By Dr. James Ach and Dr Elisha Weismann
On September 3, 2013, James White finally responded to a video posted by Dr. Jerry Walls titled, “What’s Wrong With Calvinism“. The lecture that Dr. Walls gives on Calvinism is one of the most damning arguments against Calvinism extant as it demonstrates that the Calvinist view of the nature and character of God is not only inconsistent with Scripture, but is actually an assault on His holiness.
Before we begin our critique of White’s response, let us first advise our readers that Jerry Walls is in fact an Arminian and we here at Do Right Christians are not in agreement with Arminianism. However, since Walls represents a view of Calvinism that we share in common, when we use the term “Arminian” in this article as quoted by White (who assumes that if one is not Calvinist then they must be Arminian by default), we will assume that White would be referring to those of us who are Non Calvinist as well.
WHITE’S MAIN OBJECTION
White’s argument against Walls was woefully inadequate. We took notes minute by minute and want to address one of his latter arguments first. White’s primary “beef” it seems with Walls is that Walls argument is primarily philosophical and not as much emphasis on Biblical support as White would like. White repeats this on numerous occasions throughout his article. White contends the Bible should come first and then presuppositions built around the arguments. However, White is a demeaning hypocrite in this accusation.
First of all, White begins the show with a sound bit of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in which he plays 2 snippets of Dave Hunt: one where Hunt admits ignorance of the Reformers, and one where Hunt claims to know more about Calvinism than most Calvinists do. White touts this as a blatant contradiction and uses these quotes by Hunt to prove that Hunt is not a credible source for evaluating Calvinism. This is classic James White misrepresentation and it also defies White’s own logic which we will explain hereafter.
Hunt never said He was ignorant of Calvinism, he said he was ignorant of the plethora of writings made by traditional Reformers. These could include Whitefield, Edwards, Gill, Beza, et al. However, Hunt has said that he has studied John Calvin’s “Institutes” as well as Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” as well as thoroughly studied the Westminster Confession (which he quotes in his video “What Love Is This”). But yet according to White, a person can not truly claim to understand Calvinism unless they have a thorough knowledge of ALL of the Reformed authors. Of course, White does not differentiate between Reformers that followed Calvin, or those who followed Luther. Or whether those of the Calvinist persuasion should be Baptist (like Spurgeon, Carey) or Presbyterian (like Knox). Nevertheless, based on White’s statement, no person who has studied Calvinists such as Arthur Pink, Lorainne Boettner, Hodge, Helm, Piper, MacArthur, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Kennedy, Mahaney, Moeler, Jones, Grudem, et al, really understands Calvinism. Thus according to White, a person may have read 50 different authors of the Calvinist persuasion, but not TRULY understand Calvinism unless they demonstrate a thorough knowledge of an undefined list of Reformers.
Well to this we would say, since White admits that he has never read Peter Ruckman’s response to his book “The King James Only Controversy” then he truly doesn’t understand the KJVO position even though he wrote a book about it. (Since White accused us of being stupid because we are KJVO in addressing an article that didn’t even discuss the King James Controversy, we figured we’d give him a free “plug” on the issue so he has actual grounds to slander us this time).
JAMES WHITE IS NOT “SOLA SCRIPTURA”
Now here’s where the hypocrisy of White rears its ugliness. White claims that the Bible should have been primary in Walls lecture. However, White contends that, like Spurgeon, that Calvinism IS the gospel. That only Calvinism offers a true representation of what the Bible says about salvation and the sovereignty of God. Well Mr. White, did you give Dave Hunt that same speech? Of course not. White’s accusation against Hunt was that he didn’t understand Calvinism because he didn’t understand the Reformers. If Calvinism “IS the gospel”, and the only way to properly understand Calvinism is by a perfect or thorough understanding of the Confessions and Reformers, then James White is ultimately putting the Reformers and Creeds above the Bible because one can not truly understand Calvinism by just reading the Bible, as White says of Hunt, unless you are versed in the writings of the Reformers, then you don’t know John. So in essence, White himself is a hypocrite for accusing Walls of not using Biblical arguments first.
Furthermore, Calvinism IS a philosophical system, and Walls was simply matching fire with fire. White began his show by claiming that Calvinism is based upon Biblical presuppositions, but Calvinism has more philosophical definitions than any other Christian denomination. We would love for White to prove that the following Calvinist terms are explicit in the Bible: supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism, sublapsarianism, reprobation, preterition, general call and effectual call, double predestination, total inability, monergism, etc. Calvinism begins with man-made presuppositions with definitions that are not found in the Bible, and then builds proof texts around them. Dare White then to claim that Calvinism is not largely based on philosophy. It is also ironic that White did not begin the lecture where Walls attributed Calvinism to Augustine (A Roman Catholic philosopher).
