January 27, 2010

Dr. Brown and Dr. James White Debate Calvinism (Part 2)

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111 Comments
  1. When Dr. Brown said “God willing”, Dr. White kind of questioned the statement like as if thats not a proper theological statement. Correct me if I am misunderstanding Dr. White but heres what I read:

    1 Peter 3:17
    It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

  2. Nathaniel and Ben KC,

    As I think I made clear on the broadcast, I used in God willing in this sense: James 4:13-16

    13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.

    And, I believe, Dr. White was joking about my usage of the phrase. On the serious side, however, any Calvinist who thinks its incongruous for a non-Calvinist to to say “God willing” has no clue what non-Calvinists believe.

  3. I know this comes a bit late but, have tried to get in contact with Dr. White many times regarding a book called “Did Calvin Murder Servetus” by Stanford Rives.

    Is Dr. White aware of this book and the arguments for John Calvin [whom I believe is a hero to Dr. White] being an Arian?

    Here are excerts from the book you can read in full free here: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=MlPrYQ5srKEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=did+calvin+murder+servetus&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    Caroli, first Doctor of the Sorbonne and pastor at Lausanne[1], “objected because [the Confession of Faith of Geneva] did not contain the words Trinity or Person…”[2] In his letter of February 1537—the month of this trial of Calvin—Pastor Caroli wrote: “Away with new confessions and let us rather subscribe to these three creeds”, i.e., Apostle’s Creed (140A.D.), the Nicene Creed (325A.D.) and the Athanasian Creed (9th Century).”[3]

    Calvin responded: “We have pledged ourselves to faith in the One God, not to faith in Athanasius, whose Creed was never received the approbation of any rightful church.”[4]

    …it is important to note that Calvin never backed down. He refused to agree to alter the Geneva Confession or to sign on to the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds to the displeasure of the pastors at Starsbourg, including the famous Lutheran Pastor Bucer.” pp 213-215

    Footnotes
    —————————————————————————
    [1] Fn. 404…Caroli had joined the Protestant cause, causing him to lose his teaching post. He later became a Protestant pastor. When Caroli laid the charge against Calvin, Calvin at first said “it was a few days ago I dined with Carol; I was then his very dear brother.”…Hence, Calvin had no doubt of Caroli’s authenticity of being a Protestant right up to the time Caroli made his accusation. Calvinists try to insinuate that Pastor Caroli was an intense Protestant all along. This is unfair. Rather, Caroli made his Protestantism contingent on it not rejecting the trinity doctrine. This was his litmus tests. When Bucer would not back up orthodoxy on the trinity, Caroli returned to Catholicism.

    [2] Thomas Henry Dyer, The Life of John Calvin (Harper, 1855) at 67.

    [3] Gaston Bonet-Maury & Edward P. Hall, Early Sources of English Unitarian Christianity (1884) at 16 fn. 20, citing A. L. Herminjard, Correspondance des reformateurs dans les pays de langue francais (Geneva: 1878) Vol. 4, at 185.

    [4] Id. Citing Herminhard, supra, Vol. 4, at 185.

  4. I would like to makes some general comments on the Calvinist and Arminian debate.

    1. I believe the arguaments between these two positions are like two men tied back to back standing together – each jabbing the other without the awareness they are standing on the same rock.

    a. I believe the orthodox Arminian position and orthodox Calvinist position are simply two view points that fail to appreciate that each is examining the truth from just differient angles. (I am using the term orthodox in the sence of holding the fundamental truths of Christianity as preached by Christ and the Apostles.)

    i. I believe the Calvinist position is explaining salvation and security for the perspective of G-d looking down.

    ii. I believe the Arminian is conversely explaining salvation and security from the perspective of humanity looking upward.

    The difficulty happens when we try and restrict all verses to fit one position without realizing this human and divine perspective. This sometimes leads to wierd and unbiblical statements of those whom I would call extreme calvinists or extreme arminins.

    Another way of saying this is G-d gives use principles and concrete truths and preachers like apostle Paul, Peter, and James explain how these teachings work in spreading the gospel and living the christian life in the human realm. Since we, as human being, don’t have divine abilities we have to rely on the H-ly Spirit and G-ds word and trust that God is working out everything to H-s will.

    Although I believe G-d has elected certain persons to come to faith I also know it is beyond my ability to know exactly who those people are. Spreading the Gospel to everyone is a directive we are all called to.

