Dr. James White’s Definitional Inconsistency
April 15, 2012, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Arminianism, Roman Catholicism

written by Christopher Macfarlane

When I was really getting into reformation theology (otherwise known as ‘Calvinism’), no one really impacted me the way that Dr. James White ofAlpha and Omega Ministries had. For years now I have been consistently listening to his radio webcast The Dividing Line. I haven’t missed a show. I’ve also watched a majority of his YouTube videos, purchased 4 of his books, a few debates as well as lectures. I’ve even tried to be part of the AoMin chat channel, but never stuck with it. Dr. White has also done extensive work in the areas of Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnessism, and Islam. But one thing about him has continued to frustrate me, and I feel like the last two shows have really highlighted this. I happened to listen to them back to back since I catch the show on podcast. Anyhow, I want to keep it brief, but need to just lay out some points first. 

March 29, 2012

In this particular webcast, Dr. White responded to an article by C. Michael Patton. Patton’s article argued that he isn’t sure if Roman Catholics are brothers or if even Protestants are brothers, but what he does know is that they both believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Patton uses Christ’s question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” as the litmus test for justification before God. Dr. White argued that Roman Catholicism does not have the gospel, and consequently those who hold to Rome’s teachings are not brothers. I wholeheartedlyagree. He had also mentioned that Roman Catholicism renders Christ’s atonement insufficient because it needs to be repeated over and over again at the mass. Again, I agree. Despite Rome saying, “We are saved by grace,” they do not definitionally mean the same thing that we mean. They do not have the gospel. Those who hold to Rome’s doctrine are not brothers because they believe a false gospel. Plain and simple.

He rightly criticized folks who think like Mr. Patton, saying that for them the gospel is no longer definitional. Dr. White argued that folks like this say, “Well, you get this right over here and that right over there, so you’re a brother” and that this had led to postmodernism in the visible church. I also agree here too.

Later, he cut to a commercial break. And one of the commercials that aired was for Dr. White’s book The Potter’s Freedom, a response to Dr. Norm Geisler’s book Chosen But Free. Dr. Geisler wrote the book with the intention of destroying ‘Calvinism’. There was one line in the commercial that stuck out to me though that hadn’t really before. In speaking of White’s response to Geisler, the commercial said “It is a defense of the very gospel itself.” This got me thinking. Dr. Geisler is an Arminian (although he’d call himself a ‘moderate Calvinist’, which is a confusing way of Geisler saying ‘Arminian’). Dr. White was refuting Geisler’s book, defending Calvinism, which the commercial referred to as the gospel itself. This reminded me of the episodes a few years ago where Dr. White responded to Geisler’s sermon “5 Reasons Why I’m Not a 5 Point Calvinist.” And I was reminded again of something that bothered me about it. Dr. White referred to Dr. Geisler as a brother. He also refers to Dave Hunt this way. This is confusing to me because they are Arminians, and Arminianism is a point by point refutation of Calvinism. Sure, they may share certain doctrines with us like the deity of Christ, but definitionally, they mean something different when they say “we are all sinners” or “Christ died for me” or “I’m saved by grace.”

April 3, 2012

There was one thing in particular that really stuck out to me in this show, that intensified the thought I had from the previous show and from times before. Dr. White began to tell a story about how in the 90′s he and a group of people were going to Mesa, Arizona to the Mormon General Conference in order to pass out gospel tracts and speak to Mormons. It’s something that Dr. White has done regularly. Well, he said that this particular time another group of people wanted to join them, only they wanted to use their own tracts. He quickly learned that they were Arminians. They told him, “We just come down on a different place than you when it comes to the will of man and the grace of God.” White then said, “So, you want us as one group to have two different messages for the Mormons, especially on the issue of the sufficiency of God’s grace?” He decided not to work with them, and still considered it to be a good choice to this day. I think it was too.

