Rebuttal to Mr. White's Opening Argument
Darryl L. Barksdale
Some time ago, I encountered my esteemed opponent in an AOL chat room, as
he has already indicated in his opening statement. Jokingly, I told him that I would be
happy to give him a "lesson in exegesis" regarding his claims regarding the
Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination. Even though I spoke in jest at the time, little
did I know just how extensively I would need to tutor him on this subject.
Mr. White opens his argument, as is frequently his wont to do, with an
imaginary encounter with a Mormon "patsy" that allows Mr. White to create an
artificially bright shining moment wherein his dazzling brilliance is made clearly known
to all. Such situations in Mr. White's world are almost always fabricated and
intentionally one-sided.1 One has to wonder what White would do if he
encountered a Mormon who actually was well-versed in matters of Christian History and
textual criticism. I highly doubt he would publish that encounter in any of his
articles or books.
One of the most shocking accusations that Mr. White makes in this opening
"dialogue" is directed to the fictitious Mormon "patsy" and claims
that he (the Mormon) insists on "pick[ing] and choos[ing] what parts [he] will, or
will not, believe." The irony in this statement is that this eisogetical practice is
exactly what Mr. White himself engages in. Mr. White does not accept the whole of the
Bible's teaching on salvation. Instead, he demands that we accept his definition and
declaration of a "canon within a canon" which can only be considered, according
to White, while ignoring the balance of the Bible's teachings, including those of our
Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Indeed, in Mr. White's view, his interpretation is the
only one possible or plausible. Everyone else who disagrees with him, whether their
arguments are substantive or not, is simply in his view "picking and choosing"
Bible scholar Peter H.
Davids, Ph.D., comments on the "canon within a
canon" eisogesis in his essay, "Authority, Hermeneutics, and Criticism":
"We do not believe that one has any real authority if he or she
removes material from its context. To snatch a few paragraphs from this chapter and read
them out of context of the whole would be to distort their meaning. To look at Paul in
isolation from the teaching of Jesus is to distort Paul's message and thus not to draw
from Biblical authority at all."2
Dr. Davids goes on to articulate very clearly what the real weakness is in
Mr. White's argument for Predestination:
"Hermeneutical discussion assists one in discovering how one is
interpreting Scripture and thus what one might be filtering out of Scripture. Interaction
with the full world of critical scholarship means that one is looking at Scripture from a
variety of angles and traditions, many of which will be different from one's own. The
result will be a tendency to see one's own blind spots and correct the shortcomings of
This, Mr. White has failed miserably to do. Instead of considering the
"full world of critical scholarship," Mr. White insists instead that he, and he
alone, is a sufficient "authority" to pronounce any matter of religion
"closed" to further discussion or discourse.4 Further evidence of
this kind of unjustifiable arrogance can be seen in White's endnotes, particularly in
numbers 4,6, 11, and 12.. where he uses HIMSELF as a primary source to bolster his
arguments. This kind of arrogance forms a common thread throughout all of White's
writings. When he cannot find corraborating evidence to prove his point.. he merely quotes
himself as a primary source. How convenient. And how unscholarly.
Indeed, the venerable Bible scholar Werner Stenger cautioned against the
tendency to be selective with Scripture, and claims that theologians who succumb to the
temptation to "pick and choose," as Mr. White does regarding Predestination,
"belong to that group of poor readers who find in texts only what they already know.
What echoes back to them from Scripture is the very words that they themselves have
shouted into the forest."5
Stenger quotes Friedrich Nietzsche as demanding that true Biblical
exegetes "[read] facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing
caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand."6
Finally, Stenger relates what he considers to be the true standard for
"One prerequisite for [correct exegesis] is to transfer the Biblical
texts from their apparent familiarity into an unfamiliar context, one that enables the
reader to hear the Bible itself speaking, not merely the echo of his or her own voice. It
is only such distance between reader and text that makes it possible to exclude any
projections of meaning prompted by one's own ideas and desires and to open one's ears to
the often alien voice of the text itself."7
Has White done this? The answer is a resounding 'No.'
