A Calvinist Jew’s gratitude to Gentle James White

Who of all the Reformed Christians (Calvinists) on the internet is the most vilified and despised? That’s easy. James White.

James (I’ve already revealed my bias by dropping the “White”), besides many of his other activities, presents a weekly chat show “The Dividing Line” (Aomin.org under “Blog Articles). Each broadcast begins with the following admonition from the Apostle Peter to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence (respect)” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

Sometimes James’ humour – on the dividing line – may appear to contradict the Apostle Peter’s admonition to “do it with gentleness and reverence,” but I don’t think this is so. In general there is no doubt that no matter how strong James’ criticisms, they are done with gentleness and respect. Besides “The Dividing Line” (DL) is a different kettle of fish to his sermons and debates, where the former (DL) is less formal than the other two. For example, James would spend less time in a sermon or a debate telling us about his incredibly flashy ties and shoes, and his bicycle rides, without which all the other deep stuff on DL would be, if not spare, unconsummated.

The term “criticism,” like so many other terms – such as “argument” – has the social meaning of “saying nasty things” as well as the formal meaning of “critiquing,” that is, presenting an “argument” (a reasoned presentation of ideas). In my book, James is one of the best defenders of biblical truth. The main thing people (naturally) hate about James – and about all “Calvinists”-  is his view that man plays absolutely no part in his salvation.

Here is some of what James showed me so clearly about the sovereignty of God in salvation, which I express in my  own “boggy” way (my blog user name is “Bography”).

Consider John 6:44 “No one can (has the ability, the power to – Greek  “dynamai”) come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

So, if you are drawn, you will logically come. And if you come, you will logically be raised up. In other words, if the Father “draws” – Greek “drags” (helko) not “woos” you – you will (logically and futuristically) be raised up. There nothing in John 6:44 about God only raising up a sinner IF he uses his “ability” to choose to come.

In John 12:32 Jesus says “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will drawall people to myself.”

“All” must mean “all kinds of people,” as only those who are drawn will come to believe, because as John 6:44 says, all (those) that God draws will be raised up on the last day. “So, if you are drawn, you will logically come. And if you come, you will logically be raised up. In other words, if the Father “draws”  – Greek “drags” (helko) not “woos” you – you will (logically and futuristically) be raised up.”

The “dragging” is not of someone bursting all over with autonomy, screaming all the way to salvation: “No, no, I don’t want to be saved. I hate you God. Stick to your Sovereign bargain of keeping my autonomous will intact after death came into the world. I want nothing of this hellish “helko” stuff.

What in reality does God’s “dragging” of the sinner to himself entail; what is this biblical “dragging?” It’s this:

You’re drowning in a bog. No, it’s more radical than drowning – you’re drowned. The Father, in his mercy, dredges (drags) you up out of the mud, and breathes new life into you, not only a restored life, but a life of a completely different kind. In your boggy (sinful, spiritually dead) state, you, of course, won’t be scratching and screaming for your Father – yes, your Father, because if He is dragging you out of the mud, He has already become your Father – to take his predestinating prehensile hands off you. Instead, what will you be doing? Rejoicing, because you were dead and now you’re alive, you were locked into your desires (freely following your heart), and now you’ve been released into the real meaning of the love of God.

No one was more wretched than a Calvinist; that is why when he sings “Amazing Grace” for saving “a wretch like me,” what is more amazing than God saving me with nothing in me having anything to do with it? Thank God for giving me no say in the matter.

Joe Rutherford asks: “Are people in hell just randomly chosen to suffer the wrath of God forever, or is there a valid reason for their punishment?”

No, people are not randomly chosen to suffer in hell. God’s reasoning, as you know, is perfect. Everyone deserves hell,  but God has mercy on those (whosoever) He wants to have mercy. Why God has mercy only on the ones  He has chosen, and not on everyone is hidden in God’s secret decrees. It’s all in Romans 9, which is not only about Jews (like moi) but about everyone.

