I had not heard even a
whisper about the inclusion of an appendix (now the 13th
appendix in the book) in a new edition of Dr. Norman
Geisler’s Chosen But
a kind brother in Indianapolis e-mailed me and informed me of
the appendix, assuming, however, that I had already seen it.
I had not. I
immediately requested, and received, a copy of the book from
Bethany House Publishers.
Things had been pretty quiet on
the “Potter’s Freedom Front” over the past number of
had moved to Dave Hunt’s new attack upon Reformed theology.
So I was intrigued as I waited for my copy to arrive.
My correspondent had only indicated that the response
did not contain the one thing that would, in fact, be
necessary to such a reply: exegesis.
But I had to wait a few days to find out for myself.
When the book arrived I
immediately noted that the appendix, twelve pages in length,
made scant, even rare, reference to Scripture at all. A few references are noted in passing, but there is not even
the first attempt at the inclusion of meaningful exegesis.
This was the first in a long line of disappointments.
The next thing I noted was the
glaring presence of ad hominem argumentation, even in the
midst of accusing me of using it in The
Potter’s Freedom (hereafter TPF).
While the review begins and ends with kind personal
words about me, the body is anything but kind nor respectful.
At one point, before introducing an entire list of
alleged errors (none of which, upon examination, are found to
be in error at all), the text begins, “PF
offers virtually unlimited opportunities for beginning
theology students to identify logical fallacies.”
Later we are told, “the author takes great pride in
his exegetical skills” even though we are not given any
references or basis upon which this assertion is made.
Further examples follow in the review. The appendix
says TPF engages in
name-calling, ad hominem argumentation, and poisoning the
well, which, if true, would be serious charges.
But it did not take long for the next phase of the
frustration of this response to set in: the incredible number
of simple page citation errors. As I sat down with the appendix, the original printing of Chosen
But Free (hereafter CBF),
and TPF, I very quickly began to realize that someone had not done their
and over again page citations are given to TPF
that are nowhere to be found, making responding to the
allegations just a bit difficult.
Given the effort that went into accurately citing CBF,
it was disappointing to read, for example, that I engaged in
ad hominem argumentation against Dr. Geisler by saying his
exegesis is not “meaningful” (how that is ad hominem is
hard to understand) on page 20 of TPF. However, there is
nothing on pages 19, 20, or 21 that is relevant to such a
statement, especially since the word appears in quotes in the
appendix. There is no discussion of Geisler’s exegesis in
this section, and the closest one can come is the use of the
word “meaningful” on page 21 in the sentence, “There is
simply no attempt to interact on
a meaningful level with the many Reformed works that
provide in-depth, serious biblical exegesis and argumentation
in defense of the Reformed position.”
That statement is proven true throughout the rest of TPF,
and surely is not an example of ad-hominem.
The same kind of error is found in a number of the
One allegation of an error on the
part of TPF that is
almost humorous, and shows that the author(s) of the review
seemed to be a bit desperate to find errors in my work, is
found in the assertion that I mis-cited CBF.
Here is the text:
example, PF correctly notes that God’s electing “in spite of” His
foreknowledge could better be rendered “independent of” (PF, 67) and that “so dead” (PF,
104) is redundant. (Parenthetically, there are similar errors
in PF. For instance,
“world” should be “word” on 261 and 262, and PF misquotes
my statement about “unlimited” atonement [CBF,
199], calling it “limited” atonement [PF,
The appendix is correct
that “world” should be “word” on 261 and 262: the
electronic version of Calvin I utilized does indeed contain a
scan error at that point.
However, the second allegation is most interesting, if
for no other reason than to give insight into how things like
this happen in publication work.
The quotation of Dr. Geisler as it appears in TPF
is perfectly accurate. The
first publication of CBF
contained his error at this point.
I caught the error, and even contacted the editorial
staff at BHP to see if they could offer an explanation for the
could not. Seemingly
unbeknownst to the author(s) of the appendix, anyway, CBF
went through a second printing, and corrections were made at
that time. Since
I had raised the issue, it was “fixed.”