First of all, I believe some boundaries would be useful to establish to
facilitate a completely unbiased treatment of White's exegesis. And since, in reviewing
his biography, I see no advanced degrees from any institution of higher education in the
field of ancient languages, much less ancient Greek, I respectfully decline to use or
accept James White's English translations, but rather will lean on those of genuine,
accepted scholars with legitimate, accredited advanced degrees.
In beginning his presentation, White methodically sets up his straw
that the Scriptures "plainly teach the divine truth that God predestines men
unto Salvation." If this were so, one would think that there would not be any other
belief system in existence within Christianity. Yet such is demonstrably not so, as any
Methodist can readily attest.
White's premise (and the major weakness of his position) is not simply
that it is plausible to find a Predestination teaching in Scripture, he actually
demands that it is the only way that Scripture can be legitimately interpreted. In
making this drastic assertion, White opens himself up to the harshest of scrutiny.. for he
has made the job of his opponents.. in this case myself.. infinitely easier. The task that
White has dictated for his opponents by his rigid proclamation is not to prove that
Predestination is wrong, but simply that other interpretations are hermeneutically
possible, or at least legitimately plausible. If such can be accomplished, then
White's claim that his interpretation is the only one possible is fatally flawed, and must
be rejected on its face. That having been said, let us begin.
What of Ephesians 1:3-11?
White claims that from Ephesians 1:3 we learn three major tenets.. namely
that 1) God is the one who blessed us; 2) that Paul is not speaking of "all
mankind" here, but specifically of the redeemed; and 3) that the phrase "in
Christ" is central to God's thought. As to this conclusion, I would find objection
only to White's demand that "us" be interpreted as meaning the elect or
redeemed. This assumption demands that the text of Scripture be overlaid with the template
of Calvinistic bias in order to be interpreted, which is in direct opposition to the
direction provided to us by Davids, Nietzsche, and Stenger, whom I cited earlier.
White proclaims that verse 4 is "central to our subject." And so
it is. But even as it appears to White that it is "central" to his argument, it
also poses some interesting questions in its own right. The verse reads, "
as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and
blameless before Him."
This verse, interpreted as White demands, begs the question. If we did not
exist before the world was created, how could He "choose us in Him"? How can
something that does not exist be "chosen"? According to White's view, this would
be somewhat akin to walking into an art gallery and "choosing" a work of art
that had not yet been painted. Without a knowledge of the premortal existence of man and
of our pre-Earthly relationship with our Heavenly Father, this is the kind of absurdity
that one is reduced to.
White claims that "The passage says that we were chosen by God the
Father, not that a mere 'plan' was chosen, or a 'process' put in place."
Interestingly, that is certainly not how genuine scholars have interpreted this passage.
For instance, scholar Rebecca Lyman translates this passage as follows:
"For he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to the
purpose which he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of
" (Eph 1:9-10, emphasis added)8
Clearly, attempting to set God's WILL against His plan is nonsensical.
Pheme Perkins says, "Those who come to believe in Christ find themselves
participating in God's eternal plan"9 Following this line of
reasoning poses other problems for White, not the least of which is how to deal with why
Paul stated that the Jews who reject Christ will be included in salvation.10
White then proceeds to declare that because we were chosen "before
the creation of the world", that our salvation "therefore cannot possibly be
based on anything that we ourselves do or "choose". This is sovereignty--free
One has to legitimately wonder how White can draw the conclusion that
"sovereignty" is "free and unlimited" from the fact that we were
chosen before the foundation of the world. White certainly doesn't tell us.
