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Does the Bible Teach Predestination?
An Exegetical Debate


Dr. James White vs Darryl Barksdale

[Note to all readers: In the following presentation Greek terms are presented using the Greek font designed and developed by Bill Mounce. This font is available for download and installation on your computer system by clicking on the following links: for Windows: download the Mounce font. If you use a Mac, or if the preceding link does not work for you, go to the following URL and download from there: http://www.teknia.com/fonts/grkfnt.html. Please note that this is the newest edition of the Mounce font, dated 10/98. Earlier editions of the font may not display properly in every instance. It may also contain Hebrew words. Click here to download a zip file containing the proper Hebrew font.]

Second Rebuttal to Darryl Barksdale

James White

This response will come in two parts. First, I will respond to those statements made by Mr. Barksdale that are relevant to our debate. The second portion will respond to the many statements and accusations Mr. Barksdale makes in his first rebuttal that are utterly gratuitous, irrelevant, and hence distracting to the debate itself.

Mr. Barksdale begins his response by citing from various sources regarding the need to engage in proper hermeneutical procedure and to closely observe context. Aside from the citation of the nihilistic atheist Friedrich Nietzsche who coined the phrase, "God is dead," (a true biblical scholar and resource for guidance in exegetical studies), I find little to disagree with in these statements. Of course, Mr. Barksdale insists that all these statements are relevant to me: however, he somehow forgot to prove his allegations by citations from my writings, hence, his allegations are without merit or weight and must be dismissed in any meaningful debate.

Ephesians 1

Mr. Barksdale failed to respond to the vast majority of the exegesis offered of Ephesians 1 in my opening statement. Here are examples:

When responding to my demonstration that "we" or "us" is the constant grammatical direct object of the verbs describing God’s act of salvation (including "predestine" in 1:5 and 1:11), Mr. Barksdale insists that this requires the assumption of Calvinism, "which is in direct opposition to the direction provided us by Davids, Nietzsche, and Stenger, whom I cited earlier." Of course, asserting that I am eisegetically inserting such a template of "Calvinism" requires Mr. Barksdale to prove his point, and he does not even try to do so. Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate. I believe it is Mr. Barksdale who is engaging in eisegesis. I proved this with reference to Jeremiah 1:5 and Job 38:7, and will give many further examples below.

Next, in responding to the demonstration that God chose us in Christ "before the foundation of the world" (1:4), Barksdale writes, "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’?" Mr. Barksdale identifies this as an "absurdity." Yet, later, Mr. Barksdale speaks of God’s "omniscient foreknowledge." What does "omniscient foreknowledge" mean? We are not told. In any case, Christians have always acknowledged that God knows all things, including the future. If Mr. Barksdale does not believe God knows the future, we should address that assertion. The Bible is very clear on that subject.1 If he does, however, his objection here is meaningless, because we are simply asserting that God chose us before creation itself since He is eternal (i.e., He exists outside of time). Our existence, due to His absolute sovereignty and control over all things (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:34-35, Psalm 135:6, Isaiah 43:13), has been an eternal reality to God. To say that God could not choose us before we existed (which is Barksdale’s position) requires proof from him as well, and we are offered none.

Next, Mr. Barksdale commits a tremendously obvious error of simple logic and research. He cites my assertion that "It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere ‘plan’ was chosen, or a ‘process’ put in place." I stated this right after saying, "Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hJma'", accusative, indicating direct object of ‘to choose’)." These comments were made while exegeting Ephesians 1:4. How does Mr. Barksdale respond to the simple fact of Greek grammar that "we" is the direct object of the verb "to choose"? When I challenged him on this in the AOL chatroom, he had no response. And, in this debate, he has likewise failed to respond. Instead, he replies as follows:

Interestingly, that is certainly not how genuine scholars have interpreted this passage. For instance, scholar Rebecca Lyman translates this passage as follows:

"For he 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 time . . ." (Eph 1:9-10, emphasis added).

