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Does the Bible Teach Predestination?
An Exegetical Debate


Dr. James White vs Darryl Barksdale

Second Rebuttal to Mr. White

D. L. Barksdale

Mr. White began his initial rebuttal with a plea to refocus on the topic of debate, Predestination. This impassioned plea was most puzzling, considering Mr. White’s repeated and continuous attempts to divert the debate into other off-topic areas specific to LDS doctrine.

In his opening statement, for instance, Mr. White attempted to divert the debate into a discussion of the Mormon concept of God by quoting a statement of Joseph Smith from the King Follett Discourse. Mr. White also sprinkled his opening statement and subsequent rebuttals with other statements that were clearly intended to sidetrack the debate off of the main topic; stating, for instance, that certain passages "make no sense from a Mormon perspective," and then proffering his reasons why.. either because in his view Mormons do not understand God properly, or because they are "opposite" Biblical theology, or because they adhere to a belief in an anthropomorphic God. White embedded numerous other distracting digs at Mormonism by insisting that God is not merely an "exalted man," among other things. I must respectfully ask Mr. White to adhere to his own advice, and refocus himself on the real issues of this debate, which have no bearing whatsoever on Mr. White’s distorted view of LDS doctrine.

Reformation Doctrine

Mr. White challenges my summation of the Reformed doctrine of Predestination by claiming that it doesn’t mean what I said it does, but provides no evidence to disprove it. Mr. White claims that "the punishment of those who are left to God’s wrath will be based upon full and complete justice." According to Mr. White, these are those who, according to Reformed theology, were chosen before the foundations of the world to be damned to Hell forever. BEFORE they had sinned.

Since Mr. White does not believe in the preexistence of souls, how can "justice" include the condemnation of that which has not even been created yet, before they even have had the opportunity to come under the "stain" of Adam’s transgression, according to the Reformed view on Original Sin? How, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, is this "justice"? One has to wonder if Mr. White will now dodge the issue yet again? The question is a very real one, and one that must be answered by Biblical evidence instead of appealing to nothing more than an abstract nod towards "God’s Sovereignity."

How can those not even BORN yet (and in Mr. White’s mind, not capable of cognizant thought or action, since they did not exist prior to birth) be condemned? If they had no choice in the matter, no chance to accept Jesus Christ, no free will to choose either good or evil, and no opportunity to hear, believe, and be "saved," how can any standard of "justice" be applied here? There is none. Paul taught this great truth most eloquently.

"For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;" (Romans 2:12)

"For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." (2 Cor 8:12)

Mr. White has a most ponderous burden before him in reconciling his misstatement with these scriptural truths. His philosophy is squarely at odds with scriptural truth. Perhaps Mr. White will delight us by ceasing to attempt to divert the debate long enough to examine the text itself and explain this glaring contradiction.

To assist him in his rather ponderous task, perhaps we can help. Webster’s Dictionary presents the following as definitions of "Justice":

1 a : the maintenance or administration of what is just esp. by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments


c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity

2 a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair

b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action

(2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : RIGHTEOUSNESS

c : the quality of conforming to law

3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS

Perhaps Mr. White would humor us by explaining in detail which part of this definition applies to condemning an as-yet-uncreated being to eternal damnation from which they can never escape, by no fault of their own? "Assignment of merited rewards or punishments" perhaps? Nope. Nothing can be "merited" by an uncreated being. Administration of law? What "law" would arbitrarily condemn an uncreated being? The Bible clearly teaches us that those without law DIE without law. Perhaps Mr. White can explain for us how God’s "justice" in condemning uncreated beings not even yet under the "sin" of Adam, is "just, impartial, or fair," while saving other uncreated beings from that fate? I suppose we’ll just have to take Mr. White’s personal word on that.

 Unfounded Character Assassination

Mr. White then condemns Richard Hopkins’ Biblical Mormonism, from which I presented a lengthy series of passages which very soundly refute Mr. White’s entire premise, with the scathing indictment that Mr. Hopkins’ work is "the single worst example of LDS apologetics…" Yet Mr. White does not offer us ONE EXAMPLE of why this is so. Not ONE iota of evidence that anything presented from Mr. Hopkins’ work should be rejected. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Again, I guess Mr. White wants us to take his personal word on that.