One clue, I suppose, might be found in White's 3rd endnote
wherein he declares, "I reject the LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and there is
nothing in Paul's theology, or the Bible's teaching, that presents such a
As for the Bible not teaching of the premortal existence of man, I
provided copious references to such in my opening statement, and am very eager to see
White's exegesis of those passages. White himself seems to acknowledge that if the
premortal existence of man were a reality, that his own arguments would collapse under
their own weight. Therefore, he forms a logical fallacy to hide behind.
Mathematics teaches us a basic construct. If A=B, and if B=C, then A=C.
This formula only holds up, however, as long as A=B, or B=C. If either of those are
incorrect, the formula is false. One can posit that all dogs are blue. One can further
posit that Rover is a dog. One can then, use this formula to say that Rover must be blue.
But since the first "leg" of this formula is factually false, the conclusion is
Such is the case with White's argument. His logic takes the following
There is no Biblical doctrine of the Preexistence of Man.
Predestination requires that Man did not Preexist the Creation.
Therefore, Predestination is true.
In this example, White's first assumption, that there is no Biblical
doctrine of the preexistence of man, is fatally flawed. Therefore, his conclusion is also
In his attempted definition of the Greek for "predestined",
White attempts to pull the wool over our eyes a bit to avoid having to address this issue.
White is most emphatic about the definition of the Greek proorizo which appears in
vs 5 and 11. He says, "The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no
matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means "to choose
beforehand" or "predestinate." (emphasis mine)
Any true linguistic scholar would howl at this statement. As soon as
anyone says that there is "no ambiguity" about the meaning or usage of ancient
languages (scripts or orthographies), alarm bells should be ringing off the hook
somewhere. Someone is trying to "sell" you something. So it is in this instance.
While the definitions mentioned by White are certainly valid definitions,
Strong's also lists "foreordained" as a valid definition. One must wonder why
White neglected to mention this possibility? Why was he so selective in his definitions?
Since "foreordained" fits the text much better, especially in light of Jeremiah
1:5, one must wonder why White did not include that definition? Very simple.
Foreordination assumes the prior existence of man, which is what White does not want the
reader to consider.
One can only speculate on how White explains John 9. In this passage, we
have an individual born blind. This fact is emphasized several times, including the
testimony of his parents that he was, indeed, born blind. Christ's disciples asked
Him a very interesting and instructive question: "Master, who did sin, this man,
or his parents, that he born blind?" (John 9:2, emphasis mine) White clearly
fails to see how an individual could "sin" prior to birth.
It is more than significant that the core of White's argument, his
rejection of the preexistence of man, upon which rests the entirety of the credibility of
his argument, is relegated to one footnote which quotes no primary source, no evidence, no
other than James himself.
What Does "Predestined" REALLY Mean?
Scholar Markus Barth teaches us that in verse 11 (which White refers to),
"The Greek original uses a verb (kleroo) which meant originally to 'cast a lot,' or
more specifically, 'to appoint or designate an officer by lot.' When the procedure of
using a lot was forgotten, the world assumed the meaning, 'to assign something,' or in the
passive, 'to be in possession.' Ephesians 1:11 is the only NT passage where this word
occurs. Probably because of its ambiguous meaning, but perhaps also due to
careless copying, some ancient MSS and the Vetus Itala substitute the better known
verb, 'we have been called.'"11
Far from stating that "The meaning of the term is not
ambiguous," Barth actually directly contradicts White and says that it is ambiguous,
and then goes on to say "The complicated problems posed by the present text must be
met, and a choice among three possibilities faces the interpreter:"
This is most curious indeed. White asserts that only his definition must
be used, and that that definition is "not ambiguous." Now we have a genuine
scholar directly contradicting White's assertion. Who are we to trust? More importantly,
what does this do to White's argument that the scriptures "plainly teach
predestination", and that only his interpretation is the only plausible possibility?
