Monday, November 10, 2008

James White a hyper-Calvinist?

So claims some Arminians who it seemed were having a "John 3:16" conference (which certainly had nothing to do with the true biblical interpretation of John 3:16). According to one Dr. Allen:

Dr. Allen asserted that Dr. James White is a hyper-Calvinist according to Phil Johnson’s primer on hyper-Calvinism, as Dr. White says that God does not have any desire to save the non-elect.

Phil Johnson has replied to this allegation with the following statement:

Let me go on record here: I know James White well, and he is not a hyper-Calvinist.

The webpage Dr. Allen cited from me says nothing whatsoever about what God "desires." What I have consistently said elsewhere [check out footnote 20 in that link] is this: Optative expressions like desire and wish are always problematic when it comes to describing God's demeanor toward the reprobate. God does all His pleasure, and to suggest that He helplessly wrings His hands over unfulfilled "desires" is quite inaccurate—indeed, it is one of the central fallacies of the Arminian concept of God. So I try to avoid such terminology most of the time.

I do, however, occasionally employ such terms in order to make a point— but only when I have an opportunity to explain the point: I do think there's crucial meaning in God's own pleas and expressions of willingness to be reconciled to any and all sinners (e.g., Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Corinthians 5:20). And I likewise think it is vital to see that all unbelief and sin is a rejection of God's will and purpose with regard to what we are responsible to do (Luke 7:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

At the same time, I recognize and affirm the equally-valid point being made by those who steadfastly reject the language of "desire" or "will" when we are dealing with God's overtures of mercy to the reprobate. We should not load those expressions with Arminian freight. Some choose never to use optative expressions with regard to God, and they might argue that the use of such language in any context is illegitimate. Dr. White may be of that persuasion. I don't know. In all our many private conversations, I have never had an occasion to discuss it with him. However, I would not call someone a "hyper-Calvinist" merely for holding that opinion.

Moreover, although my notes on hyper-Calvinism are just notes and not an academic treatise, in the section of those notes where I dealt with the issue of God's will toward the reprobate, this was all carefully qualified. I expressly acknowledged that there is a strain of classic high-Calvinists who deny that God's expressions of goodwill toward the reprobate may properly be called "love," but who are not really hyper. I said, "They are a distinct minority, but they nonetheless have held this view. It's a hyper-Calvinistic tendency, but not all who hold the view are hyper-Calvinists in any other respect." I cited Arthur Pink as the best-known example of that view.Let me add this: if the average Baptist preacher were one-tenth as committed to evangelism as James White, Arminians in the SBC might actually be in a position to carp about hyper-Calvinism's detrimental effect on soul-winning. As it is, those who say these kinds of things ought to sit with their hands over their mouths and learn some things from Mr. White.

Mark aka Tartanarmy summed up this episode really well:

Now, just a couple of things to say.

First is the irony that Dr White is currently in London defending the faith once again, whilst these shameful people are nicely tucked up at home enjoying the freedom to cast assertions against the evangelist James. Yes, the evangelist. The very thing that is supposed to define what a Hyper Calvinist IS NOT! Oh the irony and hypocrisy of it all.

James has made his own comments here and here.

Phil Johnson has also commented here.

It seems my old foe Tony Byrne's material was part of the material used by the confused Dr Alan.

Why do these Ponterites show up in these exchanges all the time? Where are they when Calvinists are debating Muslims, Roman Catholics, Mormons, JW's and others? That is right folks. They are nowhere to be seen, except hiding behind their keyboard lobbing bombs over the enemies heads and hitting the evangelistic Calvinists. It is a shame and a sham.

Now my next point is a serious one, and it is something I have said for years.

Whilst I truly support Phil Johnson and his ministry, I have tried in the past to suggest that his Primer on Hyper Calvinism is not quite up to scratch. Now I realise, he never envisioned how others would use it against other Calvinists, but maybe now is the time to revise it a wee bit. It has been used several times and publicly against true Calvinists.

And with regards to Tony Byrne:

Let me finish with this thought. Go to Byrne's website and read it.

The man has one subject and one subject only. The extent of the atonement, free offers and universal views about the atonement.

That should be enough for any serious person who wants balanced theology to run away from his site. The people he quotes are all dead and cannot answer for themselves the selective quoting done to their writings and CERTAINLY cannot get the opportunity to CORRECT the presuppositions contained in the views that Byrne and Ponter and the rest of the Ponterites hold to.


Joel Tay said...

I've noticed a tendency for the average Arminian to confuse supralapsarian Calvinism with Hyper-calvinism.

Daniel C said...


yup. But not only do the Arminians do that, but the Neo-Amyraldian Ponterites too. For them:

Classic and Moderate Calvinism = Amyraldism
High Calvinism = Infralapsarian Calvinism with Amyraldian tendencies
Hyper-Calvinism = Both Infralapsarian and Supralapsarian Calvinism which (logically) consistently want nothing whatsoever to do with Amyraldism

I have ceased wanting anything much to do with such one-issue 'theologians'. I have previously challenged Byrne via email on the issue and shown in various instances how he and David Ponter (in the Amyraldian apologetic blog called "Calvin and Calvinism") have ripped the writings of the Reformers and Puritans out of context. Byrne hasn't gotten back to me after 10 months, so I guess he has de facto conceded defeat.

Joel Tay said...

True... true. Even in college, R. C. Sproul was called a hyper-calvinist by a lecturer. Sproul is infralapsian... still short of Calvin's supralapsarian position and yet was called a hyper-calvinist.

Anyway... even if we take the position that God is the author of sin, how does that demonstrate that he is a wrong doer - especially since God's will is the standard by which we measure what is right and wrong

Daniel C said...

Theological revisionism is nothing new I see. I am very sure that lecturer did not read Calvin's Institutes, or if he did, he is lying when he falsely labels Sproul a hyperist.

With regards to the phrase "author of sin", my bone of contention is that the phrase is not biblical and it has a definitive historical meaning as seen in for example the Westminster Confesion. So while it is technically true that God being the author of sin per se does not make God a wrong doer, yet because of the way it is defined historically, I would not say that God is the author of sin. Rather, he is the cause but not the author of sin, as the WCF so eloquently puts it.

Joel Tay said...

I agree with you about the traditional interpretation on God being the Ultimate cause but not author of sin - which is also Clark
s position. But I felt that Vincent Cheung made a good point that even if God is the author of sin, it does not make him evil.

Joel Tay said...

Would like your thoughts on the Augustine's Council of Orange - especially the last part which says,

"We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema."

Daniel C said...

It has been some time since I've read the Council of Orange, but I have read somewhere that it denounces Semi-Pelagianism but is not fully Augustinian (Semi-Augustinian).

So yes, I disagree with the last part of the Council of Organe, which similarly espouses (in the early part of the conclusion) baptismal regeneration.