 Justification and Sanctification

Mr. White then, with a wave of his hand, dismisses the arguments I presented regarding Justification and Sanctification without reason, merit, or even one example of why they are not applicable to the argument. He simply seems to not want to discuss them, and the obvious implications they bring to the table. But he doesn’t stop with merely ignoring the text, he accuses me of confusing the issues, again without providing even one example of where I have done so. Mr. White complains that I "completely [miss] the point with great consistency." What point? That Mr. White’s arguments do not withstand even the slightest scriptural scrutiny? That Mr. White is "cherry-picking" through various passages to find a scriptural "nail" from which to hang his Predestination "hat"?

Mr. White accuses me of "ignoring Paul’s lengthy presentation of the grounds of justification," when I did no such thing. Mr. White, interestingly, fails to state just WHICH "lengthy presentation" of Paul’s that I seem to have "missed," considering that much of my original presentation came directly from Paul’s writings. One has to wonder where this mysterious passage is, since Mr. White failed to address ANY of the NT passages I presented, the foundational soteriology of which refutes his premise completely. Again, I suppose we should all take Mr. White’s personal word that it exists, and actually refutes my exegesis. He leaves us precious little else to go on.

Mr. White refuses to discuss any aspect of Predestination without using his own carefully compiled "canon within a canon." Without any contradictory evidence whatsoever, he has the audacity to say that I make "justification a subjective thing" without offering one iota of evidence of how I have made it "subjective." I, on the other hand, did qualify my position. Instead of simply viewing scripture through the spectacles of his own extra-biblical Calvinistic bias, Mr. White must actually study the scriptural cites I offered on this subject, and then offer us concrete, verifiable scriptural evidence which supports his position.

Mr. White turns up his nose at the "works-salvation" issue, because it would, in his words, "take us far beyond the thesis statement of this debate." The entire issue of Predestination is undeniably soteriological in nature. If we have the free will to choose whether to place faith in Jesus Christ, then Predestination of individuals is simply not possible. If we are required to be obedient to obtain salvation, as the Bible teaches us in Hebrews 5:9, then it is not simply a "freebie" determined before the foundation of the world. How in heaven’s name Mr. White can label the core issues of salvation that we are dealing with here "inconsequential" is beyond belief. The only possible reason that could be is that he cannot deal with the overwhelming body of scriptural text that refutes the Calvinist position, and thus he refuses to deal with any scripture that he cannot cherry-pick a Calvinist-friendly answer for.

Jeremiah 1:5

Mr. White blusters at length about my treatment of this passage. A close look at his objections reveals some disturbing insights, and raises serious questions about Mr. White’s exegesis.

Mr. White claims that "formed" in Jeremiah 1:5 is the "same" as Psalms 139:13-16 and refers to "unformed substance," which he immediately announces is "a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus." The term Mr. White is referring to is the Hebrew y‚tsar, which literally means "to form," or "to make." Nowhere in scripture is it used to denote an embryo or fetus. Mr. White needs to show us some examples in scripture where this term is used in the manner he describes, and thus justify his exegesis.

Otherwise, I am still waiting patiently for Mr. White to explain how God could have a personal relationship with, and ordain something, that doesn’t yet exist. He has yet to address this issue, but I’m sure Mr. White will somehow make the time to throw in another off-topic insult of LDS doctrine.

Of course, Mr. White then has to interject yet ANOTHER attempt at derailing the debate by slinging yet another off-topic accusation into the mix: "Joseph Smith denied to God the power to create the spirit of man." Another attempt to bait me into answering an off-topic misrepresentation.

Amazingly, Mr. White then takes the Hebrew term y‚tsar and places it "within a group" of other words that refer to creation, among which is bara, which Mr. White claims refers only to creation by God. What Mr. White does NOT show us is how y‚tsar is linguistically connected to bara, or why it should be placed in any "group" with it. Is Mr. White seriously suggesting that y‚tsar is only used in the Bible to refer to creation by God alone? Yup. He states, "In every single one of these instances y‚tsar is used of creative activity." Yes, Mr. White, but not necessarily by God. In Isaiah 54:17, the Lord tells the Israelites that "no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." What is the word for "formed"? Y‚tsar. Is Mr. White suggesting that God "made" the weapons which would be impotent against the Israelites?