What White does not seem to comprehend very well is the overall context of
this Ephesians passage. Let us consider carefully verses 11-13 for a moment. In this
passage, Barth notes that "The congregation of the saints is suddenly no longer
described only by the anonymous pronoun "we." It is not an amorphous mass in
which each individual may be exchanged for another; rather it has a structure. Christ is
at its head; the apostle and other servants installed by God address it with authority and
are its foundation. Thus there is a vertical difference of authority in the Church, and
now a differentiation on the horizontal level becomes apparent. A group called
"we" is distinct from another group addressed as "you." Though both
participate in the same love, election, and grace of God and are one body, some were first
called to constitute god's people, others were added later." 12
Quite simply, this passage speaks of the "election" or
"calling" of the Jews, and the subsequent addition of the Christians
as God's "chosen people."
Barth suggests that of the three possible interpretations of this text,
one of them is "We were given a share." Col 1:12, the parallel text to Ephesians
1:11, speaks distinctly of a "part in the share of the saints." To the notion of
"blessing" (1:3) such a distribution fits beautifully. This interpretation
leaves room for further additions to the bequeathed property.. as indeed according to 1:14
the Spirit now given is but an "earnest" of the total that is to come. Barth
notes that "Ephesians 1:11 can be translated as "We have been made God's
clergy," and the Christians can be considered a sort of "levitical
Indeed, the third possibility that Barth presents (and which he indicates
is the most correct interpretation), is that the proper translation is "We have been
appropriated," or "Claimed as God's own," in the same manner as Jehovah
told the ancient Israelites in the covenant formula "I will be your God, and you
shall be my people", which points back to the liberation of Israel.
White goes on to embark on a rather tedious sermon of sorts, asserting
that there are three "bookend" points come from the Ephesians passage, none of
which I disagree with.
The first point raised is that Christ is the center and author of our
Salvation, and that outside of Him, there is no other. I agree that salvation is strictly
and completely in, and through Christ Jesus. I have no issue with the idea that we do
nothing of ourselves that in any way merits salvation, for that is Christ's and Christ's
alone to effect.
The second point raised, as White articulates it, is that God's people..
AS a people.. are "possessed by Him," as He has made known so eloquently
regarding the Jews, and then the early Christians. As a people, they were.. and are, His
chosen. I find no disagreement in this statement either.
His third statement is equally innocuous, as far as it applies to God's
people as a whole. His purposes will not be frustrated. His will is sovereign.
The point on which White errs is the unBiblical extension of the
predestination of a people to the "irresistable grace" of individuals.
This is clearly not the case, and cannot be found in scripture.
As Dr. Davids warned, we must not pull passages out of context, lest we
completely lose our Biblical authority. Along with his teachings regarding the
predestination of groups of people, Paul also teaches us that Christ is the author
of eternal salvation to "all them that obey Him". This statement is clearly
conditional and cannot be ignored. It places a requirement of obedience on the believer to
gain salvation, which falls squarely outside of the realm of "irresistable
The ancient Israelites are a perfect example of this principle. As a
group, they were "possessed" by the Lord as "His people" in covenant
relationship. Inasmuch as they, as individuals, adhered to the laws given them, they as a people
were accepted and "predestined" to be God's people. When they as individuals
strayed and were disobedient, God showed His displeasure of them, and His rejection of
them because of their behavior. The key to understanding the principle of predestination
in the case of the ancient Israelites lies in their covenant relationship with God.
To reject this obvious truth causes numerous problems for Calvinists. For
instance, if God predestinated the Israelites, and if they were truly
"regenerate", why did they so often turn from the Lord? Wasn't it His
"will", being "predestined", that they follow Him? Was He then
powerless to bring to pass His will? Was it truly His will that they apostatize and
worship idols, as was their wont to do?
What about the early Christians? If they were "predestined", why
did a general apostasy take place after the ascension of Christ? Why did Christ Himself
prophesy of such an apostasy occurring? Why did He not exercise His "sovereign
will" to ensure that his elect would not fall away? Why were the very same saints who
were "predestined" according to Paul then warned by John on the Isle of Patmos
that they were in danger of LOSING their salvation? Was this the will of God, or was God
thus powerless to bring about the salvation of this group of people?