The Christian Science Monitor carries an article about the “surprising comeback (of Calvinist theology, which is) challenging the me-centered prosperity gospel of much of modern evangelicalism with a God-first immersion in Scripture. In an age of materialism and made-to-order Calvinism’s unmalleable doctrines and view of God as an all-powerful potentate who decides everything is winning over many Christians – especially the young.”

I pray that James will continue for many more years to hammer home the “unmalleable doctrines” so lacking in modern Christianity.

Who of all the Reformed Christians (Calvinists) on the internet is the most vilified and despised? That’s easy. James White.

James (I’ve already revealed my bias by dropping the “White”), besides many of his other activities, presents a weekly chat show “The Dividing Line.” Each broadcast begins with the following admonition from the Apostle Peter to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence (respect)” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

Sometimes James humour – on the dividing line – may appear to contradict the Apostle Peter’s “do it with gentleness and reverence,” but I don’t think this is so. In general there is no doubt that no matter how strong his criticisms, they are done with gentleness and respect. Besides “The Dividing Line” (DL) is a different format to a sermon or a debate, where it (DL) is less formal than the other two. For example, James would spend less time in a sermon or a debate telling us about his incredible ties and shoes, and his bicycle rides, without which all deep stuff on DL would be, if not naked, unconsummated.

The term “criticism,” like so many other terms – such as “argument” – has the social meaning of “saying nasty things” as well as the formal meaning of “critiquing,” that is, presenting a “argument” (a reasoned presentation of ideas). In my book, James is one of the best defenders of biblical truth. The main thing people hate about him – and all “Calvinists” is, naturally, his view that man plays absolutely no part in his salvation.

Here is what James showed me so clearly about the sovereignty of God in salvation. Consider John 6:44 “No one can (has the ability, the power to – Greek  “dynamai”) come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

So, if you are drawn, you will logically come. And if you come, you will logically be raised up. In other words, if the Father “draws” – Greek “drags” (helko) not “woos” you – you will (logically and futuristically) be raised up. There nothing in John 6:44 about God only raising up a sinner IF he uses his “ability” to choose to come.

In John 12:32 Jesus says “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

“All” must mean “all kinds of people,” as only those who are drawn will come to believe, because as John 6:44 says, all (those) that God draws will be raised up on the last day. “So, if you are drawn, you will logically come. And if you come, you will logically be raised up. In other words, if the Father “draws”  – Greek “drags” (helko) not “woos” you – you will (logically and futuristically) be raised up.”

The “dragging” is not of someone bursting all over with autonomy, screaming all the way to salvation: “No, no, I don’t want to be saved. I hate you God. Stick to your Sovereign bargain of keeping my autonomous will intact after death came into the world. I want nothing of this hellish “helko” stuff.

What in reality does God’s “dragging” of the sinner to himself entail; what is this biblical “dragging?” It’s this:

You’re drowning in a bog. No, it’s more radical than that drowning – you’re drowned. The Father, in his mercy, dredges (drags) you up out of the mud, and breathes new life into you, not only a restored life, but a life of a completely different kind. In your boggy state, you, of course, won’t be scratching and screaming for your Father – yes, your Father, because if He is dragging you out of the mud, He has already become your Father – to take his predestining prehensile hands off you. Instead, what will you be doing? Rejoicing, because you were dead and now you’re alive, you were locked into your desires (freely following your heart), and now you’ve been released into the real meaning of the love of God.

No one was more wretched than a Calvinist; that is why when he sings “Amazing Grace” for saving “a wretch like me,” what is more amazing than God saving me with nothing in me having anything to do with it? Thank God for giving me no say in the matter.

Joe Rutherford asks: “Are people in hell just randomly chosen to suffer the wrath of God forever, or is there a valid reason for their punishment?”

No, people are not randomly chosen to suffer in hell. God’s reasoning, as you know, is perfect. Everyone deserves hell,  but God has mercy on those (whosoever) He wants to have mercy. Why God has mercy only on the ones  He has chosen, and not on everyone is hidden in God’s secret decrees. It’s all in Romans 9, which is not only about Jews (like moi) but about everyone.

James may think, and rightly so, that he is a rare breed. I wonder, though, not how many Jewish Calvinists he knows, but how many he knows who are, as evident in my “bogs,” somewhat gentle and respectful, but not as much as James certainly is.