Mr. White then goes to extremes to demonstrate the meaning of the word y‚da’, or "to know." While acknowledging the true meaning as used by the same author in different places, White carefully selects several usages by other Biblical authors that are more obtuse and which fit his argument better. Mr. White fails to explain why the other more common usages should be ignored in deference to his hand-picked usages. White then abandons the principles of good exegesis altogether in demanding that y‚da’ NOT mean "to know," but instead be rendered "to choose." What reason does White offer for this? None. Again, we are expected to take Mr. White’s personal word on this.

Mr. White desperately cherry-picks through possible definitions, attempting to find one that supports his theory, without examining the context or usage most appropriate for the passage. And, to be honest, he has to. For God to KNOW Jeremiah would demand that there be a Jeremiah there for God to know, and for there to be a relationship that predates Jeremiah’s mortal existence. This would necessitate Jeremiah pre-existing his mortal birth. And Mr. White steadfastly refuses to consider that possibility. Mr. White also ignores the fact that in every instance of the term y‚da’ in the Old Testament, it always refers to something that exists.. never to something that does not yet exist. If fact, if you follow the usages of the word through the OT, you will quickly find that it refers to knowledge of various types that have the common thread of being gained through the senses.

Mr. White, to give credit where credit is due, is correct in critiquing my exegesis of the word "ordained" since it can carry a meaning of "appointing." What he fails in doing, however, is to explain why his definition must be accepted, and mine rejected in this context. It is one thing to point out where another usage of a term exists, and quite another to prove that your selection of meaning in a particular passage is the only one possible. Mr. White has clearly failed to do this. In fact, when faced with situations like this, Mr. White’s response more often than not is to proclaim that he knows the actual mind, thoughts, and intent of the author!


After hypocritically chiding me to refocus (even though it is he who constantly attempts to undermine the thread of this debate by interjecting inappropriate slurs against LDS doctrine), Mr. White poses a number of questions and comments that deserve some attention.

First of all, Mr. White criticizes my use of secondary sources to support my position. He states, "Mr. Barksdale did not engage in any meaningful rebuttal of my comments on this passage, choosing instead only to cite a secondary source (a Roman Catholic commentary on the passage)." This statement is hypocritical in the extreme, since Mr. White seems to find nothing wrong with using numerous secondary sources within this debate to support HIS position. Consider also the fact that Mr. White carefully refrains from refuting the positions supported by those sources, or even addressing them, instead choosing to establish a patently hypocritical double-standard. One has to wonder why, but in all honesty, Mr. White has to.

Mr. White asks me to explain the words of Jesus, when He declares that "All that the Father gives me will come to me." (John 6:37) He asks "Who are these who are given by the Father to the Son?" The Father’s giving of people to Christ does not suggest that they were predestined to salvation, only that the Father gave Christ charge of them. If it meant predestination, then we must note that Christ himself declared that one of those given him by the Father had been lost:

"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are]. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." (John 17:11-12)

The case of Judas demonstrates that being given to Christ does NOT suggest predestination to salvation.

White claims that salvation always focuses on what God does, not what man does. This is not true. Had man not been placed on earth, salvation wouldn’t even exist. Salvation, though it comes from God, is clearly for man’s benefit, not God’s. If salvation centers only around God’s actions, one has to wonder what Mr. White makes of Paul’s declaration to the Philippians to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"? (Phil. 2:12) Surely this suggests free will, the action on the part of man, and that precludes predestination to salvation or damnation.

White claims that "Christ’s sheep hear his voice. They believe because they are his. They do not become His sheep by believing." Again, nothing could be farther from the truth, Scripturally. Christ taught that "my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me," which suggests free will.

The Savior taught that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

Is not "believing" and being "baptized" something "man does"? Does this passage not indicate that ALL of those who believe WILL be saved? Are those who are saved not his sheep? I invite Mr. White to explain why the explanation given in my first rebuttal concerning this passage should be rejected, when such a huge body of supporting scripture affirms it, while practically no passages refute it.

Does man truly have no role or responsibility in his own salvation, as Mr. White suggests? The apostle Paul taught that Christ was the "author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him." (Heb 5:9, emphasis mine) First of all, Paul didn’t narrow the realm of those worthy of salvation to only a small predestined lot. He said "ALL them." Everyone. Without restriction. What was the qualifying clause? "All them that obey Him." Is obeying Christ not something "man does"? Is this not an example of "working out [our] salvation with fear and trembling?"

