operation. No, the doctor and the doctor alone performs the operation even though he performs it in response to my consent. Almost no one would dream of saying the patient performed some of the operation, not even .000000000000001%. It was the doctor 100%. God alone saves us. But he does so in response to our faith. He does so by our faith.

God does not "try" to save people. God performed the work of salvation on the cross 2000 years ago. He commands us to have faith to have that gift applied to us. God does save those who believe, as the scripture states.

"Frightening, sad, depersonalize," way to continue poisoning the well.

I'm not an open theist, but I do know that they absolutely do NOT think man is sovereign.

On Romans 8:29-30:

Romans 8: 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Notice, this entire "chain" is based on God's foreknowledge. Just because God foreknows something doesn't mean He has irresistibly decreed it. Those He foreknew He predestined to be like His Son. Not it does not say predestined "TO BE SAVED." No, we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Every other statement is a recall to this statement, to be conformed to the image of His Son. We are then called, justified, and ultimately glorified. The calling comes after the predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son, and the predestination comes after the foreknowledge. What does God foreknow? Who will come to Him in faith, as made clear by the context of the book of Romans.

"God does not give all men all things in this universe..."

What does this have to do with anything?

"God justly condemns some..."

For sins HE determined they would commit.

"The elect is a nameless faceless group."

No, the elect are the ones who, in response to the grace of God, accept Him. Then they are elect IN CHRIST.

"If God knows everything...how can man be free?"

Because God's knowledge is based on events that will happen. Free creatures decide to sin, God knows because they will sin, not because God's foreknowledge causes them to sin.

"how do you bring a charge against nameless faces"

Again, White's poisoning of the well causes him to misrepresent the Arminian position.

"God alone justifies..."

What planet does White think Arminians believe any differently?

"Entire character of the gospel changes..."

He doesn't explain why, but I would say God decreeing sin is pretty much not included in the gospel.

"...return to Catholicism..."

I can't believe it took him 14 minutes to get to this. Ha.

"Arminianism leads to universalism."

This is a logical fallacy known as the slippery slope. It's a nice try from White, but when people remain true to the Biblical teachings of Arminius and Wesley, they don't adopt universalism. We could just as easily say the same about Calvinism leading to Neo-Orthodoxy.

"No grounds for hope..."

White continues with his silly emotional appeal. In Calvinism, for many, there truly is no hope. Some people are created for the express purpose of damnation. In Arminianism there is hope for all.

"If I do this, if I do that, if I remain faithful."

1 Corinthians 15:2
"if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain."

Colossians 1:21-23
"And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard"

"...Then it's you, you, you. God already tried His best...."

What!? First he says it's all about us, and then he brings God into it? He's defeating his own silly argument.

"Dr Craig closer to Catholicism than Calvinism."

If they're more consistent with the Bible than Calvinists, then I'd rather be closer to them.

13 comments:

The Seeking Disciple said...

This is typical of Dr. White. He likes to build straw men that he knows he can easily defeat and then piece by piece he tears them down. It makes him appear correct and those whom he disagrees with look stupid. Not the best form of debating if you ask me but that is his style.

I agree with you that his understanding of Arminianism is flawed. He has not studied Arminius nor his works. He offers no proof that Arminianism is man-centered other than that we believe in free will. Even Calvinists do that to a degree. Like so many Calvinists before him, Dr. White fails to understand true reformation Arminianism.

BTW, congrats on your wedding! You married a lovely woman.

Onesimus said...

You said:

I can't believe it took him 14 minutes to get to this. Ha.
"Arminianism leads to universalism."

-----------------

Ironically, CALVINISM seems to have a lot more in common with Universalism.

Both theologies promote a God who forces people into a salvation they did not personally desire or seek.

DonaldH said...

I find it disturbing. Then many other calvinist (like the ones on FB)drink this goop in like it's well, koolaid. Then instead of doing an objective study like you stated, on the works of Arminius or Wesley, White and others just reguritate the same venomn, man-centered quote.

Find a new hobby horse to ride already. I don't mind the in house debate, but come with some different a some point. It's the same two charges, universalism and man-centeredness. Sheesh!

Marcus McElhaney said...

I'm so glad that you had so much to say. I want to be clear: I agree with much of White's understanding on this issue and while we may disagree the bottom line is that if your faith is in Jesus Christ, then you are saved. Doesn't matter whether Arminians or Calvinsts are right. We agree on this point. That said, I'd invite you to call the Dividing Line on a Tuesday or Thursday and tell James White directly what you think and why.

