Saturday, September 20, 2008

James White & Election

Calvinist, James White, writes: “Jesus begins where Christian salvation begins (and ends!), with the Father. The Father gives a particular people to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, p.118)

Question: What makes these people, the Father’s eternally “particular people,” which He thus gives to His Son? Is that an unfair question? However, we are only told that it is an unknowable, mystery on the part of God. John MacArthur plainly states that he does not know why. John Calvin calls it an “arbitrary” choice, and accuses those who deny God’s right to make such an arbitrary choice. But all of that misses the point. The point is this: What is Christ’s role in these having become God’s eternally “particular people”? Hint: Calvinism is not front-end Christocentric. Back-end yes; front-end, no. And that really is the nature of why Arminians so often hammer the matter of election being “in Christ” over the heads of Calvinists. Just about every Arminian book that I read, when dealing with Election, focuses strongly on how Arminian election is an “in Chrirst” election, in contrast to Calvinism. Time and time again, I see this.

White adds: “...God brings His elect to Himself in love....(Debating Calvinism, p.306)

Question: How did these become “His elect” in the first place? White, as far as I can tell, does not say. Instead, that is left to an “inscrutable mystery.”

Again, I quote White: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306)

Question: What's the basis for such a giving? Yes, Arminians do seek a basis.

Now you might say, “Why do you keep pressing this point? We get the message. Calvinism is not as Christocentric as Arminianism.” Well, the reason is because of John 14:6. Calvinism seems to be in plain violation of the principle of John 14:6, and thus is one of the strongest reasons that I can give for rejecting Calvinism. John 14:6 states: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

James White: Regeneration & In Christ

Concerning Calvinism and Arminianism, there is much to talk about, but I'd like to stay on the theme of what it means to be "in Christ," in contrast to what I believe that Calvinism requires, which is an eternal state of being "in the Father," though Calvinists are unwilling to admit to such. I've argued that it's absolutely essential to what Calvinism is all about, and documented the quotes here:

So now I'd like to touch on the matter of Regeneration, as it pertains to "in Christ." Calvinism teaches that not everyone can be saved, but only those to whom God elects to give an Irresistible Grace. So what exactly is that? It's also referred to as an "effectual calling." It's said that in the foreordained time, God makes an "elect" person preemptively Born Again, regenerated and with a new heart, and thus naturally comes to Christ, as a consequence of such a regeneration. Obviously, Arminians such as myself, absolutely insist that no one outside of being "in Christ" is entitled to such a new birth and regeneration. Arminians argue that only when a person hears and believes in the Gospel, and is sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, as per Ephesians 1:13, does he then receive regeneration, the new birth and a holy calling (i.e. vocation in Christ). That's why I'd like to highlight a particular statement from James White, concerning Regeneration & In Christ:

Calvinist, James White, writes: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’). Hence, we are not saved ‘without’ faith, but at the same time, Christ’s atonement is not rendered useless and vain without the addition of libertarian free will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)

White believes that “the elect” are already in Christ, despite being unbelievers. Why? Because he needs what is reserved in Christ alone, namely, Regeneration, to be given to unbelievers in order to become believers. He correctly recognizes that regeneration is alone reserved in Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:17), and that with such regeneration, comes the new birth of being made Born Again with a new heart and a new spirit. The new heart is what Calvinism needs for the decision for Christ to be rendered irresistible, as in Irresistible Grace. However, and this is where Calvinism gets in trouble, Calvinism requires that regeneration (born again, new birth, new heart) be made preemptive (given to unbelievers) in order to overcome Total Inability, and since regeneration alone comes in Christ, being in Christ, therefore, must also be rendered preemptive as well. But it’s not, since being in Christ also carries with it, Redemption (Romans 8:1), and Redemption requires faith in Christ (John 3:18), and faith precedes the sealing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:13) Therefore, when in Christ is shifted forward into a preemptive state, you can see how much damage it does to these other verses. So the answer to the question of “When do you become in Christ?” is after believing in the Gospel, which we already knew from Ephesians 1:13. (For more details on this point, see also:

How can a condemned and judged old creature in Adam (John 3:18), simultaneously live in Christ? Answer? They cannot. You must spiritually die in Adam and become raised to new life in Christ. When we are crucified with Christ, according to Galatians 2:20, William MacDonald explains: “It means the end of me as a child of Adam, as a man under the condemnation of the law, as my old, unregenerate self.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.1180)

Being a "new creature" is the mark of identification of being in Christ. Being the "old creature" is the mark of identification of being outside of the body Christ, namely, in Adam. Since being in Adam and being in Christ are Mutually Exclusive, you cannot simultaneously be in both. Those who are in Adam are judged. (John 3:18). Those who are in Christ are redeemed, and are free from condemnation. (Romans 8:1) Hence, Calvinism is a non-starter, unless there is such a thing as a regenerate, redeemed unbeliever who thus, by being preemptively placed in Christ, will now unfailingly come to believe in Christ.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

J. Vernon McGee: Why we need a Mediator

We are told that Calvinism is “Christocentric” on the grounds that God purposes His elect to be Redeemed by Christ.

However, the Arminian criticism is that this is merely back-end Christocentric, rather than front-end Christocentric, as Arminians wish to know from Calvinists exactly how and why “the Elect” supposedly became the Father’s “elect” in the first place? Did it have anything whatsoever to do with Christ, and if so, how? This is the challenge that Arminians have historically put to Calvinists, which Calvinists have not adequately answered, as the following quote by a Calvinist demonstrates:

One Calvinist explains: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily. In the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.”

Keep that quote firmly in mind, as we now delve into commentary by J. Vernon McGee:

J. Vernon McGee writes: “We need a mediator, we need a priest, and we have one, the Great High Priest.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.38)

Why would "the Elect" (in the Father) “need” to be mediated to the Father, if they were already, eternally mediated to Him according to His secret purposes, as John Calvin states: “…the elect always belonged to Godfor while they are far away from him, he regards them in secret as his own.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.393) So again, what “need” have they of being mediated? The historical Arminian complaint against Calvinism is that it renders Calvary as little more than divine pageantry and symbolism, rather than an authentic saving act, and it’s actually a good point, which Calvinists need to ponder before shooting off a quick answer.

J. Vernon McGee: “Job’s heart cry even in his day was, ‘Neither is there an daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both’ (Job 9:33). In effect, Job was crying out, ‘Oh, if there were somebody who could take hold of God’s hand and then take hold of my hand and bring us together that there might be communication and understanding between us!” Well, my friend, today we have a Mediator--the Lord Jesus Christ has come. He has one hand in the hand of Deity because He is God. He is able to save to the uttermost because He is God, and He has paid the price for our salvation. He is a Mediator because He has also become man. He can hold my hand; He understands me. He understands you; you can go to Him, and He is not going to be upset with you. He will not lose His temper or strike you or hurt you in any way. You may say, ‘Well, I’ve failed. I’ve done such-and-such, and I’ve come short of the glory of God.’ My friend, He knows that, and He still loves you and wants to put His arm around you.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.38)

This is why we “need” Jesus, because He is able to stand between God and man and reconcile the two, but this is rendered absurd if the roles of Father and Son are blurred in order to try make Calvinism front-end Christocentric.

McGee adds: “And you should go through Him, because there is really no use coming and telling me your troubles. I may not be sympathetic with you; I might not really understand your case. He does. He’s human. He is a daysman, a Mediator. He has put His hand in mine. I don’t put my hand in His; He puts His hand in mine and taken hold of me, but He also holds on to God because He is God, and He has brought us together.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.39)

But all of this is pure absurdity if the Father is already holding your hand through secret Election, as John Calvin writes: “This way of speaking, however, may seem to be different from many passages of Scripture which attribute to Christ the first foundation of God’s love for us and show that outside Christ we are detested by God. But we ought to remember, as I have already said, that the Heavenly Father’s secret love which embraced us is the first love given to us.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.76, emphasis mine)

If that’s true, then the whole process of Christ being Mediator between us and God the Father is one big charade. Again, Arminianism is not about doing homage to Free Will, as alleged so often by Calvinists, but rather Arminianism is about preserving the integrity of both Scripture and of God’s character.