When the author(s), then, began looking for things to
pick on in the text of TPF he unwittingly used the second printing, not the first (which is
what TPF was based
on). As a result,
I am accused of mis-citing Geisler, when in fact, I cited him
correctly, caught his error, pointed it out, and hence was
helpful in correcting his own work! Yet, despite this, it is included in a rebuttal of my
work. Such is surely ironic, if not a bit humorous.
But the page number errors were
almost insignificant next to the most amazing aspect of this
attempted review. The
reader may have noted that to this point I have referred to
“the appendix,” “the review,” and “the author(s),”
not to Dr. Geisler. The
reason is simple: I find it next to impossible to believe that
Dr. Geisler actually wrote the entirety of this review. Why? Because
this review not only ignores the vast majority of the book it
is allegedly responding to, but much more, the
author(s) of this review either lacks the capacity, or the
integrity, to deal with the material before him or her in an
honest, contextual fashion. The interaction offered is so
flawed on a consistent basis that one is left, at times,
completely speechless that anyone with a high
school education, let alone multiple doctorates, could
ever produce such material.
So consistently does the review miss the basics of the
English language that I have concluded that it simply could
not come from Dr. Geisler’s pen.
Surely, he is accountable for it, as it appears under
his name, but I truly believe he entrusted the task to someone
else, perhaps an undergraduate student or students (a class
project, perhaps?), as this is the only
possible explanation for the kind of egregiously silly errors
one finds in this response.
Strong words require factual
backing. Here is
the classic example of how this review completely ignores
context and loses all contact with reality in its desperate
attempt to give the appearance of a response to TPF.
On page 29 of TPF
I was just getting started in explaining the need for a
response to Dr. Geisler’s attack upon Reformed theology.
In explaining various aspects of the issues raised by
Dr. Geisler, I wrote the following paragraph:
is great confidence in trusting in God’s sovereignty,
especially when it comes to the fact that even Christians are
willing to place their own supposed freedom and autonomy over
the true freedom and autonomy of God.
I have seen many precious souls struggle through these
foundational issues and emerge changed, strengthened, with a
new and lasting appreciation of the holiness and love of God
along with a passion for His grace that cannot be erased.
While I am grieved at the confusion that books like CBF
cause, I am confident that the Word is so clear, so plain, and
so compelling, that the mere presentation of its truths is
sufficient for the child of God.
And it is to that we now turn.
I honestly do not believe
this is a difficult paragraph to understand.
The context and meaning are easily discerned.
I am not here discussing Dr. Geisler’s exegesis.
In fact, he is not mentioned in the paragraph.
mentioned only in passing as a source of confusion.
But the point of the paragraph is simple: God’s truth
remains God’s truth, and when Christians honestly seek to
know God’s truth from the pages of His Word, they will find
it. It may
involve struggle, as they work through traditions and
misunderstandings, but the Word is sufficient for the task.
Evidently, however, the paragraph
caused no end of difficulty for the author or authors of the
newly published “response” in CBF.
Twice a single phrase from this page is cited in the
phrase is “mere presentation,” found in the second to last
line of the paragraph, “I am confident that the Word is so
clear, so plain, and so compelling, that the mere presentation
of its truths is sufficient for the child of God.”
The first time “mere presentation” appears is on
page 255 under the subtitle, “Ad Hominem.” We read,
fallacy literally means a response “to the man” (rather
than to the argument). Throughout PF,
the author takes great pride in his exegetical skills, while
any exegesis of the text contrary to his is labeled not
“consistent” (19), not “meaningful” (20), not “in
depth” (136), a “mere presentation” (29), or not based
on “definitive” works (254).
None of the citations are
even semi-accurate examples of ad hominem, and each is a
fascinating example of how to avoid the obvious, but note
especially the inclusion of the phrase “mere presentation”
and the reference, (29).
Here we are told that if a person were to look on page
29 of TPF they would
find a seemingly prideful dismissal of Dr. Geisler’s
exegetical conclusions as a “mere presentation.” And yet,
the reader is invited to once again read the above cited
paragraph and attempt to figure out how anyone
could possibly make any logical connection between what
actually appears on page 29 of TPF and what this review alleges is on that page.