Bography

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14 thoughts on “A Calvinist Jew’s gratitude to Gentle James White

  1. Hi, Ive always thought God ‘draws’ those who wholeheartedly & sincerely seek him.. Ill have to study the Scriptures on this subject ..

    • Karen, from the human side, the sinner does “wholeheartedly & sincerely seek him.” This desire to seek, however, is a gift of God. That is what Ephesians 2 is about:

      [2:1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And THIS (REFERS TO BOTH GRACE AND FAITH) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV).

      When God draws (helko “drags”) sinners, He makes them free, free “indeed,” (as the Bible says).

  2. someone close to me who came to my homecell group for the 1st time turned & asked me ‘what is Grace?’…(I thought everyone knew what Grace was..) I gave this picture which came to me.. Imagine a criminal standing, hooded, at the gallows – about to rightfully receive his punishment for his crimes. But before being hung, the Judge or King declares that he pardons the man of his crime & he may go free. That is grace…

    My question is – are not some people still standing there with their hoods on, unaccepting of the grace that they have already been given?

    22 “Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
    Isaiah 45:22

    Psalm 107:19
    Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.

    Joel 2:32
    And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

    Acts 2:21
    And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

    Romans 10:9
    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    1 Corinthians 15:2
    By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  3. the danger I see in the Calvinist viewpoint is, what is the point then of evangelism, if God has already pre-destined us? .. what is the point of sharing the gospel?

    16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? – 1 Corinthians 7

    Yet, we know that the Scriptures clearly command us to spread the good news – what is the good news? The Gospel, that we have been saved by Grace and that “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”- Romans 10:9

    Because….

    9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance
    -2 Peter 3:9

    • God not only chooses the ends but also the means, namely, in this case, the desire to respond. At the back of this desire to respond lurk secondary causes, often in the form of misfortune. We’re all familiar with “man’s importunities are God’s opportunities.” One good example of misfortune is Jesus’ parable of the “Prodigal Son.” The secondary means God provided in that story – the son’s final straw – was pig swill. The primary means God used was his miraculous raising the prodigal son out of that swill by an act of pure mercy and grace. It wasn’t the son’s will that saved him; it was God’s will and God’s swill.

      So, the “means” of God’s provision for salvation embraces far more than the human reponse, and covers all that Jesus makes explicit in the “Great Commission” – Go and preach: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV).

      Excerpt from my God’s will and God’s swill in salvation: thoughts on the Arminian-Calvinist controversy

      About your last Bible passage: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” -2 Peter 3:9.

      The two key words here are “wanting (willing)” and “any.”

      Willing:
      This word has two main meanings in the Bible: 1. God’s decretive will (His decree, which will always be fulfilled), and 2. God’s preceptive will (his commands/precepts to man).
      We know that we disobey God’s preceptive will, that is we do not do what he commands. Important is the fact that God’s decretive will does interfere with his preceptive will; if the former did affect the latter, this would mean that we would not be able to disobey God, because everything God decrees comes to pass.

      Now, which of these two kinds of “will” do we find in 2 Peter 3:9? The decretive will. So, God decrees that not anyone should perish. We now come to “anyone.”

      Anyone:

      If “anyone” means anyone in the world, this would mean that God has decreed that every human bring SHALL be saved (universalism), which is not what the Bible says (although there are some people who say that God will save everybody whoever lived (e.g. George Macdonald, who had a great influence on CS Lewis). So, if “anyone” cannot mean anyone in the world, what does it mean? In the context of Peter’s letter, and usually in the context of all the letters of the Apostles, “any”/”all,” refers to the any/all of the people the letter is addressed to, namely, Christians – those who have been saved already.

  4. I dont believe that everyone will be saved – I pretty much take the Scriptures at face-value.

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John3:16

    God made us differently to the rest of Creation- we’re made in His image & we’re given the power of choice. I can understand the Calvinist way of thinking – not wanting to limit God. Of course God can never be limited but He has chosen the means, as you say. Exactly. What we do is try to figure it all out, which we simply cannot. God does as He pleases – there is no Law that applies to Him – we cant figure Him out. He is the Law giver. But, He has given His Word and expects us to take it as it is. Will He give us understanding when we stop trying to do it in our own strength?