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) What a powerful passage. "Whosoever" used here is translated from the Greek pas, meaning "all, any, every, the whole." Not a small body of pre-selected individuals. ALL. Quite a different connotation than what Mr. White claims.

Is salvation God’s work? Of course. Does man have a role to play in believing and receiving the ordinances of salvation? Yes. Can man earn his way to heaven? Of course not. But the Savior consistently taught two truths basic to this issue: 1) ANYONE can come to Christ and be saved, and 2) the act of believing and subsequently acting on that belief (at the very minimum) is required for salvation. These facts are indisputable; and they undermine the very foundation of Mr. White’s argument.

Mr. White claims that "Jesus’ order is the opposite: if you are one of God’s, you will believe." This is not what Christ taught. Christ taught that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Christ referred to those given Him of the Father, true. But not in the way that Mr. White demands. The text of this passage allows for some other possibilities that Mr. White is loath for our readers to see. In verse 39, Christ reveals the following:

"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." Paraphrased, Christ is telling us that the Father’s will is for all who were given to the Son to be raised up at the last day (i.e. saved). What is of paramount interest to us is in defining exactly WHO was "given" and HOW. John answers the question for us in the very next verse:

"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." (John 6: 39,40)

One of the ways that the Greek word for "given" (didomi) is translated is "made." Given the context that John provides in verse 40, a more accurate rendering of verse 39 might be as follows:

"And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath made I should lose nothing, but should raise up again at the last day."

This is certainly consistent with verse 40 and with other similar passages, such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4. The former states;

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

Perhaps Mr. White would be intrigued by a closer examination of the text itself. "Willing" here is translated from Greek text meaning to "aim, to purpose, to resolve, to intend, to design."

1 Timothy is just as clear. It states:

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:3-4, emphasis mine)

To defend his stance, Mr. White needs to address the text of vs. 40:

"Indeed, this is the will of the Father, that EVERYONE who look upon the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life."

Mr. White needs to explain to us how this can possibly be in light of predestination? How can the Father, in His sovereignity, hand-pick a few to be saved before they exist, and doom the rest to Hell, and then claim that it is His will that EVERYONE who looks upon the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life" (which Christ Himself assured us would happen.. to ALL.. not just a select few)? If God has already, eons ago, determined which individuals (which did not yet exist) were going to be saved, does this statement not make God a liar? At the time this passage was written, God had long ago made the choice, against which we have no recourse, according to Calvinists. How could God have made the choice as to who would be saved and who would not, and then tell us that He desires that ALL of us be saved? I am most interested in Mr. White’s answer to this dilemma.

The bottom line is that White seems to take great pains to dissect, strain, and twist a single word, given, completely out of context to create a doctrine that flies in the face of the entirety of the rest of the New Testament message.

Mr. White has harshly criticized my teasing offer to extend a "lesson in exegesis" to him. He has mocked me and derided me for doing so. Yet, in examining his exegesis, it has become painfully apparent that he is in dire need of such tutoring, especially in his use of John 6. Therefore, in the spirit of brotherly love, I will present a few exegetical pointers for Mr. White’s benefit.

 Rule 1: The speaker or writer sometimes states just what he wanted to accomplish by speaking Instead of accepting John’s plain and clear statement, Mr. White demands that it be interpreted only through the lens of Calvinist doctrine. One of the foremost rules for the interpretation of sentences in textual criticism is to always interpret according to the known purpose of the author.1 The first place to look for the author’s purpose is the text itself. In John 6:37-40, as we have seen and which the Anchor Bible Dictionary quite ably pointed out, John’s purpose was not to teach the predestination of individuals. He clearly stated in a verse immediately subsequent to the one Mr. White attempts to use that God’s purpose is for EVERY ONE to be saved. There was no qualification in the text, no narrowing of the field. God desires that "every one" be saved. It is indisputable that this is exactly what John meant.

 Rule 2: Carefully consider the immediate context. What was done and said at the time may throw light on the meaning of the words used. This is most informative, as a careful examination of John’s writings reveals no indication of any teaching of the predestination of individuals, period.

 Rule 3: The Bible, being the truth of God, must harmonize with itself. The Bible should NEVER be interpreted so that its statements are in conflict. Mr. White forces the reader into accepting an interpretation that the rest of the Biblical text does not support, and in fact starkly contradicts.