    I believe in eternal security yet i also am concerned to live a worthy life of the calling and to examine myself to make sure my salvation is truly based on Christ.

    We are called to spread the gospel and not to get lost in this debate. As believers, we need to focus on true christian unity and fullfilling the the Great commission.

    Your Brother in Christ

  5. As a 5 point Calvinist I must shamedly say that my Arminian friends are more consistent (right or wrong) to their beliefs then my Calvinist friends.

  6. Responding to this post:

    http://www.lineoffireradio.com/2012/07/10/the-once-saved-always-saved-debate/#comment-138955

    Brian,

    Upon your reply, you noted that “all men” found in Tutus 2:11 cannot be fully understood in your contextual meaning unless you insert, (these classes of) men. I do understand that this the classic Calvinistic approach to various scriptures (i.e., 1 Timothy 2:4); hence, I find this kind of eisegesis to rest on a shaky platform – something that even Charles Spurgeon refused to do. However, I would be glad to have this discussion with you in depth at another time, and on a different thread.

    Actually, what I was referring to is something that all pragmaticists recognize, and that is that words like “all” are subject to something called “free enrichment.” Here is a secular source discussing this very thing:

    Secondly, there is the type in which a contextually provided conceptual constituent needs to be added in the explicature. Consider (6.21).

    (6.21) a. Everyone wore a new wool cardigan.
    b. There’s nothing to watch on TV tonight.
    c. They eat everything.

    The process involved here is again that of narrowing or specifying. In the case of (6.21a), the domain of the quantifier everyone needs to be narrowed down, hence specified, resulting in an explicature such as (6.22a), depending on context:

    6.22a Everyone [at Mary’s party] wore a new cardigan.

    In the case of 6.21b, the incomplete logical form has to be enriched by womething like ‘(nothing) the speaker considers worth (watching).’ In the case of (6.21c), ‘everything’ needs to be enriched to ‘everything that is edible.’ [Huang, Yan. Pragmatics Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics. Oxford University Press. 2007 p.192]

    The point is that even secular linguists recognize the legitimacy of what I have pointed out. Here is another scholarly paper on this topic which recognizes the same thing:

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychlangsci/research/linguistics/People/linguistics-staff/robyn_carston/pdfs/Carston-2010-Soria.pdf

    More than that, I demonstrated that what I was saying, far from being “eisegesis,” was consistent with the context. I pointed out that Paul was talking, in verses 2-10, to various groups of people, telling each group how they are to “live righteously righteously and Godly in the present age.” That is the very thing that Paul says that this grace of God teaches us in verse 12, along with the denial of ungodliness.

    Hence, we have two options. Your position [that Paul is speaking about how individual people groups are to live Godly in the present age in verses 2-10, that he talks about universal grace in half a verse, and then goes back to talking about how we are to live Godly in the present age], and my position [That Paul never stopped talking about how various people groups within the church are to deny ungodliness and live in holiness throughout verses 2-13]. Which one seems like eisegesis? One that breaks the text up into a different topic for half a verse, or one that allows the topic to continue, unabated throughout the whole passage?

    I found your exegesis of James 5:19-20, to be a bit exaggerated and totally out of context in your interpretation. You said, ” Simple. Not everyone who professes belief in the truth is saved…” Thus implying that the context of this verse is speaking to one never having salvation in the first place. James writes:

    “Brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back…”

    This letter is addressed to those who are of the household of faith,

    …of which not everyone is a believer. Brian, part of the problem is that we have entirely different views of salvation. From your perspective, if someone does an outward action of profession, and reforms their life, they are a believer. To me, as a Calvinist, that is cheap. True salvation requires a change in the heart, and while a person may profess faith in Christ, and, [for a time anyway] seek to reform their life and even join with a local fellowship, they still are not a true believer. Why? Because it isn’t dependent on them in the first place! Our whole goal in sanctification should be to understand our own heart and to be consistently testing ourselves, to make certain that our heart really does ultimately trust in God above all things.

    This is also why arminianism tends to produce professing Christians who simply get by with externals. Not that they are trying to, and not that there are not shallow hypocrites in Calvinist circles as well, but consider the failure of men like Charles Finney, who had to admit that, although these people came forward in revival meetings, and, for a time changed their ways, because their heart was never changed, they went right back to doing what they loved, as a dog returns to vomit.

    and the important phrase to be noted is that “one turns him back…” How can you come back to a place that you have never been?