There is simply no way to so completely and utterly
misread such a passage. It
is bad enough that one such blunder would appear in the text
of the review, but the error is only compounded by the fact
that the same review repeats
the same error but this time it contradicts itself and
gives a completely different context!
This is why this might well have been a “class
project,” as this kind of incredible inconsistency would be
explainable on that basis.
Note what is said on page 258:
contends that a “mere presentation” of my view is not
sufficient (29), yet it sometimes does the same for its view
and at times even no presentation at all, such as an
explanation of one of the most difficult verses for extreme
Calvinists, 2 Peter 2:1 (251).
Note that this time the
phrase “mere presentation” is placed not in the alleged
context of ad hominem argument against the exegesis of Dr.
Geisler, but in a completely different arena!
One is simply left without words to describe the utter
lack of coherent thought that lies behind such a reply.
[And I note in passing that this review, which is
defending an allegedly “comprehensive” work against
Calvinism that somehow did not include any meaningful exegesis
of John 6:37-44, ignores the fact that I referred my readers
to Gary Long’s fine, and very full, discussion of 2 Peter
singular example, you say?
reader who actually sits down, as I have, and looks each
reference up will be left in shock by the end of the second
page of this review. Here
is another example that displays the same complete lack of
comprehension of the basics of language and discourse.
To grasp just how completely this
review misses the mark, it is necessary to provide a fairly
large section from chapter two of TPF.
In this chapter I carefully and methodically traced Dr.
Geisler’s view on “predeterminately knowing/knowingly
predetermining” back through his earlier writings. I interacted with these sources, attempting to explain
Geisler’s view as accurately as possible.
Note the following:
here we run directly into the most problematic element of
Geisler’s paradigm: “there is no chronological or logical
priority of election and foreknowledge.” That means that in his system one cannot ask the question
that has been asked by generations of theologians before him:
it has always been recognized that God either bases His
election and decrees on what he foresees
in the free actions of creatures, or, His decree and election
determines what takes place in time.
In the first scenario, the creatures are by default the
sovereigns of the universe, since their wills and actions are
ultimate; God becomes a mere servant of the creature, reacting
rather than reigning. In
the second, God is absolutely free and man, the creature, acts
in accordance with his created nature.
But Geisler (it seems) attempts to chart a different
course, in essence saying that one cannot ask which one gives
rise, logically, to the other.
Geisler bases this assertion on
the statement that “all of God’s attributes are one with
his indivisible essence.
Hence, both foreknowledge and predetermination are one
in God.” It is
somewhat startling that generations of Christian theologians
could have missed such a simple truth and as a result have
needlessly argued over this issue for generations.
But does the simplicity of the Being of God necessitate
that there really is no logical relationship between
foreknowledge and predetermination?
It is at this very point that
Geisler’s thesis is subject to devastating criticism.
John Feinberg was quite right to respond:
granting God such knowledge does not
mean that he does not know the logical sequence and relations
among the items that he knows.
Moreover, granting that God foreordains all things
simultaneously does not mean that there is no logical order in
what he foreordains. For
example, God always knew that Christ would be born and would
also die. But he also understood that logically (as well as
chronologically) one of those events had to precede the other.
That does not mean that God knew one of those events
before he knew the other.
It only means that in knowing
both simultaneously, he knows the logical and chronological
relation between the two events.
one can point to the fact that God is fully just
and fully merciful. Yet, even these two aspects of God’s character bear a
logical relationship to the other: one cannot define mercy without logical reference to justice. Hence, the
mere assertion that God’s Being is simple and one does not
logically entail accepting the idea that there is no logical
relationship between God’s act of decreeing, His election,
His foreordination, and his knowledge of future events.
We must agree with Feinberg when he summarizes the question Geisler
(and everyone else) must answer: “does God foreknow because
he foreordains or does he foreordain because he foreknows?”
The fact is we will see that Dr. Geisler does take a de facto
position on this topic.
More properly, we should speak of God as knowingly
determining and determinately
knowing from all eternity everything that happens,
including all free acts....In other words, all aspects of the
eternal purpose of God are equally timeless.
For if God is an eternal and simple Being then his
thoughts must be coordinate and unified.
Whatever he forechooses cannot be
based on what he
can what he foreknows be based on what he forechose.