The careful reader immediately detects the problem: I was talking about Ephesians 1:4. Mr. Barksdale then quotes what he calls a "genuine scholar" talking about....verses 9 and 10! How is it a valid procedure to take my comments on verse 4 and reply with a secondary citation of someone's comments on verses 9-10? Such is obviously without merit. We are offered no direct exegesis of this passage by Mr. Barksdale. No response is given to the text itself, only a citation from a secondary source that is not even on the same passage I was discussing. Such is hardly worthy of one who continues to offer "tutoring" in how to do "exegesis."

Hence, it should be emphasized, Mr. Barksdale has not responded to one of the chief elements of this debate. The text is plain. The direct object of the verb proorivzw in Ephesians 1:5 and 1:11 is personal. It is not a plan. This has been proven by the direct citation of the text and the discussion of the accusative case of hJma'". If Mr. Barksdale cannot refute this information, his position is lost. All other attempts to get around this truth cannot save him. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and not be distracted. He must respond to these facts.

But the errors in his reply do not end here. Under the subtitle "What Does ‘Predestined’ REALLY Mean?" Mr. Barksdale offers us one of the most glaring errors presented in this debate thus far. He attempts to deal with Ephesians 1:11 and my comments regarding this passage. When I introduced the term proorivzw ("predestine") in my opening statement, I wrote:

This is the first appearance of the word "predestined" in the text. The exact same term (proorivzw) is used in verse 11 as well. 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 "to predestine."

I then provided endnote 5, which reads, "See any standard lexical source, such as BAGD (p. 709) or Louw & Nida (pp. 360-361)." How does Mr. Barksdale respond to this information? He does so by citing Markus Barth’s comments on Ephesians 1:11. Unfortunately, he cites Barth’s comments not on proorivzw (proorizw) but on klhrovw (klerow), a completely different Greek term. Barth notes that klhrovw appears only once in the New Testament (a fact that should have caused Barksdale to recognize his mistake, since, obviously, "predestined" appears both in 1:5 and 1:11, as well as four other places in the NT!), and is "ambiguous" in meaning. Barksdale comments:

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?

As we can see, Barksdale has erred grievously. Barth does not "directly contradict" me because, of course, Barksdale has confused proorizw with klerow. Hence, he is accusing me of error on the basis of his own inability to deal with the text in a direct manner. Please note that it is not ad-hominem argumentation to point out such errors of fact and citation. Indeed, Mr. Barksdale asks us to consider what this does to my argument that the Scriptures plainly teach predestination. Indeed, what does it do to consider that Mr. Barksdale has failed to even begin to respond to the exegetical issues raised, but has only responded with such fallacious, confused, and erroneous argumentation as this?

But should anyone actually believe that the meaning of the term is unclear, and does not find the standard lexical sources I cited (which go without comment by Barksdale) to be sufficient, I quickly add the comments of K.L. Schmidt in the highly acclaimed TDNT as further confirmation that "genuine scholarship" is not confused on this topic:

This comparatively rare and late word is used in the Gk. Bible only 6 times in the NT in the sense "to foreordain," "to predestinate." Since God is eternal and has ordained everything before time, proorivzein is a stronger form of oJrivzein. . . . The omniscient God has determined everything in advance, both persons (emphasis added) and things in salvation history, with Jesus Christ as the goal.2

In attempting to get around the meaning of the text in Ephesians 1, Barksdale asserts,

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."

But again, we find Barksdale engaging in eisegesis. Where does he get this from the text? None of the secondary citations he provides says this, and he does not even attempt to deal with the text directly to substantiate his claim. Yet, he uses this unfounded, eisegetical conclusion as the basis of his assertion, "The point on which White errs is the unBiblical (sic) extension of the predestination of people to the "irresistable (sic) grace" of individuals. This is clearly not the case, and cannot be found in scripture." Again, we are simply given this bare assertion: nothing is connected with the text at all. We are given no exegetical argumentation. Does Barksdale deal with the use of the personal pronoun "we" as the direct object of the verbs describing God’s action of choosing, predestining, glorifying, etc.? No. Does he deal with the fact that the actions of God undertaken in Ephesians 1:3-11 are obviously relevant to individuals and not just groups of people? Just a quick glance at the text shows how there is no connection between Barksdale’s claims and the words of Scripture: verse 4 says that we are to be holy and blameless. Is this not personal? Verse 5 speaks of adoption as sons. Is this not individual? Verse 7 speaks of redemption through His blood. Do not individuals experience redemption? Verse 7 also speaks of forgiveness of sins. Is that not personal? This is a tremendous example of the difference in theology that comes from the Scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the Scriptures.

