Thursday, January 8, 2015

James White comments on a sermon by James McCarthy, author of "John Calvin Goes to Berkeley"

James McCarthy: “…frankly, God doesn’t love you strictly because of yourself; He loves you because of His Son. Didn’t the Lord Jesus teach that...what did He say? The Father loves you why? Because you have loved Me. I mean, 'but God, don’t You just love me?' And He goes, 'No, I actually don’t.'” [2:25-2:50]

James White: “I’m trying to figure out where that reference was. The Father has loved you because you have loved Me? …I couldn’t find that one. I would like to know what text is being paraphrased at that point, because that would make the Father’s love of us, dependent upon something we’re doing, and I think something was misstated there. I’m not sure.” [2:50-3:17]

Here is the text involved:

John 16:26-27: “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”

It almost seems that James White is disagreeing with Jesus.

I can't say that I fully agree with McCarthy's quote, because although he is quoting/paraphrasing a verse about God's love, based upon the positive fact that the disciples had loved Jesus, McCarthy should be careful not to mistakenly then infer something entirely different, which is the negative that God *only* loves us because we love His Son, since (1) God didn't say that, and (2) God's love is genuinely shown towards the world, through the mercy expressed at John 3:16. I think that the real issue is that God has a special love for Christians, though which doesn't negate His love for the world, whom He had given His Son Jesus. I think that the point here is that man's loving relationship with His Son not only vindicates and justifies the cost of having sent His Son in the first place, but is also the desired outcome for every lost soul. However, what really caught my attention was James White's response, and I don't mean his unfamiliarity with the John 16:26-27 text, but his comment on it. That's what I thought was really eye-opening. James White almost seems to be in disagreement with Jesus.

James White: “…I start with the fact that the Bible presents a God of purpose, and I believe that God had the purpose of electing a particular people in Christ Jesus unto salvation, from the very start, that it’s not a back-up plan. It’s not that ‘well that didn’t work out too well, let’s try it this way.’” [7:33-7:55]

But isn’t James White essentially describing the Arminian “Corporate Election” model? How it somehow becomes a “back-up plan” is unclear, as White does not develop that point. Certainly, Arminians affirm that it was God’s plan from the start to elect a particular people in Christ Jesus unto salvation. The reality, though, is that what Calvinists actually believe is that God elects a particular people in Himself, and then elects them “to become” in Christ Jesus. That’s what’s really going on.

McCarthy: “The Father has chosen us in Him, not apart from Him. The Father can’t choose us apart from Him, because there is no salvation apart from Him, is there?” [10:20-10:30]

In other words, McCarthy is tying election & salvation together in Christ, and rejecting that the Father would ground it in Himself, and then make that election as the grounds for effectually calling/drawing His elect to become in Christ.

James White: “Now again, let’s remember, basically what’s going on here is an attempt, as I see it, to shift the emphasis of the text away from the fact that you have the direct object of the choosing being personal. …Remember Ephesians 1:4, ‘…just as He us in Him; the direct object of the choosing is us, and that’s personal. I don’t believe there’s any way in Ephesians 1 to make it impersonal, because predestination is unto what? Sonship. And what do you have then…who is the ‘we’ who has been chosen, and predestined? The ‘we’ then in verse 7, ‘we’ have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Now there are people who just want to make this, ‘Well, all it’s just talking about is this group, and God has predestined that there would be this group, that will be in Christ.’ It’s up to you who is in it. He doesn’t choose; it’s an impersonal thing. It’s just a group. It could be a small group, big group; God’s not really in charge of that. He does the best He can, to get as many people in there as possible. But no one really knows. Technically, He could have had just a few. And, once you get in the group, that He predestinates that if you’re are in the group, then you’re going to be adopted. And then once you’re in the group, you can say that you have forgiveness of sins, and things like that, but you see it’s all meant to de-personalize the knowledge of God in eternity past, and de-personalize the choice that He made. He chose a group; He didn’t choose you.” [10:36-12:41]

There are a lot of problems here.

(1) James White begs to know who the “us” is, which is actually answered in verse 19: “…the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” It’s not the “us” who are the Father’s secret elect, which is what Calvinism requires. When Calvinists emphasize the word “us,” challenge them to define its meaning from the actual text, rather than theological pre-commitment.

(2) James White makes the cardinal error of starting out with Ephesians 1:4, while somehow missing the relevance of the first two words, “just as,” which obviously indicates something relevant in the prior statement. In other words, verse 4 is based upon the essential fact stated in verse 3, which is the Father’s declaration of having deferred “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” In other words, this is the FACT (v.3) and here are the EXAMPLES (vv.4-14). Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is in Christ, “just as” the spiritual blessing of “us who believe” [i.e. Christians] is an eternal election to stand before God as holy and blameless before Him, just as the spiritual blessing of “us who believe” [i.e. Christians] is an eternal predestination to adoption as sons, just as the spiritual blessing of “us who believe” [i.e. Christians] is redemption through Christ’s blood, just as the spiritual blessing of “us who believe” [i.e. Christians] is the revelation of divine mysteries, just as the spiritual blessing of “us who believe” [i.e. Christians] is an inheritance, just as the spiritual blessing of “us who believe” [i.e. Christians] is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

(3) James White pins his argument on election being “personal,” insomuch that God chooses the specific persons that He will effectually call/draw to become in Christ. However, wouldn’t that be a “spiritual blessing” for the individual? And yet, Paul says in v.3 that the Father has deferred “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” So Paul has effectually undercut any foundation for James White’s Patricentric assertion.

(4) Arminians affirm that salvation is “in the Father” and “in the Son” through the principle of Mutual Inclusion, as per 1st John 2:24: “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” However, the Calvinist’s Corporate Election model in the Father by Unconditional Election [i.e. James White’s “personal” election], establishes one personally as the Father’s secret elect, whom on that account, are elected to receive an effectual call/draw “to become” in Christ. Clearly, then, Calvinist election is Patricentric, whereas the Arminian model is truly Christocentric, because it denies and rejects that anyone is elect *apart from* being in Christ, as a believer, and which is what Arminius had also stated, when he affirmed that God regards no one in Christ, except through faith in Christ.

(5) James White raises the issue of the plural form of “you,” which I’m not going to get into, because it’s irrelevant to anything stated above.