You may believe that God gets 100% of the credit for salvation but Norman Geisler and William Lane Craig seem to disagree; and it's those people who say that salvation is limited by human free-will that White is talking about.

Here is the link as to how to contact James White during his webcast. http://www.aomin.org/articles/webcast.html. I'm looking forward to hearing you call in. I think everyone who disagrees should call Dr. White and discuss it with him. He seems approachable to me.

Brennon, I like your blog

bossmanham said...

Marcus,

Thank you for your kind words. As I have said in the past, I also appreciate your blog. You have compiled some great information on apologetics.

I hope you did not take any comments I made as a personal attack on you or your blog. Often, however, I hear many straw men being constructed and torn down that don't truly apply to Arminianism. Dr. White is a common culprit, as I see in this video.

What is commonly referred to as such today is many times nothing more than semi-pelagianism. Arminians do not think anything can be done to move toward God without His grace.

I do agree that, while our differences are real, they do not counteract the grace of Christ in our lives. We are brothers in Christ working toward the same goal.

Thanks again, Brother!

Bob Brewer said...

Brennon,

I once thought James White was one of the most intelligent and capable men on the internet. After researching and realizing what Classical or Reformation Arminianism really is I can only conclude that at best James White is uninformed and at worst he is intentionally misrepresenting Arminians for his own purposes. I hope he is just uninformed, but if so then there is no excuse to remain so.

Grant Osborne once told me that I would only truly understand my brothers differing positions on eschatology when I could offer a reasonable defense of the positions with which I disagreed. As a result of many years of study I have come to respect the varying positions on eschatology and my brothers who hold them. James White, like many Calvinists, shows little to no respect for those with whom he disagrees which leaves me wondering have they ever tried to understand their brothers or do they only desire to defeat them?

Thanks Again for the great post.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

He starts off by poisoning the well saying "Arminianism is a man-centered faith." That is false.

It's not false from a Calvinist perspective; so it's not really poisoning the well. I would agree with White. The more I interact with Arminians and learn about Arminianism, the more overtly man-centered it appears to me.

That is a completely unusual use of language.

That depends on what aspect of salvation you have in view. I haven't watched the video because I currently can't, but White is probably referring to election. In that case, he is right. God does not "elect" under an Arminian view. People elect themselves to salvation, and God confirms their election after the fact.

God does not "try" to save people. God performed the work of salvation on the cross 2000 years ago. He commands us to have faith to have that gift applied to us. God does save those who believe, as the scripture states.

try : To make an effort to do or accomplish (something); attempt (http://www.answers.com/try).

Are you claiming that God has made no effort to accomplish the salvation of those who will not have faith? In that case, you hold to limited atonement.

I'm not an open theist, but I do know that they absolutely do NOT think man is sovereign.

Well, Open Theism manifestly gives man such autonomy that God cannot even know our choices in advance. That is certainly a theology in which man is sovereign, by Calvinist lights.

Notice, this entire "chain" is based on God's foreknowledge. Just because God foreknows something doesn't mean He has irresistibly decreed it.

A basic word study would educate you to the fact that the term "know" in Scripture does not refer to mere propositional knowledge, but to an intimate relationship of some kind.

What does God foreknow? Who will come to Him in faith, as made clear by the context of the book of Romans.

On the contrary, the very passage you are quoting refers to those whom God foreknew. Not those whose faith. Just those. God foreknew people; not their actions. This is right there in the verse.

"God justly condemns some..."

For sins HE determined they would commit.


Since by your own admission they sinned, because God in fact determined that they would, then they are justly condemned. Culpability is on the basis of having broken God's law. Determinism, let alone specific theories of causality, does not enter into it—so why bring it up? What relevance does it have?

No, the elect are the ones who, in response to the grace of God, accept Him. Then they are elect IN CHRIST.

elect: 1. To select by vote for an office or for membership. 2. To pick out; select (http://www.answers.com/elect).

You are equating "election" with "accepting Him". So we elect ourselves? But Scripture says that God elects us to salvation.

Because God's knowledge is based on events that will happen. Free creatures decide to sin, God knows because they will sin, not because God's foreknowledge causes them to sin.

I've been through the logic of this with you on two separate occasions; once at Triablogue, and once at Dangerous Idea. On both occasions you have gone completely silent. Maybe this time will be different?