    Simple, because where they are coming back to is not “salvation,” but “the faith” [v.19]. James’ emphasis in his epistle is upon living out one’s faith. It is where you have the famous “faith without works is dead” passage [James 2], and the bridling of the tongue [ch.3]. Thus what James is dealing with here is the Christian life, and, specifically, bringing someone back to the Christian communion, and to the pursuit of Godliness and holiness. Can a person have those things, and not be a believer? Absolutely.

    James is clearly warning of the possible peril of a believer turning from the faith once obtained into a lifestyle of sin, which ultimately would result in the forfeiture of eternal life. The brother turning him back would save his “soul from death,” thus identifying the loss of salvation that he turned away from. N.T., Southern Baptist, scholar, A.T. Robertson, said of this passage that it is, “The soul of the sinner won back to Christ…” It is evident that one has to take great strides to imply that this passage says otherwise.

    Again, only if you cheapen salvation, so that it is dependent upon man, and ignore the context of the Christian life which is all over the epistle of James. It is evident that one has to take great strides to force this passage into the notion that man can loose his salvation. That goes entirely against James’ focus and emphasis in his epistle, and has to read into the text the notion that James is talking about eternal salvation.

    I previously noted a thread (#25) from Genesis to Revelation positing the position that G-d’s dealings with man have always been on a conditional basis. Your claim that I have destroyed the meaning of the new covenant is baseless simply because salvation has always been by grace from which G-d thus initiates, along with the condition of man’s acceptance unto obedience leading to salvation. Thus, you cited the book of Hebrews in contrast to my point; however, this actually substantiates my position of a conditional salvation established in this wonderful new covenant.

    “And having been perfected, He (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). (Conditional indeed!)

    Of course, this illustrates, again the major difference between a man-centered reading of scripture, and a God centered reading of scripture. You look at the phrase “to all who obey him” and you say that this is something that man can conjure up in and of himself. Where does it say that in the text? No, it is a fundamental reading in of an anthropological category which fundamentally goes against the entire thrust of the author of the book of Hebrews. His point is that Christ’s covenant is better precisely because it does perfect for all time, and because there is no need for ritualistic repetitions, such as was found in the old covenant. Yet, by you adding man and his work to the work of Christ, you have gone back to this repetition which was found in the old covenant. Man can be saved and lost, saved and lost, saved and lost. How does that fit with the book of Hebrews saying that Christ’s sacrifice perfects “once for all,” and that we have been perfected “for all time?” It doesn’t. It completely destroys the argument for the superiority of Christ’s covenant which is at the heart of the argument of the book of Hebrews.

    Not only that, but you cited several verses specifically from Hebrews 10. In doing so, I would like to take your citation a step further, as it would be important to note that seven times the author uses inclusive language in his writing up to verse 26, and ten times thereafter. This indicates that the writer was undoubtedly speaking to fellow believers.

    (Vs.10) “By that will ‘we’ have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

    (Vs.15) “But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to ‘us’…”

    (Vs.19) “Therefore, ‘brethren,’ having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,”

    (Vs.22) “Let ‘us’ draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…”

    (Vs.23) “Let ‘us’ hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…”

    (Vs.24) “And let ‘us’ consider one another in order to stir us love and good works.”

    (Vs.25) “Not forsaking the assembling of ‘ourselves’ together…”

    (Vs.26-27) “If ‘we’ deliberately keep on sinning after ‘we’ have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of G-d.”

    Once again, Adam, since you believe that salvation is unconditional to the believer and that it is impossible for a follower of Christ to forfeit eternal life, I would appreciate a concise exegesis of verse 26, seeing that the author posits the possibility of the forfeiture of salvation to perdition, to any “Christian” who turns away from following after the Lord into a sinful lifestyle.