Both must be simultaneous and coordinate acts of God.
Thus God knowingly determined and determinately knew
from all eternity everything that would come to pass,
including all free acts.
Hence, they are truly free actions, and God determined
they would be such. God
then is totally sovereign in the sense of actually determining
what occurs, and yet humans are completely free and
responsible for what they choose.
is very difficult to understand these words, given that they
are based upon the assertion that there is no logical priority
of foreordination to foreknowledge, for they are “one.”
But given that in point of fact there is no reason to
accept this assertion, we are still left with the classical
conundrum of how God can be sovereign over all things on one
hand, and man “completely free” on the other.
Using phrases like “determinately knowing” or
“knowingly determining” does not in reality solve the
problem, it only confuses it.
At this point it is good to note
that there is a real danger in misunderstanding the use of the
term “predetermined” or just “determined.”
Most people upon reading this term think of a positive,
volitional action on the part of God: i.e., in the sense
of decreeing that something is going happen, such as the
crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:28) which took place, we are
told, as God’s power and will had decided beforehand.
Most people understand these terms to speak to
something active on
the part of God. But
we will see this is not Geisler’s meaning.
When he speaks of “knowingly determining,” the active
element is gone. “Determined”
here refers to the passive
recognition of the actions of free men, not the sovereign decree
that the action would take place through
the instrumentality of creatures.
In other words, what Geisler means is that God
“determines” what will take place through
His perfect knowledge.
It would be like my saying that “I determined the
water in the pool was very cold by putting my toe in the
here is passive: I did not make
the water hot or cold, I just passively took in knowledge that
it was, in fact, cold. We
could contrast this with my saying, “I installed a heating
system in my pool, and determined the temperature would stay
at 76 degrees.” Here,
“determined” is active because I am actually making the
water a particular temperature.
When Geisler speaks of God “determining” things he
is saying that since God has perfect, complete, and
instantaneous knowledge of all events, past, present, and
future, then He determines those actions--but this is solely in the passive sense.
The grand issue of whether God actively
decrees whatsoever comes to pass is, in fact, directly denied.
In this sense, Geisler’s position, despite all the
theological terminology and discussion of sovereignty, is very
much the same as the Arminian who says that God merely looks
into the future and elects on the basis of what He sees.
While Geisler repeats his assertion that one cannot
logically determine the relationship between foreknowledge and
predetermination, his constant emphasis upon the absolute freedom of the creature betrays the reality of his system.
(TPF, pp. 56-59).
The reader will note that
the discussion of Geisler’s position is full and as clear as
his own confusing and non-standard use of terminology will
response ignores the entirety of this chapter’s
argumentation, choosing instead to isolate phrases from it
rather than deal with its actual content.
But, the author(s) did choose to take a particularly
cheap and amazingly shallow shot at me based upon this section
anyway. The appendix provides a long list of alleged
misrepresentations (none of which prove to be accurate upon
examination), followed by the complaint that the author counts
no less than forty examples of misrepresentation of his
position. Then we
encounter these amazing words:
in one place PF even
admits finding it difficult to understand my view (58). One
might ask how something can be properly evaluated which is
not properly understood. Nonetheless, this failure to
comprehend my position does not impede in the least the overly
zealous, pedantic, and at times somewhat arrogant critique
of it in PF.
One is again left airing
one’s tonsils at such writing.
One can find the relevant text immediately above,
specifically the beginning of the paragraph that reads, “It
is very difficult to understand these words, given that they
are based upon the assertion that there is no logical priority
of foreordination to foreknowledge, for they are ‘one.’”
But as anyone can see, this was not
an admission that I found it difficult to understand the view,
nor that I failed to comprehend it!
How can the author(s) of this response possibly read
that paragraph in the midst of the entirety of the context
which provides full and accurate discussion of Geisler’s
position and make such an absurd claim as this, and then have
the temerity to follow it up with language such as “overly
zealous, pedantic, and at times arrogant”?
By this time the reader is surely beginning to
understand why I see a group project or a misguided
undergraduate student behind this response.