Mr. Barksdale seems to believe that citing Hebrews 5:9 where Christ is said to be the source of eternal salvation "to all those who obey Him" is somehow a refutation of predestination. The assumption seems to be that by obeying Christ, you gain salvation. Of course, the text can be understood descriptively rather than prescriptively. That is, Christ is the source of eternal salvation; those whom He saves He does perfectly, and they are the ones who obey Him. Obviously, the unregenerate God-hater does not wish to obey Christ or submit to Him. Therefore, the only ones who obey Christ truly are those who are saved. Again, we see the difference between looking at the Gospel in a God-centered way (God saves men perfectly, hence, He changes them and they long to obey Him, and do so) and a man-centered way (God’s work of salvation is dependent upon my obeying Christ, hence making Him able to save me). Taking the advice of the scholars cited by Mr. Barksdale who tell us to take all of Scripture into consideration, I ask a simple question: if salvation is based upon my obedience to God (i.e., if by my obedience I actuate, continue, or complete, the "process" of salvation) rather than my obedience being the result of salvation, then how can God the Father hold God the Son accountable to save all those that are given to Him, and not lose one? If salvation is a cooperative effort, how can the Son possibly fulfil the Father’s will for Him perfectly? I would like to see Mr. Barksdale answer this question.

Next, we are pointed toward the concept of the "covenant" as an important issue, and it surely is. But Mr. Barksdale seems to miss the fact that there is an old covenant and a new covenant. He points to Israel as the covenant people of God and says, "if God predestinated the Israelites, and if they were truly ‘regenerate,’ why did they so often turn from the Lord." I don’t believe that the Israelites, as a people, were regenerate. The Old Covenant did not guarantee regeneration of the heart. As the writer to the Hebrews pointed out:

(Hebrews 8:6-13) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. [8] For finding fault with them, He says, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; [9] NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. [10] "FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. [11] "AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. [12] "FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE." [13] When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

The new covenant speaks of a "new heart," a regenerate heart. Hence, that objection is hardly relevant, since Reformed theologians have never identified Israel as a regenerate people. But he goes on:

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?

Again Mr. Barksdale assumes what he has yet to prove. Paul warned that many would arise in the church speaking perverse things (Acts 20:30). But, he just as clearly indicated that these men were not Christians, and that the Church would continue on "to all generations forever and ever" (Eph. 3:21). The Church is meant to fight false teaching throughout the time prior to the coming of Christ. This no more indicates that the Church has failed and disappeared than the existence of splinter groups in Mormonism proves the Salt Lake element is automatically apostate. Barksdale says Christ prophesied that an "apostasy" would take place, but gives no references. Remember: if one person, or a lot of people, commit apostasy, this does not mean that all have done so. God did make sure that His elect did not fall away. Indeed, God’s promise that none He has saved would ever perish is prima facie evidence against the LDS concept of a universal apostasy of the Christian Church. As to the reference to John, again, since no reference is given, no response can be offered. God’s will is to save His people: and He has done so, perfectly, throughout the years, decades, and centuries since the Lord Jesus returned to the Father.

The only other statement made regarding this issue that needs to be responded to is the statement that since Jesus called Judas Iscariot as an apostle that this somehow means I must believe Judas is in heaven. I do not believe this. The calling Mr. Barksdale refers to was a calling to apostleship, not to salvation. Instead, mentioning Judas only proves my point: the Scriptures are plain in teaching Judas was predestined to the role he took (John 6:70-71, 17:12).