THE RADIO SEGMENTS
[The following will list the time section where the excerpt of White’s comments are being addressed]
18:00-White begins by assuming that Walls should begin with Genesis 50 and other Calvinist proof texts as a foundation of the lecture. Although this is quite presumptuous on White’s part, he should at least allow Walls the liberty to format the debate in terms that he believes adequately represents Calvinism. Ironically, a mere 5 minutes before White made this comment, he criticized Michael Brown for using proof texting in his debates about Calvinism.
20:40– White attempts to rebut Walls definition of freedom by implying that if taken seriously, would have the result of rejecting any divine decree of God. Of course, White fails to even develop an argument for the decrees of God, or how such decrees were relevant to addressing Walls definition of freedom. (Please read our article on “The Decrees of God” to show that White’s attempt to inject something into the debate that had nothing to do with Walls argument would not help White’s case anyway.) White simply asserts “there MUST be a decree” so White offers only a presuppositional bias against Walls here with no Biblical support to advance his rebuttal.
Moreover, something that White seems to ignore here is that Walls is quoting sources directly from Calvinist authors and the Westminster Confession. Now unless White is in disagreement with the same authors that he accused Dave Hunt of being ignorant of, that they are not credible sources, Walls is quoting from those of whom White would generally consider a credible resource for defining Calvinist beliefs. For his listeners, however, there are some things that are seen in the video that you can not see in an audio response, such as the author of a quote Walls may be citing which would lead his listeners to believe that Walls is merely paraphrasing his opponents instead of quoting directly from their sources.
21:39-Here White resorts to the accusation that such a view of free will makes the autonomy of man the final arbiter of salvation. Not only is this a gross caricature of something that Walls never said, but was totally non sequitur to the explanation that Walls was giving in defining what is meant by “freedom”. However, this is a common accusation leveled against Non Calvinists in that we believe that if man has free will to choose to repent and believe, that somehow we ignore Ephesians 2:8-9 and every other verse that shows that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works, and that some how it robs God of His sovereignty even if it was His idea to save us in such a manner. It is a classic straw man argument that White used here simply to reinforce this accusation in the minds of his listeners as a distraction from what Walls was actually saying.
22:10-After Walls finishes defining freedom, White does not actually challenge Walls description. Rather, White opines down a rabbit trail of defining Open Theism as being the only consistent form of Arminianism, even though he admits that Walls is probably not an Open Theist. White then simply writes off Walls explanation as an attempt to paint humans as mere robots, but yet White doesn’t make any valid effort to refute such a conclusion. White delves into another rabbit trail about Total Depravity by claiming that Arminians don’t really believe in Total Depravity because frankly, they don’t arrive at the same conclusion that Calvinists do about inability. This is another common Calvinist debate tactic that attempts to persuade others to Calvinism by bootstrapping inability to depravity. If one does not accept that man has the complete inability to respond to God or hear the voice of God because he is dead in sin, then he really doesn’t believe in depravity because in Calvinism, inability is the result of depravity. But just because Walls does not agree with the conclusion of inability does not mean that he does not believe in depravity, and even White admits that Walls does not define depravity AS HE UNDERSTANDS IT, although this was quite a red herring because depravity was not the issue at this point which is something common that you will note in the remainder of White’s address.
29:30-White asserts again that Walls is defending the creaturely aspect of man. That as creatures we object to God from a creaturely perspective and that our actions are the result of the fall under Adam’s Federal Headship. However, Walls does not object to the Federal Headship of Adam here (and frankly, we don’t know where Walls stands on that issue because it wasn’t brought up in his lecture), but regardless of this argument, which is AGAIN non sequitur to Walls’ argument, White fails to address the logical conclusion of Walls contention (if Walls were actually arguing this point) which would be that if God determines all things, which White admits that He does, then even the Federal Headship of Adam would be one of God’s own making, and as such, would still make God responsible for the choices that men make because they are not free to choose between A or to choose Not A. If man is not free to choose good because he is determined to do evil, and can not choose to do otherwise, then it is a blatant contradiction to claim that man actually chooses to do evil when he could have chosen to do good if he wanted to, but he could not want to because God prevented him from the ability to do so by failing to install the programming that would have allowed man this “free” option. God is ultimately the first and primary cause of the will of the man who can not choose to act other than by the evil desires and wishes that God gave him. White does not even come close to refuting this point.