I said on our webcast shortly after reading this review
that on the simple level of utter misrepresentation of the
text being reviewed, this work rivals anything produced by
Gail Riplinger! Not
even the Watchtower has had the courage to put this kind of
material in print. And
while Dr. Geisler remains responsible for it (it appears under
his name), surely it is not possible that any person with
graduate training could possibly miss the basic meaning of
language with such consistency.
Maybe these are just two anomalies, albeit glaring and
egregious ones? Well,
let’s try one more just to make sure the point is firmly
One of the issues that I
raised in TPF had to do with the way CBF
dealt with truly scholarly Reformed material, such as the
writings of John Owen or John Piper.
I documented how CBF
used highly unscholarly techniques to attack Piper’s work
and allege error when in fact nothing of the substance of
Piper’s work was even quoted, let alone refuted (a technique
taken to the extreme in this response).
I likewise noted the amazing accusation of “adding to
the Bible” on the part of CBF
against John Owen. As
this runs in very close parallel with the treatment of my own
work, and as it again demonstrates that the original context
of any work under review by CBF
and its author(s) is utterly irrelevant, I reproduce the
discussion here from TPF
and then provide the comments from the new response.
frustrating to the Reformed believer who has provided a
reasoned and Scripturally-based defense of their beliefs is
the utter lack of
serious interaction on the part of CBF
with such works. There
is simply no attempt to interact on
a meaningful level with the many Reformed works that
provide in-depth, serious biblical exegesis and argumentation
in defense of the Reformed position. While some works, such as Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ and Piper’s The
Justification of God, are mentioned, and even cited, the
responses are so surface-level that they amount to nothing
more than a dismissal, not a rebuttal.
And even here, the Reformed material is handled in such
a cavalier manner as to make even the effort of citing it
is clearly seen in the way in which CBF
will quote as little as a single sentence, and on the basis of
this, accuse Reformed writers of “changing” Scripture.
For example, Dr. Geisler “quotes” from John Owen
the best defense of extreme Calvinism on limited atonement
comes from John Owen. His
response to this passage is a shocking retranslation to:
“God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave
His Son with this intention, that by him believers might be
saved”! This needs no response, simply a sober reminder that
God repeatedly exhorts us not to add to or subtract from His
words (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).
citation is from page 214 of Owen’s work.
Was this great Christian scholar suggesting that we
should “retranslate” John 3:16?
Is this a fair representation of Owen’s position?
Not in the slightest.
This citation comes toward the end of a lengthy
discussion of the passage (a discussion, I note, that is
significantly longer and in more depth than any
discussion of any passage in all of CBF).
There is no attempt whatsoever on the part of CBF
to address the actual argument and the reasoning set forth.
Here, in context, is what Owen said:
If this word whosoever
be distributive, then it is restrictive of the love of God to
some, and not to others,--to one part of the distribution,
and not the other. And
if it do not restrain the love of God, intending the salvation
of some, then it is not distributive of the fore-mentioned
object of it; and if it do restrain it, then all are not
intended in the love which moved God to give his Son.
Secondly, I deny that the word here is distributive of
the object of God’s love, but only declarative of his end
and aim in giving Christ in the pursuit of that love,--to
wit, that all believers might be saved. So that the sense is,
“God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave
his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be
saved.” And this is all that is by any (besides a few
worthless cavils) objected from this place to disprove our
anyone reading the passage in context can see, to charge Owen
with alteration of the Word of God is quite simply ridiculous.
He not only specifically says, “the sense
is...” (a phrase that would have
to be cited on the basis of mere honesty if
CBF is serious in
accusing Owen of “adding” to the Word of God), but it is
painfully obvious that Owen is interpreting the passage in the
light of the preceding ten pages of argumentation he had
cannot avoid noting that aside from this allegedly “sober
reminder” offered by Geisler, there
is not a single word of meaningful argumentation or refutation
provided. (TPF, pp. 21-23).
Now surely the above
would, if it were in error, demand
a response from Dr. Geisler.
Surely the documentation of such handling of meaningful
material in such an unscholarly fashion would require a response, and rebuttal, if the accusation were unsound.
But no rebuttal or correction is offered. Indeed, the documentation of this, and so many other errors,
is passed over in utter silence.
