Dr. Brian Abasciano Critiques James White’s Argument That Acts 13:48 Proves Unconditional Election

Brian Abasciano, James White’s Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Excerpt:

So really, White’s argument is very weak. Sometimes it seems that some are convinced by arguments like these because an author gives concrete reasons and mentions Greek, but that they do not necessarily think through the arguments well enough. In the midst of White talking about the mysterious sounding Greek pluperfect, he says it would have to apply to such and such a point in the narrative, though without any foundation for doing so, and his following naturally believe it. But the argument is not sound.

Related: Acts 13:48: Two Non-Calvinist Views

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8 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Arminian Today and commented:
    Great post that examines Acts 13:48.

  2. James White responded to Abasciano’s critique on his Dividing Line webcast here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NokaS4jaDD0

    I don’t see a problem with reading the passage using the ‘appointed’ translation. I may be mistaken, but it doesn’t seem that the passage discusses or even implies that the result of the appointment puts a person beyond ever falling away by their own volition. The Scriptures speak about people rejecting the will of God for themselves, neglecting so great a salvation, falling away, etc. It doesn’t seem so far-fetched to reason, then, that some can receive the gift of eternal life by faith and the appointment of God, and then later cast it aside to their own ruin.

  3. As a side note, I think Wesley really has the better approach to this passage. See here: http://evangelicalarminians.org/wesley-on-acts-1348/

  4. James White responded to Brian’s article on his “The Dividing Line” show last week. It appears that James has all the major translators on his side, and his rebuttal of Brian’s article seems plausible. But even if the text does mean the people of Acts 13:48 had been appointed/destined/ordained to eternal life before they heard the gospel and believed, that does not mean a score for Calvinism. The text does not necessarily mean these folks were (pre)destined to eternal life on the basis of God’s sovereign choice apart from His foreknowledge of their faith. God foreknew their choice and appointed/destined them accordingly. When they heard the gospel, they did what God knew they would do: they believed. Had Judas chosen to obey rather than betray Christ, his destiny would have been different; he would have been among those appointed to eternal life. This would have been an appointment based on what God foresaw in Judas. Had Cornelius rejected the gospel, he would not be among those appointed to eternal life, but God knew beforehand that he would believe, so he was appointed to eternal life before he heard the gospel and believed. The appointment to eternal life (or condemnation) is based on the person’s choice, not God’s choice apart from anything He foresees in the person. So even if James White is correct about the translation of Acts 13:48, the verse provides no more proof for Calvinism than it does for Arminianism.

  5. James and Vance,

    I want to respond to your comments, but don’t have time at the moment. For now, I will just say that you can expect a detailed response from Abasciano on White’s comments, and expect it soon.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. Another approach worth considering: Who says the appointment, or ordination, occurred in eternity? James White and other Calvinists assume this to be so, but the text does not tell us when the appointment came. It could have taken place during the lifetimes of those who believed when they heard the gospel. Cornelius is a good example. He was a devout man who prayed and fasted and sought God’s will for his life, but he wasn’t saved — didn’t have eternal life abiding in him — until he believed. Thus, because of his disposition (and it does get back to that, doesn’t it?), he was ordained to eternal life (justification, regeneration) before he heard the gospel. God knew he would believe when he heard, so He sent Peter to him. The Holy Spirit also sent Paul and others to places where they would find people disposed to believe. These people were “appointed to eternal life” in that God knew their hearts and sent messengers to them with the gospel. Thus, all who were appointed to eternal life believed the gospel.

  7. Vance,

    That’s exactly right. And that gets into the problem with White trying to say that the pluperfect makes that interpretation impossible, which is simply false. That was one of the main things Abasciano was addressing in his comments, which White ignored. The view you are advocating above fits in well with how many Arminians (like myself) understand the many texts in John’s Gospel (John 6, 8, 10, etc.) that Calvinists also wrongly assume must have reference to unconditional election from eternity:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/various-thoughts-on-the-calvinist-use-of-john-6-and-related-passages-from-johns-gospel-to-support-calvinism/

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