Dr. Brian Abasciano’s Second Response to James White on 1 John 5:1

Brian Abasciano, “A Reply to James White on 1 John 5:1 And The Order of Faith and Regeneration”

You can find the beginning of his interaction with James White here

Excerpt:

Ironically, it is White who argues regarding 1 John 5:1 as the JW’s do regarding 2 Peter 1:1. For they point to minor syntactical differences in 2 Peter 1:1 from the other uses of the Granville Sharp construction in 2 Peter to argue that 1:1 does not refer to Jesus as God. Compare White arguing that the minor syntactical differences in 1 John 2:29, 4:7, and 5:1 from other instances in John involving an articular present participle combined with a perfect indicative make 2:29, 4:7, and 5:1 a special Johannine usage that differs from normal Greek grammar. Take this example of JW apologist Greg Strafford arguing the JW position on 2 Peter 1:1.

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“We can see that four out of the five articulated nouns are the same; one is significantly different. In 2 Peter 1:1 we have θεός and in the other four Peter uses κύριος. The question we ask is, Why would Peter call Christ “God” in verse 1, but in 1:11, 2:20, 3:2, and 3:18 use “Lord”? . . . he uses “Lord” for Jesus in a number of instances. . . However, when referring to the Father, Peter uses θεός 45 times, excluding 2 Peter 1:1” (Greg Stafford,Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics (2nd edn.; Huntington Beach: Elihu Books, 2000, 404).

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Notice how similarly the JW apologist argues to White. He argues that a minor difference in Peter’s use of the construction in 2 Peter 1:1 means it does not carry the same import as the construction normally does in 2 Peter—and though he does not mention it specifically, generally in Greek grammar. And his numbers are much more impressive than White’s. Rather than 2 instances White can cite in 1 John, Stafford points to 4 in 2 Peter (admittedly there are only 4 instances of the present participle/perfect indicative construction in John outside of 1 John 5:1, two that White can point to and two that go against him). And then he points out that Peter uses θεός of the Father a whopping 45 times excluding 2 Peter 1:1. Talk about a consistent pattern! Of course, we know that Stafford is wrong here in his conclusions, and so is White in regard to 1 John 5:1. In the former case, normal Greek grammar identifies Jesus with God and minor syntactical difference does not change that. In the latter case, normal Greek grammar portrays the action of the present participle and perfect indicative as roughly simultaneous (or the present participle preceding the perfect indicative) allowing for logical order but not indicating it, and minor syntactical differences do not change that.

 

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Dr. Brian Abasciano Answers James White on 1 John 5:1

You can find the link to the podcast and some brief supplemental comments from Dr. Abasciano at SEA:

Brian Abasciano Interviewed on the Claims of James White Concerning the Greek of 1 John 5:1 and the Order of Faith and Regeneration

Dr. Brian Abasciano’s Follow-up Response to James White on Acts 13:48

Brian Abasciano, “A Reply to James White Concerning His Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Excerpt:

The pluperfect construction places the disposing prior to the belief of the subjects of the verbs in Acts 13:48, which means that it could have happened any time before they believed. But strikingly, White does not contest this point, which shows a concrete error on his part, but sidesteps it by attacking my suggestion that the people in view could have been disposed to eternal life by various means, including the preaching of the gospel the previous week, and he does so on the basis of Calvinist theology as opposed to exegetical points drawn from the context of Acts 13. Ironically, he accuses me of eisegesis at this very point when his reply is a vivid display of it.

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

Great Follow-up Comments by David Martinez on the Recent Conversation Between James White and Austin Fischer

You can read the post at SEA here.

David does a fine job exposing White’s spurious debate tactics.  James White has truly made an art out of poisoning the well as Martinez well points out (See post below for more evidence).  And again, we see the tired old assumption that one cannot possibly disagree with Calvinism on Biblical grounds.  Why?  Because Calvinism is so obviously Biblical, of course.  So any disagreement with Calvinism must be driven by some sort of ulterior motive or disrespect for Scripture.

David also does a great job easily dispatching the horrible Calvinist prooftexting of John 17:9.  I will borrow one of White’s favorite superlative phrases and agree with Martinez in my “utter amazement” that Calvinists still try to use this passage to support Calvinism.  I’m amazed, truly and utterly amazed!

Related:

Those in Glass ivory Towers Shouldn’t Throw Stones

Five Part Series Responding to C. Michael Patton’s “The Irrationality of Calvinism” (Highlights Several Problems With Calvinist Argumentative Techniques and Fallacious Debate Tactics).

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics (14 Part Series on Apologetic Fallacies Typically Employed by Calvinists Like James White)

Where Calvinism Gets Romans 9 Wrong: Prerogative Equals Unconditionality

Continuing with the series on Romans 9, we’ll now address the issue of God’s prerogative in saving who He wishes and how Calvinists often misinterpret its implications.

God’s Prerogative Reaffirmed

When speaking to zealous Calvinists, especially those who are very young and/or “educated” by internet echo chambers, the strawmen abound. It’s not uncommon to hear nonsense like,

“Arminians believe that man uses faith to save himself!”

“Free will means that God HAS to save someone who chooses to have faith!”

“The poor Arminian god can’t save people because he’s not sovereign enough to make them believe!”