But, as with the above cases, this new response does
not blush to take a phrase from this section, documenting a
clear error in the original book, rip it from its context, and
turn it around into an accusation of error on my part. Note this
favorite technique of PF
is the fallacy of name calling. Consider only the
following out of numerous examples. My reasoning and
conclusion are labeled “a non-response” (217)...“quite
simply ridiculous” (23)....
The reader will note that
the phrase that is here turned into an example of “name
calling” (!) came from the above section wherein I am
documenting the utter disregard for the original context and the partial citation (CBF cuts
off the beginning phrase “the sense is”) of Owen’s
writing is “quite simply ridiculous.”
That is not name calling, that is factual reporting of
an error the author(s) of this response ignore.
The line makes perfect sense in its context, is
perfectly accurate, and must
be responded to by Dr. Geisler.
But this response fails at every point it possibly
could in providing a meaningful answer.
At the conclusion of this article
is a link to the notes I typed up for our webcast.
I managed to make it through only the first five or so
pages before I realized this was going to take way
too long due to the incredible nature of the published review.
Those who need to have the point proven to them dozens
of times before realizing the truth can take these notes, just
as I wrote them, look up the references, and sit in stunned
silence as I did as I was writing them.
There is no reason to prolong the documentation of the
nature of this reply at this time.
Nameless Folks and
One of the saddest examples of
the methodology of this review is found near the end of the
appendix, on page 262. It
seems the author(s) of this review felt it would be best to
include their worst examples of mis-citation, mis-reading, and
simple error in the midst of personal attacks.
So we have an entire subsection titled “Pride and
Exclusivism,” which begins,
am not alone in detecting a proud and exclusivistic undertone
in PF. For example,
it calls its view “the
Reformed” view (38, emphasis added), while summarily
dismissing other Reformed theologians CBF
cites who do not agree with major points in its
presentation (e.g., William Shedd and R. T. Kendall). The
author of PF
immodestly announces, “I will be demonstrating” that
Geisler’s view “is in error” (30). Better to set forth
one’s case and let the reader decide that.
One has to wonder who
these nameless, faceless people are who join with the author(s)
in “detecting” this pride?
I “detected” lots of feelings I could have
mentioned in regard to Dr. Geisler’s book, but you do not
present such things unless you can back up what you are
saying. But the
great irony is that in the midst of accusing me of being
prideful, the author(s) of this review purposefully
misrepresent me and give
clear evidence of their desire to do so.
How so? Note
the second to last quoted line above which reads:
author of PF immodestly announces, “I will be demonstrating” that
Geisler’s view “is in error” (30).
When I first read this, I
only noted that it is hardly immodest to say that someone’s
view is in error, unless, of course, that person does not
believe you intelligent enough, or old enough, or trained
enough, to even critique
their position. But
as I was finishing up my notes on the response I looked up the
actual context of the citation, and again groaned in unbelief
at what I found. Here
is the context from TPF:
Reformed tradition is rich in honest dialogue and debate.
Those who love truth will not be offended by honest,
direct refutation and interaction.
The “politically correct” culture we live in should
not be allowed to silence meaningful theological debate.
Dr. Geisler himself has written:
what about those who insist that drawing lines will divide
response it must be lovingly but firmly maintained that it is
better to be divided by truth than to be united by error. There is an unhealthy tendency in evangelical
Christianity to hide under the banner of Christian charity
while sacrificing doctrinal purity.
the spirit of these words I offer a rebuttal of Dr.
Geisler’s work. This
is not meant to be a presentation of the Reformed view so ably
accomplished by others: my positive presentation will be
limited to establishing facts that are not in evidence from a
reading of CBF.
Instead, I will be demonstrating that the biblical
argumentation provided by Norman Geisler is in error.
It is my hope that the reader will be edified by the
consistent focus upon biblical exegesis, for this is, truly,
the heart and soul of Reformed theology.
As I compared the citation
to the original I could not help but be amazed at the use of
the quotation marks in CBF. Here we cannot
blame eyesight. We cannot blame a simple misreading of the
text. This is
purposeful, and planned.