This is a logical fallacy known as the slippery slope.

On the contrary, Arminianism, if you are committed to maintaining it, logically entails either universalism or Open Theism.

bossmanham said...

It's not false from a Calvinist perspective

It doesn't matter what perspective it comes from, Dbonn. What matters is if it's true. You assert that you think Arminianism is man-centered, yet all of the reasons given are refuted in multiple places over several hundred years. So you Calvinists can assert until the cows come home. Perhaps we will crumble under all of this unbacked assertion.

Arminians are careful to stress their reliance on God's grace for anything, mainly because of these straw men you Calvinists constantly and dishonestly bring up. We only stress man's free will to not slander God as the cause of sin, as becomes the case in consistent Calvinism.

Now, unless you can show that Arminians rely on themselves or center around men somehow this remains a silly assertion.

People elect themselves to salvation, and God confirms their election after the fact.

There is no support for the Calvinists view of election in scripture.

See here and here.

Are you claiming that God has made no effort to accomplish the salvation of those who will not have faith?

I was disputing the way in which White used the term. If you would be intellectually honest for once, you would know of the Arminians doctrine of prevenient grace, in which He desire all men to come to repentance (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, etc).

That is certainly a theology in which man is sovereign, by Calvinist lights

Good for you, but to slander someone else's view is intellectually dishonest. It would profit all people if the you and other Calvinist would stop building straw men to tear down. Correctly represent other's views.

You are equating "election" with "accepting Him". So we elect ourselves? But Scripture says that God elects us to salvation

We are elect because of who Christ is. He is the elect One and we are elect when we are united to Him. Just because the word is used does not mean the Calvinists interpretation is de facto the correct one.

We are not elect to be in Him, we are elect in Him.

I've been through the logic of this with you on two separate occasions

And I've never encountered anything that presents a problem with my view. Perhaps this time will be different? I doubt it.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

There is no support for the Calvinists view of election in scripture.

I'm not really interested in arguing that, because all such arguments will be conditioned through the lens of libertarian free will for you. Better to address the prior issue, then: that there is no support for LFW in Scripture.

I was disputing the way in which White used the term. If you would be intellectually honest for once, you would know of the Arminians doctrine of prevenient grace, in which He desire all men to come to repentance (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, etc).

But prevenient grace, combined with unlimited atonement, is quite reasonably described as God "trying" to save all people. He has made every possible effort, has he not? Yet he is thwarted. By what? By man's free will. How is it inaccurate to say that he "tries" to save all people, in that case?

And I've never encountered anything that presents a problem with my view. Perhaps this time will be different? I doubt it.

Well, why not go back and rejoin the debate, then? I'm still looking forward to your response in the comment thread of 'Hays on love and reprobation'. If my argument is not a problem for your view, it shouldn't be too hard for you to show why. Yet twice now, rather than respond to it, you have chosen to slip away from the debate. For someone so concerned about intellectual honesty, you yourself look decidedly dishonest when you say that you have never encountered anything that presents a problem with your view, yet you consistently fail to respond to—let alone refute—this objection of mine. I think the truth is that you know my argument is a very severe problem for your view, but you'd rather stick with what you believe than accept the alternative. So don't pretend to lecture me on intellectual honesty, okay?

Onesimus said...

bossmanham said:
"We are not elect to be in Him, we are elect in Him."

And there is a huge difference between the two. The second is centered on Jesus and His sacrifice. The first is centred on a so-called chosen few.

Unfortunately spiritual blindness will never be overcome with rational argument. There's no rationality in people who consistently hide their eyes from the truth.

How can anyone be able to see the truth of the gospel when they are totally unable to recognise that they are clearly lying about the beliefs of others.

The continual accusation that Arminianism is man-centred is clearly a lie to this non-Arminian. In fact Arminianism is far more God-glorifying than the God maligning "Calvinism".

Arminianism has a much "bigger" God who is totally able to give mankind the freedom to choose or reject Him without diminishing His own sovereignty and without jeopardising His eternal program.

The Calvinist God is far too insecure to do such a thing. he needs to meticulously control every little thing to make sure he gets His way.

bossmanham said...

Better to address the prior issue, then: that there is no support for LFW in Scripture.

Then do it! Address the issue. You never engage the topic. You say, "you're wrong," and you never explain why. You never put forward your view. You simply assert that ours is incorrect.