 Rule 4: Light may be thrown upon a doubtful or difficult passage by comparing it with other statements of the same author on the same subject. By gathering all that can be found from the same writer, one can better understand his view on the subject. One only has to look at the very next verse to see that Mr. White’s interpretation of John 6:39 is in error. Further evidence can be found in the fact that John does not allude to this doctrine, either directly or indirectly, in any of his other writings. In fact, he refutes the idea in numerous places.

 Rule 5: Help may be had in the interpretation of sentences by examining the statements of other writers on the same subject who are of equal authority. Statements by one apostle will agree with those of the Savior and other apostles on the same subject. Examples of where Mr. White’s exegesis fails this test are found in 2 Tim 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9 and numerous other passages. These passages are not peripheral to the issue, they speak directly to it. Each of them soundly contradicts White’s exegesis.

 Rule 6: The use of common sense respecting the things which we know of ourselves. The use of common sense respecting the things which we know of ourselves. Common sense is the basic tool men use to interpret the scriptures, but the exegete cannot array his whims against the word of God in the name of ‘common sense’. He is not at liberty to assert his own opinion as the standard. I have shown numerous examples from Mr. White’s exegesis where he has done this very thing.

Obviously, Mr. White’s use of John 6:37-40 fails the test. In my Closing Argument to this debate, we shall see how Mr. White’s other textual citations also fail the test.

Mr. White may claim that the thesis of this debate "remains very clearly decided", that the Bible "does teach predestination." But a close examination of Mr. White’s evidence reveals that this declaration is nothing more than wishful thinking. Mr. White has not even remotely proven his case. I guess, yet again, we’ll have to take his personal word on it.

He has not been able to refute the fact that predestination actually refers to the foreordination of GROUPS of people, and the CALLING of certain individuals to perform certain functions. And Mr. White has yet to present any compelling evidence to show that the predestination of individuals to salvation is taught in even one instance in the Bible.


Fortunately, not all Christians are as misled as Mr. White on the subject of predestination. My chief regret in composing this rebuttal is that I don’t have 5 times the space to respond. The sheer volume of data that refutes Mr. White’s position on the preexistence of man alone is staggering, much less the mountain of scriptural truth that refutes Calvinist thought. Therefore, I close this rebuttal by leaving the reader with only a small handful of statements:

"Election, or choice, respects that lump or mass of mankind from which they are separated. Predestination has respect to the blessings they are intended for; particularly the adoption as sons, that in due time we should become his adopted children, and so have the right to all the privileges of children. Before the creation of the world, they were chosen in the counsel of God from all eternity."2

"Election and destiny do not imply unilateral determination; they simply mean that God calls us before we are able to answer."3

Finally, ironically, a quote from Christianity 101 that sums up the truth regarding this doctrine quite well:

"… We must maintain that, although all humans matter to God, not all will be saved. God had decided even before the beginning of time that only people of faith would enter eternal life. In other words, he had ordained that believers should receive salvation. Having said this, we must quickly add that Scripture does NOT teach that God has foreordained which individuals will become believers. All Biblical statements about Predestination, the ones listed above and several others, make reference to predestination as a collective reality. God has decided that there will be a community of faith, but he has not chosen the individuals who will be part of it. This choice is left to ‘whosoever will.’ God makes salvation available; it is up to individual people to accept it or reject it."4

Finally, consider the words of Dr. Lewis Chafer, first president of the Dallas Theological Seminary:

"No one is saved against his will, and no one disbelieves against his will… Scripture clearly emphasizes that some are elected to salvation, and the unsaved are destined for their lot, not because men who desired salvation were unable to choose to secure it, but always on the ground that those who are unsaved chose to be unsaved… No one will ever be able to stand before God and say, "I wanted to be saved but was unable to do so because I was not elected."5


  1. D. R. Dugan, Hermeneutics: A Text Book, 3d ed. (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company, n.d.) Chap VII and VIII. Also from Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), Gerhard F. Hasel, "Principles of Biblical Interpretation" in A Symposium on Biblical Hermeneutics, Gordon M. Hyde, ed. (Washington: The Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1974); and Walter M. Dunnet, The Interpretation of Holy Scripture (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984).

  2. The NIV Matthew Henry Commentary (Zondervan; Grand Rapids), pg. 661

  3. Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press; Macon), pg. 1218

  4. Gilbert Bilezikian, Christianity 101, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), pg. 153

  5. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes: 52 Vital Doctrines of the Scripture Simplified and Explained (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974)

4958 words.

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