John 6

I mentioned in my first rebuttal that the substance of Mr. Barksdale’s response to my presentation drawn from John 6:35-45 was to be found in a single citation of a Roman Catholic commentary. But he did make a common response based upon isolating John 6:40 from its context and turning the entire section on its head. That is, Barksdale refers to the Lord’s statement that "everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life," and on this basis says, "Everyone. All-inclusive. Not some select, exclusive ‘club.’ Everyone." Of course everyone who looks receives eternal life. But here again Barksdale violates his own stated position regarding maintaining context and allowing the Scriptures to define themselves. Verse 40 comes after verses 35 through 39. Who are those who come to Christ? Who are those who believe? The elect, those who are given by the Father to the Son. As pointed out in my original presentation (and ignored by Barksdale), coming to Christ follows and is the result of being given by the Father to the Son. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me" Jesus says (6:37). Grammatically, being given by the Father precedes the coming of the elect to Christ. If one is not given, one will not come! This is exactly what is said in John 6:44, another passage Mr. Barksdale chose to ignore. Hence, it is quite true that "everyone" who looks and believes will have eternal life: but looking and believing are things done only by the elect! Only the elect are "enabled" to do these things (John 6:65). Every one of the elect will look and believe, that is certain. If I were to say, "Everyone with Windows 98 can run this program," I am not, by that statement, saying that every single individual can run the program. There is a condition. In the same way, "No one is able to come to me unless the Father, who sent Me, draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). Prior to the elect’s coming and believing must be the giving of the Father, the drawing of the Father.

Barksdale’s Conclusions

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.

We have seen that Mr. Barksdale erroneously cited Barth about a term other than the one I used; we have likewise seen that he cited Raymond Brown merely to show Brown doesn’t believe John 6 answers questions on predestination---he did not even cite a single element of exegetical refutation of my assertions.

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.

Barksdale presented no one in his defense: he cited one scholar about verse 11, but left my entire exegesis of 1:4-6 untouched. No one disputes that boulhv can be translated "plan" in verse 11. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the direct object of proorivzw. Mr. Barksdale could not answer this simple fact of exegesis when we first discussed this in AOL. And nothing has changed. Facts remain facts.

Mr. White has denied the reality of the premortal existence of man, without any Scriptural justification whatsoever.

I presented Romans 9:11 twice in my presentation as evidence against "pre-existence" in the LDS view. Mr. Barksdale ignored my comments, hence, the line, "without any Scriptural justification whatsoever" is simple misrepresentation.

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.

I believe it is obvious who has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutical procedure. Mr. Barksdale has offered no exegesis that takes into consideration context, and citing secondary sources regarding verses other than the one under discussion is hardly the stuff of "correct hermeneutics."


Before responding to some of the miscellaneous charges included by Mr. Barksdale, I wish to refocus our attention yet once again. The thesis of our debate is, "Does the Bible Teach Predestination?" I have presented a number of passages wherein the text plainly, clearly does this. I have demonstrated grammatically that the object of predestination is plainly personal. I have discussed the meaning of the relevant terms, the forms in which they are found, and the conclusions to be drawn from the text. Darryl Barksdale has, thus far, not offered a single paragraph of exegetical argumentation. He has cited sources as far flung as God-hating atheists like Nietzsche, to conservative Roman Catholics like Brown, but he has so far utterly avoided doing the one thing he so confidently offered to do originally: provide a "lesson in exegesis." Instead, he has made basic, fundamental errors regarding what terms are being examined, what verses are being discussed, and has, so far, not shown that he is able, or willing, to engage the topic as promised. Unless Darryl Barksdale can present a thorough, fair, scholarly, and accurate exegesis of Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 9:11ff, and John 6:37ff, he will fail to uphold his side in this debate. He must explain why Paul presents as the direct object of proorivzw the personal pronoun hJma'". If he cannot deal with this reality, his position is lost. I strongly encourage Mr. Barksdale to focus his attention upon providing a direct, first-hand exegesis of these passages. Do not limit our readers to mere second-hand citations of commentaries any of us could read. Let’s do what we have promised to do: exegete the text. I have upheld my side of that agreement. I call upon Mr. Barksdale to do the same.