The problem is further exacerbated by factually sloppy reformed polemicists who put forth no effort whatsoever towards accurate portrayal when discussing Arminian theology, James White being one of the worst offenders,

“…while the synergists get a lot of mileage out of preaching “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life if you will only let him into your heart” the absolutely necessary counterpoint to their feel-good proclamation is “however, I can never tell you He can truly save you perfectly and completely because, after all, my entire point is that He is helpless aside from your cooperation. (White, J. , ‘Phil Johnson on “Desire”‘)”

In contrast to White’s blundering portrayal of God being helpless, the scriptural teaching that he attacks so vehemently paints a far different picture than the one he attempts to dupe believers with. In the initial post in this series, we saw that God has an absolute divine prerogative to save whoever He wishes to. On that particular issue I have no disagreement with our Calvinist brethren. What that prerogative entails is another matter altogether.

Sovereignty Defined

The term “sovereignty” itself denotes power, dominion, and authority. A king is sovereign over his country, a man is sovereign over his house. To say that God is “absolutely sovereign” is simply to say He’s omnipotent –all-powerful over everything. I wouldn’t think anyone who believes scripture to dispute such a claim. As stated above, this naturally extends to who is saved; God not only has power to save, but a divine right to choose who is saved.

From that premise, the reasoning of most (sans those few who are more logically astute) Calvinists goes something like:

“God can save whoever He wants, therefore God saves who He wants to on an entirely unconditional basis.”

Those of you versed in logic may recognize that this type of reasoning is a non-sequitur, a fallacous conclusion that doesn’t necessarily follow from the premise(s).

The Critical Flaw in the Calvinist’s Reasoning

The reason why such logic doesn’t follow is that power tells us what one is capable of, not how that power is used. One who exercises his power one way rather than another isn’t more powerful for doing so. This can be easily demonstrated from an example of temporal authority. Let’s say there’s a general in the U.S. military who has been assigned an aide. The aide’s task today is to fill out some forms. The general has several options to get him to do so:

1. Give the order for him to do so and expect him to obey it without supervision.
1. Give the order for him to do so and expect him to obey it while occasionally checking on his progress.
3. Give the order for him to do so and stand over his shoulder to ensure he obeys it.

Q: Which of these options, if taken, will give the general more authority?
A: None. His rank and how he carries out his mission are two separate issues.

Q: Which of these options, if taken, is an indicator of a more power and/or authority on the general’s part?
A: None. All of these options are within a general’s authority to employ. His choosing one or the other tells us nothing beyond that.

How much authority someone has is no indicator of how said power will be used. Much as in the case of the general above, how and on what basis God chooses to save sinners is His prerogative; one method doesn’t make Him “more sovereign” than another, nor does His omnipotence necessitate only a particular method. This is why the occasions in which the over-zealous Calvinists hurl the typical “you deny God’s sovereignty” charge against someone who believes in conditional election merely show that they’re ignorant of what God’s sovereignty actually means and entails.

Armed with these mistaken principles, Calvinists then proceed to interpret Romans 9 in a likewise errant fashion, so that when the chapter speaks of God’s prerogative in who He saves, e.g. “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion,” many eager young Calvinists automatically read, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, which of course means that I do so on an entirely unconditional basis in accordance with the Westminster confession!” In fact, such a statement doesn’t tell us God’s basis for His choices, merely that who is saved and how is His to decide, which does not preclude His saving people on the conditional basis of faith in Christ.

Bottom Line:

The concept of God having power to choose who to save itself tells us nothing about how or upon what basis He chooses to save.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #7: Arminianism Leads to Universalism

Related Fallacies:
Oversimplification
Non-Sequitur
Slippery Slope

“The choices are not between Calvinism and Arminianism; it’s between Calvinism and universalism. Arminianism is a self-contradictory mess that can never defend itself.” – James White

This is a favorite rhetorical jab of many Calvinists, but is in fact one of the more obvious fallacies they often employ. The logic behind it is simple and can be summed up with the statement:

“If Christ’s death saves, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

Seems pretty easy, right?

Problems with this logic

Turns out the simplicity of the argument is its weakness, because it masks a hidden difference in underlying assumptions. The critical distinction lies in the first part of the sentence, “…Christ’s death saves….”

The differences in viewpoint on atonement

5-point Calvinists (and those of similar belief) view Christ’s atonement as a definite and unconditional act, that is to say, those who Christ died for will definitely receive its benefit, with no exceptions. Arminians (and most other Christians) view His atonement as provisioned upon faith, so that all the people it’s made for will receive its benefit only if they believe.

One can further clarify what is meant by “Christ’s death saves” from these beliefs. For the Calvinist, it means, “Christ’s death saves absolutely everyone for which it was made.” For the Arminian, it means, “Christ’s death saves all who believe in Him.” So the summary statement above makes sense if the Calvinist view of the atonement is assumed:

“If Christ’s death saves absolutely everyone for which it was made, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

Of course, Calvinists aren’t using this kind of logic to argue against their own view. Since they’re trying to show how ‘self-contradictory’ the Arminian view is, it would be only fair to assume the Arminian view of the atonement when making the statement, which would then be:

“If Christ’s death saves all who believe in Him, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

This of course doesn’t follow, since it’s not been shown that everyone Christ died for will necessarily believe in Him. Given God’s foreknowledge that He reveals in scripture concerning some people and the Arminian view of resistible grace, it’s quite evident that no Bible-believing and logically consistent Arminian can accept the idea of Universalism.

I suppose that if it could be proved that Arminians (who believe the scriptures which tell us that Christ died for all men) for some mysterious reason could only become ‘consistent Arminians’ by accepting the non-Arminian/Calvinist view of the atonement, then the accusation of inevitable Universalism might hold water. Until then, the assertion remains a ridiculous slippery slope.