I said I would demonstrate that the
biblical argumentation provided by Norman Geisler is in
error. I did
eight scholars and pastors whose names are found on TPF,
and hundreds of others who have contacted me since then, agree
that I did just that. The
fact that Dr. Geisler does not even attempt
a response on an exegetical level gives eloquent testimony
that I did exactly what I promised to do.
But that is not what is quoted in the new appendix to CBF.
No, through the purposeful and fascinating use of
quotation marks the actual substance of my statement, focused
argumentation is deleted, and Geisler’s entire view, his
entire theology, is placed in its stead.
This, then, becomes the basis for the accusation of
pride and arrogance on my part. How could a young, over-zealous, arrogant, prideful, at times
pedantic apologist like James White dare to say he will prove
Dr. Norman Geisler’s entire viewpoint in error?
How brash! But,
of course, the original citation could not
be used without deleting its substance.
How strange would it look to accuse me of being
prideful simply for saying (and proving!) someone else’s
biblical argumentation is in error?
Can the biblical argumentation provided by two sides
who contradict one another both
be correct? Of
course not. Hence,
it follows of necessity, that the quotation, to be useful to
the appendix, had to be “spun” and changed.
And so it was. Such is simply disgraceful.
Where’s the Exegesis?
The vast majority of this
response should never have seen the light of day. Given the
character of TPF as
an exegetical reply
to CBF, the logical response would involve exegetical rebuttal and
argument. But, of
course, this is exactly what is avoided
by this reply. No
exegesis of any disputed passage is offered.
No exegesis of the many passages the original book
simply forgot were relevant is provided.
One brief section, subtitled “Improper Exegesis,”
at least raises the issue of the interpretation of the text.
But it is tremendously surface-level, and simply says:
readers of PF can detect for themselves, the author is convinced of his
exegetical skills and chides CBF
for its alleged ‘lack thereof. Yet PF repeatedly reads
“some men” into passages that clearly and emphatically
say “all men” (140, 142). It insists against the context
that 2 Peter 3:9 (where God desires that all men be saved) is
not speaking about salvation (146--147). It claims that John
1:12--13 does not say “received” when the very word is
used by John in this text (185). It overlooks the context that
speaks of unrepentant people (Rom. 9:22), claiming Romans 9
affirms that the “only difference” between vessels of
wrath and vessels of mercy is God’s action. It distorts the
word “saves” to “saves himself’ (64), and so on.
contains literally hundreds of pages of positive exegetical
presentation, and this is the extent of the response offered
to it? TPF
documented dozens of examples of eisegesis on the part of Dr.
Geisler. This is all the response that can be given?
And even in offering these few sentences, the appendix
stumbles over itself in making clear errors yet once again.
Note the first allegation: without responding to a single
argument or point of exegesis, this response simply asserts
that I must be wrong in my understanding of the term
since I provided contextual and linguistic arguments that are
completely ignored, how can this be called a meaningful or
scholarly response? Then
the author(s) utterly misread the text yet
again with the assertion regarding John 1:12.
Compare this misrepresentation with the actual text
But the objection does raise an interesting issue: does
the text itself indicate a relationship between believing and
the new birth? There are certainly some points that Dr. Geisler would have
to consider to make his assertions carry weight:
John, as is his custom, refers to Christians as “the
believing ones” (toi'"
translations normally miss this important element of John’s
gospel (the contrast between true, saving faith, which is
almost always expressed through the use of the present tense
indicating an on-going, living faith, versus false faith which
is almost always placed in the aorist tense, making no
statement about its consistency or vitality).
It is literally, “even to those who are believing in
His name” or “the believing ones (who believe) in His
name.” The term
“believing” is a present participle.
verb “born” (ejgennhvqhsan) is in the aorist passive form.
In its context it is plainly said to be an act of God.
All human agency is denied.
follows, then, that verse 13 is a description of “the
believing ones” of verse 12. Nothing is said in the text that the new birth is
“received” by an “act of free will.”
In fact, the
exact opposite is stated clearly, “the ones born not
of the will of man....”
It is an amazing example of how preconceived notions
can be read into a text that CBF can say the text makes the new birth dependent upon an act of
“free will” when the text says the opposite (184-185).
Immediately the reader
again sees the simple mistake of the author(s).