But that’s my issue. He still considers them brothers. I don’t get it. I’ve heard him review sermon after sermon of guys that believe the exact opposite of what he does on Christ’s sufficiency, and still consider them brothers. As I mentioned before, Geisler, Hunt, even William Lane Craig. I just don’t get it. There was a word that was added to my vocabulary as a result of listening to the Dividing Line. It is “consistency.” I’ve never heard anyone use it more than Dr. White. And I love the word. I have since prayed for discernment and consistency. That’s why I must look at someone with an opposing worldview as not being a brother. Some have accused Arminianism as being the “milk” and Calvinism as being the “meat” as though Arminianism was a lesser form of Calvinism. If it is a lesser form, then what can we possibly add to Arminianism to make it Calvinism without stripping it of foundational doctrines?

We can argue all day long about how simple the gospel can be. But is this how we ought to argue? Instead of battling over how simple it should be, shouldn’t we rather battle over what it is? And what it is is definitional. This has nothing to do with the strawman of “perfect knowledge.” In fact, Dr. White even accused “hyper Calvinists” of this, all while making the point that certain doctrines must be believed. And that’s what I’m saying too. I’m not saying we divide over particular issues regarding eschatology (although some can compromise the gospel), hymnody vs psalmody, or how often we have Lord’s Supper. This is dividing over the gospel and the sufficiency of Christ. Someone who professes to hold to Calvinism, while understanding Arminianism and considering such men brothers, logically doesn’t believe either, does he? Isn’t this like saying A can equal non A? Can I say, “Yes I am a man.” But that man over there says I am a woman, and he is right too. Well, what do I believe?! Accusing others of being postmodern, but taking this type of position is inconsistent. Leave the worrying over the gospel’s simplicity to postmoderns like C. Michael Patton. Let us instead define the gospel and stand on it, drawing a dividing line in the sand once and for all.

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10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

But hey, if he did what you said should be done, he wouldn’t “have an influential ministry”! Similarly, if paedobaptists stopped saying that God had promised their infants salvation, those paedobaptists would suddenly have way less people in their “churches”.

Comment by markmcculley

I have felt the exact same way about Dr. White. I listen to everything he does and I profit greatly, but I cannot stand when he calls Arminians brothers.

Comment by keezeed

Excellent point. I am also a big fan of James White, and can’t wait for his next podcast, but this Arminians thing bothers the Hades out of me. I try to justify their view of justification (free will and all that) exactly as you say “imperfect – milky – knowledge” but it doesn’t gel with me; in fact, it sticks big time in my elected craw. One example is James’ “brother” Michael Brown, whom I also like very much (after all, he’s a fellow Jew, and is good at exegeting the Hebrew Bible). I want so much to call Michael my brother.

And hey, what if your wife is an Arminians! You’re safe, because she is your wife not your sister.

Having said this, James White makes my day. And you must admit, when he gets the giggles (on his dividing line) you giggle along, sometimes, too.

Bothered brother (onedaringjew)

Comment by Catherine Gamaroff

The previous comment was from me, not my wife (my sister?)

Comment by Raphael Gamaroff

My wife is not an “Arminians” but an Armed Minion.

Comment by Raphael Gamaroff

hahah Catherine, yes, I still listen to the DL. I still learn a lot from Dr. White, and love his sense of humor. I do find the Dr. Brown stuff bothersome too. I was big time into Dr. Brown for a while too (before Dr. White) actually.

Comment by Sovereign Grace Society

Christopher,
I wrote this piece that might interest you.

http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/calvinists-neo-gnostic-calvinists-and-seeking-arminians/

By the way, the Catherine above is moi (I mistakenly posted above through her mail).

Raphael

Comment by bography

o cool! I’ll check it out 🙂 Thanks.

Comment by Sovereign Grace Society

Will you accept Arminians, if not as brothers, (kissing) cousins?

Comment by bography

Christopher

Have you listened to the last two episodes of the “Dividing Line” where James White (our brother, for sure) does a good job of attacking (gently) Michael Brown’s synergistic position?

Comment by bography




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