    Simple, that is not what verses 26ff are about. The context is the better sacrifice of Christ, and how his sacrifice perfects for all time, whereas these other sacrifices had to be repeated year by year, and thus could never perfect anyone [10:1-3] [a word for word refutation of your view of salvation, I might add]. Hence, when the text says that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” one can only say that, in the context, we are referring to the Old Testament sacrifices, which no longer remain because Christ has given the once for all sacrifice. Thus, if you reject Christ, and go back to the old way, trusting in the sacrifices of the Old Testament, there is nothing there, only fearful judgment, which will consume the adversaries. Given that context, I think we can understand what follows:

    Hebrews 10:28-29 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

    Now, if we are indeed talking about the futility of the Old Testament sacrifices, and the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice, then one more interesting thing needs to be pointed out. Most people will take the subject of the passive verb “he was sanctified” here to be referring to the apostate. However, if I am correct that the context here is the better work of Christ, then the one who is sanctified here is not the apostate, but it is Christ. Hence, the text would be understood thus:

    Hebrews 10:28-29 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he [Christ] was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

    In other words, Christ was set apart from the Old Covenant sacrifices by the blood of his covenant, because it actually perfects people for all time, unlike the Old Testament sacrifices. If that is the case, then the tables are turned. Now, this passage is aiming at anyone who would go back to the old way, and trust in repetitive sacrifices that never perfect anyone. However, is that not what you have done by making final perseverance dependent upon man? I am not saying that you are intending to do this, but it seems to me that by saying that Christ’s sacrifice is no better than the OT sacrifices which had to be repeated year by year, you do, indeed, put yourself squarely in line with the condemnation spoken of in this passage. If salvation can be gained then lost, gained then lost, gained then lost, then you put yourself right into the condemnation of those who would go back to the old way. Given what the book of Hebrews says, such a view of salvation perfects no one, because it does not perfect “for all time.”

    Again, I am not saying you are doing this intentionally, or that you are not a Christian, but once you start leavening salvation by making it dependent even partially upon man, you have to be very careful about how you are going to relate the sacrifice of Christ and the new covenant to the rest of scripture. It becomes very dangerous when you set up a system of thought that makes Christ’s sacrifice no better than the sacrifices of the OT, which were merely types and shadows of the once for all sacrifice of Christ. It runs the peril of saying that these sacrifices of Christ were no better than the OT sacrifices which could perfect no one.

    Also, finally, if you do believe that salvation is dependent upon God from Genesis to Revelation, since you do believe that the book of Romans falls between these two, I would like to know what your exegesis of this passage is:

    Romans 9:10-18 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  7. Responding to this post:

    http://www.lineoffireradio.com/2012/07/10/the-once-saved-always-saved-debate/comment-page-2/#comment-139127

    Mark,

    I am well aware of the issues with the anabaptists and the reformers. Are you also aware of the fact that, using your standards, there would be no one you could point to as a Christian after the time of Augustine? After Augustine, you had the state-church, and the law of the land stated that the state church was able to punish heresy by death. Anabaptists were considered heretics. This was something that was going on for 1200 years. Does it make it right? No. However, it is understandable why the Reformers only thirty or forty years since breaking with Rome would not have seen it yet.

    Furthermore, you still have yet to address the problem that the church during the middle ages was largely synergistic, and yet, they did the exact same thing. In fact, the first people to condemn Servetus to death was not the reformers; it was the French inquisition, which was part of the Roman Catholic Church which believed in…synergism. Hence, if you condemn Calvinism on this basis, you condemn synergism as well.

    Now, again, let me turn the corner. Do you believe that Christ was both fully God and fully man? Do you know who the first man was to formulate this relationship between the two natures of Christ was? A man named Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril of Alexandria not only persecuted Novatians and Jews, played a major part in the murder or Hypatia, and also, politically destroyed Nestorius in order to save his own skin. In fact, we are not even certain that the heresy which bears Nestorius’ name [Nestorianism] was even held by Nestorius, since we uncovered a translation of one of his later works in Syriac in which he actually denies many of the doctrines attributed to him.

    I would suggest you learn about Cyril of Alexandria, and think very carefully above Matthew 12:33-37. If you are consistent, I am sure you will come to the conclusion that Jesus was not fully God and fully man, as Cyril of Alexandria taught, since he was a murderer and a liar. In fact, there is no cultural reason one could point to as to why Cyril could do these things, like there is with the magisterial reformers!

    Thus, if you are consistent, you should give up orthodox Christology. Of course, I know you won’t, but that simply shows the inconsistency of your argumentation. The point is that one does not necessarily act upon what they profess. There are cultural reasons, and, in Cyril’s case, political reasons why they might act differently. Is it right? No. At the same time, does it mean that what they profess is wrong? No.

    God Bless,
    Adam

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