The truth is very simple and far more congruent with Scripture. GROUPS of
people, in different circumstances, have been predestined to be "God's Chosen".
However, God in His infinite wisdom and compassion still grants them, as individuals AND
as a group.. their free agency to choose who they will serve. For some, it was Satan, even
though they had previous been identified as "God's Elect". Others quietly and
humbly attested that "
as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Paul affirmed this truth quite clearly when he wrote that our Savior and
Redeemer, Jesus Christ, "
being made perfect
became the author of eternal
salvation unto all them that obey him;" (Heb 5:9) Notice that if Paul had meant that
individuals were saved no matter what had they had the "happy accident" to be
predestined individually for salvation.. he surely does not mention any hint of that here.
In fact, he seems to take great pains to contradict such a position.
Replacing the predestination of "God's Chosen" people and the
foreordination of individuals with absolute predestination of individuals poses another
interesting question for Mr. White. As noted in Romans 8:29-30, we learn that those who
are predestined are called, and the called are then justified, and then glorified. Note
that they are called
not bound and gagged under the guise of
"irresistable grace". Matthew 10:1-4 lists those that Christ called to
him: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James,
Simon, and Judas Iscariot. Following White's logic, and the concept
of "irresistable grace," one can only assume that Mr. White believes that Judas
is in heaven.
The predestination of "God's Chosen" people, but the "free
will" accountability of each individual saint formed the backbone of Paul's theme
throughout his writings. As a people, the Christian saints were "God's Chosen",
as were the ancient Jews. Individually however, they had their free agency to choose God,
or Satan. And as a people, a predestined people at that, they ultimately chose to be
reject God, to reject His apostles, and be beguiled by the paganistic wiles of the Greek
Hellenistic philosophers, just as Christ and Paul and others had foretold.
Mr. White, incredulously, attempts to use Christ's sermon in the synagogue
at Capernaum to "prove" his fallacious theory. His "proof" however,
falls completely apart in the first two sentences, which Mr. White desperately attempts to
rationalize away in his endnotes, using no other authority than his own reasoning. It
The passage cited by Mr. White is John 6:35-40, which reads:
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to
me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto
you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come
to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven,
not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will
which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should
raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every
one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise
him up at the last day."
Mr. White would have us believe that Jesus' words in verse regarding
"all that the Father giveth me" refers to the predestination of the individual.
Does it? Is this the only plausible interpretation, as White suggests?
Raymond Brown, in the Anchor Bible, sheds some light on the meaning of
this passage (as does the rest of the passage itself, in context): he says:
"The stress in vs. 37 that God destines men to come to Jesus does not
in the least attenuate the guilt in vs. 36 for those who do not believe. One might
conjecture that the reason that they do not believe is because God has not
"given" them to Jesus. Yet it would be unfair to NT thought-patterns to
elaborate this as a psychological explanation of the refusal to believe. The NT often
gives its explanation on a simplified level wherein all happenings are attributed to
divine causality without any sharp distinction between primary and secondary causality. Nor
do these verses resolve the disputes about predestination that have been the subject of
theological debate since Reformation times. With all John's insistance on man's
choosing between light and darkness, it would be nonsense to ask if the evangelist
believed in human responsibility." (emphasis mine)13
Christ makes a number of very clear statements here that John captures,
which completely oppose the overlay of a Predestination template on this passage. Those
who make the choice to come to Christ will never be hungry. Those who make the
choice to believe in Him shall never thirst. "Indeed, this is the will of the
Father, that EVERYONE who look upon the Son and believes in Him should have eternal
life." (vs. 40) Everyone. All-inclusive. Not some select, exclusive "club."