Engage the issue and show strict determinism in the Bible. The Bible says men choose, choice rules out strict determinism, therefore the Bible rules out strict determinism and affirms LFW.

Thus, if all things are present to God, and God has always known absolutely everything (taking "always" in a non-temporal sense), then it stands that x has always obtained. If x is a human choice, you have a problem. That is my point.

You don't explain how it is a problem. I can't answer an argument you don't articulate. All you do is say mine is wrong. How? You say you have a point, what is it?

But the question is whether God's knowledge is causally consequent to the event obtaining

If the event isn't going to occur, then how could God think it is? On the other hand if an event will happen, then God will know it will happen. Consequently, God's knowledge of an event is contingent on the event happening. But if God has knowledge of the event for eternity, then He has never learned of the event.

Well, as I've shown, this isn't true

You've never shown anything! You simply assert things are wrong and never explain it!

Unless God does not have perfect definite foreknowledge as it is classically conceived, the fact is that under both an Arminian and a Calvinist view he did determine all events that will happen, for any reasonable definition of "determine".

God knowing of an event doesn't cause the event, otherwise He is the cause of sin (but since you've affirmed that is true, then we see the problem). To say knowledge of an event causes the event is silly.

Again, you show ignorance of Arminianism.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Then do it! Address the issue. You never engage the topic. You say, "you're wrong," and you never explain why. You never put forward your view. You simply assert that ours is incorrect.

If you genuinely believe this, then I won't be posting any more. One way or the other, you aren't able to actually recognize the arguments I have made, so obviously no headway is going to be made.

On the other hand, if you know in your heart that this is a lie, I still won't be posting any more, since trying to engage an opponent so dishonest really won't achieve anything.

The Bible says men choose, choice rules out strict determinism, therefore the Bible rules out strict determinism and affirms LFW.

Again, if you're saying this tongue-in-cheek, I don't think further discussion is going to be fruitful because this is a serious topic.

On the other hand, if you genuinely believe this then it isn't me who needs to scrub up on my understanding of the other side. You need to do some elementary reading on basic compatiblist action theories, and basic logical fallacies (namely, assuming the consequent).

You don't explain how it is a problem.

I'm sorry; I didn't expect to have to explain how a created event being eternal is a problem... I don't mean any offense by this, I really don't, but if you aren't able to see the difficulty here without my spelling it out, then I don't think further discussion between us is going to achieve anything. I'm expecting a certan level of philosophical ability in these discussions. I apologize if I overestimated you. And look, I know this sounds condescending and it's hard to believe I don't mean offense, but I honestly don't.

If the event isn't going to occur, then how could God think it is? On the other hand if an event will happen, then God will know it will happen. Consequently, God's knowledge of an event is contingent on the event happening. But if God has knowledge of the event for eternity, then He has never learned of the event.

* sound of a palm slapping a forehead, and a wry, resigned chuckle.

God knowing of an event doesn't cause the event, otherwise He is the cause of sin (but since you've affirmed that is true, then we see the problem). To say knowledge of an event causes the event is silly.

Notice that you replace the word "determine", which I used, with the word "cause". But I didn't say "cause". Again, that you can't draw this elementary distinction indicates we're both wasting our time. I wish you luck in worshiping God to the best of the abilities he has given you. I'm sorry for wasting your time.

bossmanham said...

If you genuinely believe this, then I won't be posting any more

You aren't fooling anyone, friend.

You need to do some elementary reading on basic compatiblist action theories

I completely disregard it, because it's an inconsistent worldview. Either God is the cause of something or He is not.

Present why your view is tenable and I will address it. Likewise tell me how mine isn't.

I'm sorry; I didn't expect to have to explain how a created event being eternal is a problem

Nobody said a created event is eternal. Knowledge of said event can be eternal. I didn't realize I had to explain such an elementary notion to you.

There is still no difficulty there in my view. Your view causes God to be a divine puppeteer. Can you see the problem with that?

* sound of a palm slapping a forehead, and a wry, resigned chuckle.

Of course you won't deal with the argument. You won't deal with anything. You simply assert assert assert. It makes me wonder if you have any opinions or if you can only tell people they're wrong.

Notice that you replace the word "determine", which I used, with the word "cause"

Determine means to fix conclusively or authoritatively. If God determines something is going to happen, He has effectively caused the event, since nothing else could happen.

Foreknowledge of an event doesn't determine the event either.

But you still won't present a counter argument. Are you ever going to do so? If not, please stop commenting on my blog posts.