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Soteriology 101: Former Calvinistic Professor discusses Doctrines of Salvation

Predestination Debate with Dr. James White on Twitter

Soteriology 101: Former Calvinistic Professor discusses Doctrines of Salvation
Released on Oct 28, 2014

Earlier in the week I engaged with Dr. James White, host of the Dividing Line and notable Calvinistic scholar, on Twitter regarding the doctrine of Predestionation and election.  Oh, and Stewie is back by popular demand. <sigh>

Below are some of the messages from the twitter discussion from my side of the discussion and this podcast dives in a little deeper on the subject.  Enjoy!

"From Augustine of Hippo to the twentieth century, Western Christianity has tended to interpret the doctrine of election from the perspective of and with regard to individual human beings. During those same centuries the doctrine has been far less emphasized and seldom ever controversial in Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it possible that Augustine and later Calvin, with the help of many others, contributed to a hyper individualization of this doctrine that was hardly warranted by Romans 9-11, Eph. 1, and I Peter 2? Is it not true that the major emphasis in both testaments falls upon an elect people -- Israel (OT) and disciples or church (NT)?"

Now, whether you acknowledge the FACT that two different people can read the exact same sentence and understand it differently based on their cultural up bringing is not within my control, but it is a fact, not just my opinion. And the facts also reveal that the 1st Century culture of Jews and Greeks was very "us" and "them" (tribal), thus the perspective of God predetermining to justify, sanctify and glorify whosoever believes IN HIM regardless of their nationality is most certainly viable and worthy of objective consideration...much more so than your Westernized view of God predetermining certain individual to believe in him, a view clearly not reflected in any of the Early Church Fathers, OR in much of the current cultures who view the text from the corporate perspective today.

And of course Adoption and redemption is intensely personal. Who would deny that? Again, you still act as if this view is not equally inclusive of individuals being saved (adopted and redeemed) as your view is... BUT, is your adoption completed yet? Rom 8 indicates adoption is something 'we eagerly await'. So, did God predestine that all who believe would be adopted, and that is why we have hope in that coming adoption, OR does it say that God predetermined individuals to believe so as to be adopted? Again, it is a perspective shift, and BOTH perspectives equally involve individuals.

Are you now equating the concept of God's "creating an autonomous creature" with His "creating another God?" Now, who is making categorical errors? So, as to be clear, are you saying that God could NOT, even if he wanted to, create a creature who is autonomously free to make his own moral determinations, because that in itself would be EQUAL to him recreating Himself? Is that your argument?

Secondly, man's responsibility is most clearly and undeniably taught though out all of scripture. I happen to believe being response-able is equal to being "autonomous" or as some call it, "contra-causally free" (the ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action). The fact that Compatibilism even exists affirms the reality of the biblical teaching regarding such matters, otherwise you'd all be hard determinists without the need to explain how such texts are 'compatible' with your deterministic views. 

Third, ironically your explanation regarding the difference between the personhood and being of God is very much parallel to how I would attempt to explain my particular take on the mystery of God's omniscience in light of his creation of morally accountable free creatures...if I were so bold as to tackle such a mysterious matter via Twitter. 

Do you appeal to mystery regarding anything, Doctor?

And what if God so ordained for autonomous freedom to come to pass? Or is that what you think is beyond his creative abilities? Maybe I'm not being clear so allow me to quote from AW Tozer to make this point: 

"God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, 'What doest thou?' Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so." - A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God

Responsible or punishable? Because you deny, or at least the tenets of your dogma denies that man is "able to respond." (Total Inability) When Calvinist say men are "responsible" I think they mean that men are justly punished due to the federal headship and Fall of Adam, which I likewise affirm, but when I speak of mankind be RESPONSE-ABLE (able to respond) I'm talking about their being held to account for how they respond (for or against) to God's revelation and appeal for reconciliation after the fall. Are you saying lost man IS ABLE to willingly respond to God's revelation? If not, I'm not sure how you can use the term 'responsible' given its connotation of actually being "able to respond." Maybe consider another word? Culpable? Guilty? 

So you never 'hide behind mystery,' you have it all figured out and explained? Of course you appeal to mystery on some we know all Calvinists must when it comes to the question of why all his children aren't granted the ability to accept Calvinistic soteriology (Why wasn't CS Lewis Calvinistic? God's choice? Why? Mystery?). We all appeal to mystery at some point in this debate. To claim, as you do, that "God's Word provides clear answers" begs the question up for debate by presuming the Word of God clearly supports your dogma. If anything is clear about this topic is that we, believers, haven't had clarity (or at least uniformity) on it since about the time of Augustine. I think you mean that your view of the scripture is clear to you, which I could likewise claim...but that doesn't help the discussion much.

The parallel has to do with the Personhood as it reflects His Immanence and his Being as it reflects His Transcendence, all of which is best summed up in an appeal to mystery, because such matters shouldn't be approached with any more certainty than that which is revealed in the text. To presume upon the text, as I believe Calvinism does, that God must be unable to create response-abled people, on the basis that He knows their responses beforehand is short-sighted at best.

My point regarding 'responsibility' has to do with its given connotations, as it makes little sense to call someone responsible who is born unable to respond. We wouldn't call an infant responsible. Why? He isn't able to respond. We don't hold mentally handicap responsible because we recognize their INABILITIES to control themselves. I'm merely suggesting that for clarity you use a word like "guilty" when explaining your view because mankind, according to Calvinism is actually held culpable for God's responses (or His determinations as to how mankind will certainly "respond"...if you can call that a 'response')

As to your comments about going beyond the limits of revelation, I could not agree more. But who is going beyond those limits in this case? The guy who says, "I don't know because the bible doesn't reveal enough for us to come to a conclusion as to how man is free while God is omniscient, I just believe both are clearly revealed to be the case (something even Compatibilists affirm)," or the man who denies one seemingly clear truth (human responsibility) due to the mysterious nature of how it works with the other (divine foreknowledge)? BTW, both of us could accuse the other of denying the 'truth' of a text because they don't like what it says.

The point regarding the appeal to mystery is that I could likewise accuse you of "hiding behind it" just as atheists are notorious to doing to believers... but it is self defeating unless you never appeal to mystery yourself.

Begging the question is to presume true the very point up for debate, and the question up for debate here is which of our views IS clearly supported by the text. Your statements which ultimately claim, "The bible clearly supports my view," are nothing more than question begging fallacies. I learned when judging CX debate years ago that the easiest way to spot question begging is to ask yourself if the opponent could make the exact same statement. We all know you believe your views to be true, but stating that the bible clearly supports your views doesn't amount to more than "I'm right because you're wrong."

And one point you refused to engage is this: Either I'm right, or I'm determined by God's sovereign decree to be wrong. Either way, you are debating God... Good luck. :)