Mr. White has certainly not disappointed his loyal followers. He has yet
once again proffered the same level of scholarship and accuracy for which Evangelical
scholars Paul Owens and Carl Mosser observed concerning another paper written by White:
"The article by James White, Of Cities and Swords: The Impossible
Task of Mormon Apologetics, was an attempt to introduce evangelicals to LDS
apologetics, to the work of FARMS, and, in the process, critique the group. This article
failed on all three points. White's article does not mention a single example of the
literature we have presented in this paper. He does not accurately describe the work of
FARMS, or of LDS scholarship in general. He gives his readers the mistaken impression that
their research is not respected in the broader academic community. We believe that we have
demonstrated that this is simply not the case. His attempted critique picks out two of the
weakest examples. Not only does he pick weak examples, he does not even give these an
adequate critique. This is nothing more than 'straw man' argumentation."
Consider the facts. Mr. White entered this debate with a written agreement
that we discuss Predestination from a Biblical perspective only. This was not a
Mormon/Non-Mormon debate. This was the debate of a Biblical principle between two opposing
apologists. Even Mr. White states at the beginning of his opening statement, "I hope
that this debate will, in fact, focus upon
the meaningful, fair, scholarly exegesis
of the text of Scripture. Indeed, for my part, I shall do all I can to keep the
focus where it needs to be." (emphasis mine)
White seems to ignore his commitment even in his opening statement, where
he takes numerous irrelevant and inappropriate pot-shots at Mormon theology and doctrine,
attempts to drag non-canonical Mormon statements into the debate (see his remarks about
the King Follett Discourse), and cannot otherwise resist throwing out numerous insults and
condemnations of Mormon doctrine in general. One certainly would have hoped that Mr. White
would have followed his own injunction at least throughout his own opening
Mr. White has insisted that his interpretation of the text of Scripture is
the only plausible interpretation that can be made. I have shown that this is not the
case, using scholars such as Markus Barth, Raymond Brown, and others.
Mr. White insists that Predestination cannot refer to God's Plan for us. I
have presented several other scholars who beg to differ with his translation.
Mr. White has denied the reality of the premortal existence of man,
without any Scriptural justification whatsoever.
Mr. White has insisted that passages that deal with God's Chosen people as
a whole must apply to the absolute predestination and "irresistible grace" of
individuals, denying them any choice in whether they follow Christ or not. I have shown
that this is clearly not a biblical concept, and is in contradiction to the statements of
both Paul and Christ.
Mr. White demands that the absolute sovereignty of God can only be what HE
defines it to be, denying the basic foundational principle that he himself labors so
diligently to prove: namely, that God can do whatsoever things He wishes. Even if that
means that God wishes to allow us the freedom to choose whether we will follow Him or not.
Mr. White has preached a good sermon. But he has produced very little, if
any, substance to back up his claim. Instead, he has intentionally disregarded context,
historical background, and correct hermeneutics to force-fit a Reformed theology onto
Sacred text which contradicts it in innumerable places. He even managed to be insulting
and ill-behaved in the process.
See introduction to Letters to a Mormon Elder, which is the only
place in the entire book where the "Elders" are identified as
Davids, "Authority, Hermeneutics and Criticism",
New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, David Alan Black and David S. Dockery,
Editors (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991) pg. 32.
Ibid, pg. 33
For instance, in discussions with those of opposing views in the
Christianity Online area of America Online, Inc., when asked for citations from valid
Biblical scholars to support his assertions, Mr. White has repeatedly demanded that his
word alone stand as the final authority against which all matters religious be weighed and
determined, and that no other authority other than himself is necessary to consider.
Stenger, Introduction to New Testament Exegesis, (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pg. 2.
Friedrich Nietzsche, "The AntiChrist", The Portable
Nietzsche, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954) pg. 52.
Stenger, pg. 2
Rebecca Lyman, Christology and Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1993), p. 20.
Pheme Perkins, Ephesians (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 38
Barth, Ephesians: The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday
& Co., 1974) pp. 92-113
Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII: The Anchor
Bible (New York: Doubleday & Co.) p. 276