30:00-White again, veers off of the debate and explains regeneration in a manner that has nothing to do with what Walls is discussing. It’s as if White is listening to and responding to an entirely different lecture. If White decided to talk about Pizza somehow he would believe that it was relevant to the discussion. White mocks Norman Geisler by claiming that Geisler, Hunt and others opposed to Calvinism hold to something that they never said. White contends that Geisler mocks Calvinism by saying “Oh well God has to raise you from the dead” and thus accusing Geisler of denying God’s salvific power in salvation. Geisler nor Hunt have ever said this. What they said is about the Calvinist view that passages Calvinists use that describe a physical resurrection to justify the view that God spiritually quickens us BEFORE we have even repented is erroneous (See our article on James White’s “Could Lazarus Have Said ‘No?’“). White has a bad habit of deliberately misrepresenting his opponents words and views.
31:00-White here is discussing what occurs in the life of a believer AS A RESULT of salvation which is not what Walls is addressing. What Walls is arguing here is the Calvinist view that God causes you to have a will that then irresistibly calls on God. Walls is arguing about what Calvinist believes BEFORE salvation occurs, and what CAUSES it to occur, whereas White is addressing the effects of salvation AFTER it has occurred. As Norman Geisler says, White, “put De Cartes before De Horse”.
41:00-White continues to interrupt in his play-by-play rebuttal. White accuses Walls of Universalism and even says “Ah, see! He admitted it” when what Walls is doing is showing how his development of the Calvinist Conundrum would actually lead to Universalism IF this premise were accepted by Calvinists. White interjected his objection before Walls clearly stated that not only does he himself not believe in Universalism, but that most Calvinists would also reject it. So again, White objects to something that Walls was not finished developing.
CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY
We have somewhat borrowed from Walls argument in one of our objections against Calvinism in our article “Free Will Proves the Sovereignty of God” as well as developed another conundrum called “The Calvinist Uniformity Conundrum” which you can find on our forum, Calvinisms Other Side at the top of the website. But to summarize Walls’ excellent exposition of the core problem with Calvinism is that if God could have determined that all men freely worship Him, and praise Him, and He chose not to, but He could have, then He did not do so because He did not WANT to do so in contrast to those He DID want to save irresistibly. Since Calvinists admit that God does whatever He wishes or desires, then it follows that all things that God determined are based upon what He desired and wanted to determine. If God then determined that others be eternally damned, then God predetermined men to be damned simply because He WANTED TO in order to get glory for Himself and prove His sovereignty. Yet who God had to prove it to is a mystery because the necessity that God needed to prove His sovereignty implies that God was somehow not content before He created anything and became sovereign over what He created. It wasn’t enough that the Father loved the Son throughout eternity, God needed and therefore depends on evil in order to vindicate Him (from who?) and thus not only is this a gross caricature of the nature and character of God, but a distortion of God’s love.
In addition to Walls argument we content that it also presents a somewhat pantheistic view of God in that God is rivaled by sin and evil. If God needs sin to prove His sovereignty, then sin must of necessity be eternally existent because whatever it takes for God to be wholly God and complete, must have existed either within Him or in this case outside of Him (if determinism is true) to accomplish His complete satisfaction and contentment. Thus either God was not fully God until sin was manifested, or sin actually eternally existed along side of God, but laid dormant until it had a chance to be useful in demonstrating God’s justice. Calvinists often argue that the existence of sin is necessary by focusing on its purpose rather than its author. This would therefore make sin an equal god of its own nature.
Although White has admittedly known about this video for a few months or a year (he claims both) it is painfully obvious that White was not prepared to address the content of this video head-on. White not only mischaracterized several arguments, divorced himself from the actual content of the debate on several occasions with irrelevant rabbit trails and red herring distractions, but attempted to insulate his readers with a preemptive reason why he did not address this video by claiming it was based merely on philosophy when he himself has used exactly what he accuses Walls of against Dave Hunt, and even plays it at the beginning of his “rebuttal”. However, Walls did say that there is a thorough video exposition of Calvinist proof texts which White only mentions in passing on a prior radio show. Since White didn’t bother to give his listeners the reference to these videos, you can find them here.
Although we do not agree with all of Dr. Jerry Walls theology, we do agree that this presentation by Dr. Walls accurately represented the views of Calvinism which is something that even White did not completely object to. It is in our opinion one of the most condemning speeches ever given on the core issue of Calvinism and Reformed theology outside of Dr. Laurence Vance’s book, The Other Side of Calvinism. White has not vowed to finish his review of this video, and from what have heard so far, that would probably save him from further embarrassment as his attempt to address the claims made by Dr. Walls was wholly inadequate, but we will watch for any additional responses by White on this, and will keep our readers up to date on this issue.