The Potter’s Freedom

I rarely post things like this because they can become needlessly divisive.  As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, I saw way more Reformed-bashing and just plain misunderstandings of the Reformed position than I saw in the reverse. I consider it an in-house debate among Christians — albeit an important one — and don’t see any reason for either side to be nasty.  Comments will be closely moderated.

I highly recommend The Potter’s Freedom by James White, which thoroughly addresses Chosen But Free by Norm Geisler (or read both — Geisler has an appendix addressing White and White added an appendix addressing Geisler’s response (or those of his students’ class project of responding)).

If I wasn’t Reformed before reading it I would have been afterwards. I always respected Geisler, other than the Ergun Caner debacle, and still appreciate most of what he has done, but White rips him to shreds in the most polite sort of way.

(For the record, I have been in Arminian churches my entire life and am saturated in the Christian culture of Arminianism. My recent switch doesn’t mean I’m right, but the fact is that I made the switch against significant odds and a desire to see Arminianism proved right. But the Bible verses just don’t support it.)

After noting that I’d love to hear a debate between James White and William Lane Craig, someone responded with this:

Craig doesn’t debate other Christians on secondary issues. He views it as a harmful witness. Plus, White isn’t really qualified to debate Craig. He’s got a suspect degree from a suspect university and always says suspect stuff. You just don’t debate every goof on the internet who wants to debate you.

My response:

Comments like that make me even more Reformed :-) . As an Arminian I’d listen to lots of Reformed / Arminian debates and always wonder why they lined up well versed Reformed professionals against Arminian light-weights who mainly trafficked in ad homs and bad exegesis. It just didn’t seem fair. Then I started to think that maybe it was the arguments that were at fault and that that was the best the Arminians could do.

Have you read The Potter’s Freedom? If not, please do, and see if you can do any better than Geisler’s students did in refuting it. (I was embarrassed for Geisler, and I’d been a fan of his for over 15 years). It should be easy, since you insist that he’s just an Internet goof that always says suspect stuff.

P.S. Dawkins will thank you for the excuses Craig gives — he can modify those to use against Craig.

Additional thoughts

“Reformed” and “Arminian” may be overly broad terms.  There are also Molinists, who think that through God’s middle knowledge he selected a world where the most possible people would choose him, and there are many who don’t hold to all 5 points of “Calvinism.”

Having said that, it seems that the logical law of excluded middle would hold that election is either conditional or not conditional, grace is irresistible or not, etc.

Perhaps it is the finance guy / CPA in me, but I don’t get bothered by limited atonement.  There are many arguments to use (really, read the book!), and of course we center on the Bible, but the concept of propitiation (satisfying God’s wrath) alone makes me willing to strongly consider it.  If Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath for everyone’s sins, then there is no wrath left.  Illustrations about them not picking up their gift wouldn’t apply.  The wrath would have already been pored out.

This DVD gives a good overview of the tenets and history of Reformed theology.

Finally, I’ll note that I don’t consider those with opposing views to be non-Christians.

27 thoughts on “The Potter’s Freedom

  1. For me, I am more Arminian than Reformed. That being said, the podcasts I listen to are exclusively Reformed: Matt Slick from CARM, Stand to Reason, Please Convince Me, White Horse Inn… And the church I would consider “my” church is a Reformed Baptist Church. It’s a wonder I’m not Reformed.

    There are many aspects of Reformed theology I find draw a conclusion that isn’t necessarily found in the text, I think there’s a lot of extrapolating. Unconditional Election and Eternal Security are probably the biggest ones for me.

    However, Limited (or, Particular) Atonement I don’t disagree with.

    I would really like a thorough discussion with someone on Unconditional Election and Eternal Security. I can be swayed, I’m not married to any idea I have, I’d rather get it right than feel good about holding a view.

    • John, I would be more than happy to discuss unconditional election and eternal security with you. I personally am currently a four-point Calivinist. I am not convinced the Bible teaches limited atonement. But on the other four points I strongly agree. The problem I have with many Calvinists, though, is that they portray Arminianism as Pelagian. Pelagianism = heresy. Arminianism is not.

  2. I do find myself agreeing more with the Reformed position. I tend to think the TULIP acronym is far too cut and dried, though, and that God has made His salvation far more nuanced than either camp would like to believe. And for the record, even though I used the term “nuanced”, please don’t get the idea that I’m turning emergent :)

    • James, realize that TULIP was a response to Arminians and their statements, not something the Calvinist came up with to help teach he body. So it’s not meant to be perfect, but meant to respond to was was put forth by the students of Jacob Aminius.

      • OK. I haven’t studied the history of either movement. As I implied earlier, the whole TULIP does seem to me to be too cut and dried. It doesn’t seem to take into account several Arminian arguments-otherwise known as Bible verses. It’s not a bad statement, just tends to be too quick, and pat.

      • James, you probably need to spend some more time actually looking at the Bible verses we use to support it. That is one of the differences that we have with Arminians, they point to scripture and scream free will, when a text says nothing about free will, and we keep pointing to passages that show the fallen state of man. OK, not trying to enter into the debate, but wanted you to know the verses for TULIP are overwhelming.

      • Oh, I agree with you, but there is evidence for the Arminian argument, as well. Not nearly as much, so that’s why I say TULIP (just the acronym) seems to be just a bit too cut and dried. When TULIP is fully fleshed out, I don’t think Arminianism can hold a candle to it.