    My thoughts are this – I dont know. I have No idea what Gods plan is – But according to the Scriptures, He has commanded us to Seek the Kingdom of God, to Turn from our sinful ways, to accept Jesus Christ the Messiah and His Death on the Cross, to Spread the Gospel…. for whatever reason that God may have – but in light of all that God has told us throughout the Scriptures of this Word, the Calvinist viewpoint doesnt make sense to me entirely. I say this as a mere mortal who admittingly does not know everything 🙂

    8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the LORD.
    9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
    Isaiah 55

    • Karen, would you regard the view that God has appointed certain sinners for salvation as unbiblical? Would the following be your view: God is pleading unceasingly for sinners to accept Him, but fails in much of His purpose?

  5. I dont think we can understand how God works.. or even try. Of course, God knows the outcome before it happens – He knows our hearts & minds. How can we apply our logic to Gods? Very difficult. Can you do that?

    I really dont like following any particular sect – Calvinist.. that is a person who has applied his logic to scripture.. as for Arminian.. I have no idea what sect that is & am not particularly interested in studying any particular group.. that is almost like going through a middle man – and an unreliable sinner like ourselves at that ..

    The evidence in the call to evangelise, in the Gospel & throughout the Scriptures points more to the latter .. Certainly God can Never fail ..(and this is the way you see the latter explanation?) – He has just chosen a different means to what He would have chosen had we been like the rest of the animals living by instinct, having made us in His image… some of the answer can perhaps be found in the beginning.. we became aware of Right & Wrong. This leads to choice.

    Maybe God – in his wisdom, and foreknowledge – knowing who will accept, draws those? Really, we’re just like children in Christ grappling at difficult questions. The danger is that we should becareful & aware of the outcomes of stating assumptions when we really dont know..

    • Karen your:
      “I really dont like following any particular sect – Calvinist.. that is a person who has applied his logic to scripture.. as for Arminian.. I have no idea what sect that is & am not particularly interested in studying any particular group.. that is almost like going through a middle man – and an unreliable sinner like ourselves at that ..”

      I think it it very important to understand what Calvinism and ARMINIANISM IS. Here is an excerpt from Calvinist Arminians and Arminian Calvinists
      “When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.”

      God’s will is often God’s swill. God’s will and God’s swill in salvation: thoughts on the Arminian-Calvinist controversy

      Karen, the Bible is much clearer on these issues than you indicate. If you read nothing else on the issue, it will be very useful to read what scripture says and what you believe it says. See John Owen’s http://www.albatrus.org/english/theology/reformed/arminianism_exposed_from_owen.htm

      • yes yes I know exacterly what the difference is.. i assumed the one was the opposite of the other – ok, ill do some more studying on this in scripture & come back with a more validated reason for my belief. (a bit difficult from work)

  6. ..when i say ‘ points more to the latter’ – i mean that I think it points more to us having a choice in accepting the gift given by God. I think scriptures point more to that than to a God who has pre-destined us to be either punished (as we all rightfully deserve) or saved – where we have played no role whatsoever.

    If that be the case, why is it neccessary for God to look into & know our Hearts if our hearts play no role?

    Why is it neccessary for God to be patient with us & forgiving? These things are what makes our God so Great – remember that the Kingdom of God is different to the world.

  7. Ezekiel 33:9
    9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

    Ezekiel 33:4-6
    6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’

    Matthew 19:25 -26
    25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

    26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    Luke 7:50
    50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

    Acts 16:29-31
    29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

    31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

    Regarding Matthew 19:25 -26 : this is what it says to me – Man can’t in his own stregnth save himself. Only God can sanctify us to make us acceptable into His kingdom. We need to seek the Kingdom of God first.. what is the kingdom? Those unseen things that are good – thats my take on it.

  8. Pingback: The pith of ”it’s not he who willeth.” Romans 9 and free will « OneDaringJew
  9. Pingback: James White and the burning question of heresy « OneDaringJew

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