A Litany of Errors

I shall be as brief as possible here since, in reality, none of this is relevant to the topic of the debate, outside of the impact it has to consider the amount of improper argumentation and error of fact found in Barksdale’s presentations. I do not enjoy correcting such errors, and the reader may wish to ignore this section and move on with the body of the debate.

  1. I created no "Mormon patsy" (a highly offensive term to begin with) and was not disingenuous in the story I presented at the beginning of my opening statement. It happened just as I said, and I challenge Mr. Barksdale to prove otherwise.

  2. "The irony in this statement is that this eisogetical (sic) practice is exactly what Mr. White himself engages in." We have already seen documentation that the truth is exactly opposite of this assertion.

  3. "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" from Scripture. . . .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." An endnote (#4) is attached that says, "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." In response: If what Mr. Barksdale means is that I believe that there is only one consistent interpretation of God’s Word (i.e., that God does not contradict Himself), of course. But that is not what he means, his further comments demonstrate. Barksdale’s assertions are simply unsubstantiated, false ad-hominem argumentation. He cannot produce a single shred of documentation of his outrageous claims. I insist that he either document from my writings such a claim, or withdraw it with an apology.

  4. Barksdale goes on: "Further evidence of this kind of unjustifiable arrogance can be seen in White's endnotes, particularly in numbers 4,6, 11, and 12..(sic) 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 (sic) evidence to prove his point.. (sic) he merely quotes himself as a primary source. How convenient. And how unscholarly." This is probably one of the most ridiculous assertions I have encountered. First, it is untrue. Look at the endnotes he cites: in #4 I cite numerous primary sources; I merely added a reference to an article I have written on the subject at the end. Barksdale is being dishonest to say I could not find "corraborating (sic) evidence" when the citations are right there. Look at #6: this is a comment on the syntactical function of the phrase, and a comment regarding its importance. Can Barksdale refute the statement? Is he saying that I cannot make comments on Greek syntax? I have taught Greek professionally for a number of years, and am a critical consultant on a major Bible translation. Does he dispute these facts? Look at #11: here I simply refer the reader to a fuller exposition of the text. Does Mr. Barksdale dispute that I have written such a work? What point hinges upon my mere reference to such a work? None at all. The point is not in dispute in the first place. And #12 is a mere comment on the text: does Barksdale deny the information presented? Hence, there is nothing "arrogant" found in any of these endnotes. But let us use this as a test-case for the consistency of Darryl Barksdale’s argumentation. On page 197 of How Wide the Divide? we find an endnote by Dr. Stephen Robinson of Brigham Young University. Dr. Robinson, in endnote #7, cites himself. He refers to his previous book, Are Mormons Christians? Has Mr. Barksdale contacted Robinson concerning this "unscholarly" and "arrogant" action? In the next endnote Robinson refers people to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which, of course, he contributed to. Is this "convenient" as well? Over and over again Robinson refers readers to his own works. Is Mr. Barksdale consistent here? Does he condemn Robinson as vociferously? But let’s look further: Warfare in the Book of Mormon is a FARMS production edited by Stephen Ricks and William Hamblin, both of BYU. And again we find numerous endnotes wherein the authors refer readers to other writings by the same authors. Could we find a letter from Mr. Barksdale somewhere in the FARMS offices chiding these LDS scholars for their actions, calling them arrogant and unscholarly? You see, there is nothing "unscholarly" about noting the fact that you have written more extensive discussions of a subject. If Barksdale were a published author, it would be perfectly acceptable for him to refer readers to his works in the manner I did in my presentation. Nowhere did I make a contested point and say, "You need to believe this just because I say so." To assert otherwise is nothing short of dishonest, for it involves a glowing double-standard.

  5. Barksdale asserts that I "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 statement." I will allow the reader to decide who has constantly thrown out insults.

  6. Mr. Barksdale concluded his comments by saying, "He even managed to be insulting and ill-behaved in the process." I will leave it to the reader to determine who has been insulting and ill-behaved. I simply ask that my opening presentation be re-read in the light of the errors I have documented above. Any unbiased person can see the truth of the present situation.


1 See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), pp. 190-193.

2 TDNT, V:456.


Word Count: 4841

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