      • I have yet to find real substantive arguments for ANY Calvinist claims. They tend to read the Bible differently than what the text says. Man is fallen, but he still has the image of God, and if there is no free will then we are all just pre-programmed robots. When God gives us commands, the implication is that we have the ability to obey or else the command is a lie. Man has the ability to obey God, but he doesn’t always have the inclination.

        But then, Rick Warren has claimed that God chose when we would be born, who our parents would be, what color our eyes would be, and even what we are saying this very moment. If that isn’t pre-programming, I don’t know what is. But the Bible does not say any of this.

        I don’t debate Arminianism vs Calvinism; I debate the Bible vs Calvinism. And, again, it is really Augustinianism, because he taught it first and Calvin just lapped it up.

      • Glenn, nice diversion with the Rick Warren reference, just like a nice Democrat.

        As for your other sly comment about debating the Bible, that’s funny, because we don’t quote Calvin or Augustine, we quote the Bible.

        I always love guys like you who have their very own “special” category to exist, as if, some how you have reached a higher-plain of existence in that you are a category all unto yourself. How convenient.

        Actually you are another typical Arminian claiming your biblical superiority so we can bow at your feet. Good luck with that.

        BTW, I was purposely avoiding commenting on your comments. However, since you addressed my comments directly, I felt I had no choice.

      • Timothy,
        Why was my Warren reference a diversion? Warren is a 5-pointer, and his book, “Purpose-Driven Life” is a huge seller, and that doctrine went everywhere. That went directly to the issue of whether or not there is such a thing as free will. I find it amazing that people actually think there is no free will.

        Calling me a Democrat is a nice ad hominem, aside from being nasty.

        You might quote the Bible, but you give it the Calvinist slant. I am very, very familiar with all the Calvinist arguments – been reading the stuff for decades. I usually don’t bother getting involved with debating it because it goes nowhere and is waste of time. I just felt the need to respond to Neil’s post.

        I am not in any “special” category – never even intimated as much. Calvinists seem to think there are only two kind of theology – Calvinism and Arminianism. So there are those of us who follow neither and suddenly we are a “special” category?

        I never claimed any “biblical superiority” either – nice straw man.

      • Glenn,
        Main point: I don’t care to dialog with you. I’ve run into enough of the “special” category you place yourself in, to know it’s like nailing Jell-O to the wall.
        Blessings

      • Timothy,

        There’s your problem. Someone refuses to accept Calvinism, does not follow Arminianism, and therefore, according to you, that makes me in a “special” category.

        And THAT is one of the problems with Calvinists. There is no middle ground – you are either Calvinist or Arminian, or else you obviously think you’re “special.” And if you don’t agree, then you suffer insults.

      • Glenn,
        Bring Rick Warren into the conversation, knowing that he is no calvinist, was inflammatory enough. Given our past, you went for it first.

        Secondly, you accuse us of not holding to Scripture, being suspect of Scripture was also enough to inflame.

        Third, given that you have never been able to demonstrate your middle ground with any level of effectiveness, also limits your arguments.

        Fourth, we do not say that man does not have free will. We say he is free to choose whatever his heart desires. His heart is wicked, he chooses darkness over the light every time. But he freely chooses that unless the Spirit intervenes.

  3. I think if anything there are aspects of both and each system gives the appearance of being mutually exclusive from the other… that it must be an all or nothing.

  4. My BIGGEST problem with Calvinist is that if you disagree with them you are automatically labeled an Arminian. I AM NOT AN ARMINIAN!!!! And, I’ve had Calvinists call me a heretic for disagreeing with Calvinism. And another thing – Why do Calvinists think THEY are the ones who have “Reformed” theology? Calvin was a johnny-come-lately in the Reformation, and yet they are the ones who took the name “Reformed.” I think that is mighty presumptuous.

    I tend to do my best to avoid the whole subject, but I totally disagree that Calvinism (Augustinianism) is biblical in any part of TULIP.

    That said, some of my favorite teachers are Calvinists – I just tiptoe thru the TULIPs.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I should probably read the book. I have always been queasy about Calvinism. I am really attracted to Molinism, for which I too would want to see a debate between Craig and White.

  6. I added this to the post . . .

    “Reformed” and “Arminian” may be overly broad terms. There are also Molinists, who think that through God’s middle knowledge he selected a world where the most possible people would choose him, and there are many who don’t hold to all 5 points of “Calvinism.”

    Having said that, it seems that the logical law of excluded middle would hold that election is either conditional or not conditional, grace is irresistible or not, etc.

    Perhaps it is the finance guy / CPA in me, but I don’t get bothered by limited atonement. There are many arguments to use (really, read the book!), and of course we center on the Bible, but the concept of propitiation (satisfying God’s wrath) alone makes me willing to strongly consider it. If Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath for everyone’s sins, then there is no wrath left. Illustrations about them not picking up their gift wouldn’t apply. The wrath would have already been pored out.

    This DVD gives a good overview of the tenets and history of Reformed theology.

    Finally, I’ll note that I don’t consider those with opposing views to be non-Christians.

  7. I agree. Reformed Theology is superior – especially when dealing with the problem of evil. it is just elegant and brings the most glory to God. Bill Craig is a cool guy. I like him but Craig will stand no chance against White. White is just a great thinker and takes no prisioners. That said, Craig has his own role in the harvest so we should be very gracious to him for teaching us a lot of great stuff. I think we all owe Craig a couple of apologetics tricks and bits. Craig and White should just get the tension off by getting together for a beer and chatting about who their favorite disciple is!

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