Nowhere does TPF
say the word “received” is not in the text.
This is yet another inexplicably glaring error of
either case, the actual text of TPF
says, “Nothing is said in the text that the new birth is
‘received’ by an ‘act of free will.’” This is
completely true. The
text speaks of receiving Christ, not the new birth.
By ignoring the exegesis offered, the response again
paints a picture with no reality, and proves itself incapable
of meaningful argumentation.
The last two examples of errors
in exegesis make no more sense than the preceding ones.
The entirety of chapter nine of TPF,
24 pages of exegetical presentation and interaction with
Geisler’s piece-meal interpretation of Romans 9 in CBF,
is dismissed with a wave of the hand.
And its brief, unexplained mention of “saved” to
“saved himself” again causes any person who has a concern
for context to shake the head in utter disbelief, as the
original text bears out.
The citation begins with a quote from CBF:
else may be said, God’s sovereignty over the human will
includes His initiating, pursuing, persuading, and saving
grace without which no one would ever will to be saved.
For “there is no one who understands, no one who
seeks God” (Rom. 3:11).
the words are specific: God initiates, God pursues, God
persuades, God gives saving grace, but, despite it all, the
final decision is man’s, “without which no one would ever will
to be saved.” God
wills to save man, but unless man wills to save himself, he
will not be saved. This
is thorough-going Arminianism.
There is, of course, no
“distortion” of any terms at all in the text.
In fact, the comments flow directly from the
consideration of Dr. Geisler’s own words.
How is this an error of exegesis?
No one knows.
Surely no one can seriously call this a rebuttal of the
exegesis offered in TPF,
and such must be quite the disappointment for the legions of
Arminians who prefer to call themselves “moderate
Calvinists” who were chomping at the bit for some kind of
rebuttal of TPF.
While some of the most die-hard may find something of
comfort in this response, those actually looking for scholarly
rebuttal will be sorely disappointed.
Drop Back Ten and Punt
Those who need point-by-point
response can do so by clicking here.
There surely is no reason to drag this particularly
painful experience out much farther. All who have benefited from the work of Norman Geisler in the
past cannot help but feel a true sense of embarrassment at the
publication of this response.
I am actually thankful that I am the object of this
review, for if it had been offered in response to enemies of
the faith, they would have known no bounds to their joyous
documentation of its every error, and would have used this as
an argument against everything good that Dr. Geisler has
At the end of his review Dr.
Geisler says he prays that that I will channel my
“considerable talent and zeal toward the more pressing need
of defending Christianity against those who deny the
fundamentals of the faith, not those who affirm them.”
While this may sound like a noble sentiment, I have to
wonder: why did he write Chosen But Free? Why
did he choose to identify the faith of Reformed Baptist
Churches, conservative Presbyterian Churches, and many others,
as irrational and unbiblical?
Are we to understand that he has the right to do this,
but those of us at the pointed end of his sword must ignore
his highly errant and flawed attacks upon our faith? I honestly do not understand the basis of such a statement.
One thing is beyond all doubt:
this response proves, even more clearly than did the text of TPF,
that Dr. Geisler has no response to Reformed scholarship.
In closing, I would like to ask Dr. Geisler to consider
well the nature of this appendix.
As I have said, I do not believe he wrote it.
I believe someone else, perhaps even a group,
cooperated in piecing together disparate and inconsistent
comments on the text of the book.
But whatever its provenance, it exists today as part of
the 2nd edition of Chosen
But Free, and the front of the book says “Norman Geisler.”
That places the above documented errors (a word that
seems extremely weak to cover the kind of misrepresentations
we have seen) squarely in his realm of responsibility.
And hence I will say with all seriousness, “Dr.
Geisler, do the right thing: pull this appendix, print a
retraction, and simply do what is right.”
You do not attack any fellow believer with such terms
as arrogant, over-zealous, pedantic, and prideful while
utilizing this kind of utterly inane misrepresentation and
argumentation as a shield.
It is simply scholarly negligence. Unless Dr. Geisler
can explain how this kind of material has some relevance to
the actual topic at hand, it should be pulled from circulation
with apologies to all concerned, but especially to his own
readers. There simply is no other course to follow.