"Our ambition...is to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9)
Office Hours (MT)
Dr. James White, Director
Richard Pierce, President
Sean Hahn, Vice President
Monday - Friday
10:00AM - 5:00PM
(602) 973-4602

 

 

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. This article may also contain Hebrew words. Click here to download a zip file containing the proper Hebrew font.]


Closing Statement

James White

I wish to thank any reader who has taken the time to read this far through this rather lengthy exchange. It is my hope that you have been benefited by the sections that actually managed to focus upon the topic of the debate: an exegetical discussion of the simple fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of predestination.

Having reached the concluding comments, I wish to be very focused in making sure that everyone is fully aware of the fundamentals of the debate so that a meaningful and biblically-based decision can be rendered by each reader—not that the truth of this debate is determined by vote or popular opinion, for it is not. Instead, God’s truth judges each of us, and we are each held accountable to that truth, whether it is popular or not. If only a few, or even none, were willing to believe God’s truth, that would only condemn us all as unbelievers. It would not change God’s truth. My presentation has not been designed to convince the person who is not willing to bow before God’s Word and conform himself/herself to that revelation. I can’t help such a person. But, if you wish to know what the Bible teaches, and follow after that truth, I hope you have been benefited.

In my closing statement I wish to do four things: 1) document further errors of fact made by Mr. Barksdale in his second rebuttal; 2) Summarize the biblical evidence on the point of the debate; 3) Offer a word to the LDS reader of this debate; 4) Offer a word to the Evangelical reader of this debate.

 

Many More Errors

In my previous response I documented the fact that Mr. Barksdale not only uses some rather interesting sources for his arguments (including world-famous nihilistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche), but his exegesis is marked by simple, basic errors in research and understanding. I documented that he would often respond to comments on one verse by citing commentary on a completely different passage. In another instance, he criticized me for comments on the meaning of one Greek word by citing a reference about a completely different Greek word. Unfortunately, this kind of mishandling of the most basic elements of the text continues in Mr. Barksdale’s second response. Not only is the biblical text completely misrepresented, but even my own words are made to say something they did not originally say. These errors are significant for any person wishing to weigh our respective presentations on the basis of accuracy and cogency.

Mr. Barksdale attempts to respond to my exegesis of Jeremiah 1:5, but in doing so demonstrates that he has badly misread my words. For example, he writes:

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.

What I wrote, however, is:

Yahweh formed (rc'y" , yazer) Jeremiah in the womb. rc'y" refers to creative activity, much as we see in Psalm 139:13-16, where the Psalmist refers to the time when Yahweh looked upon his "unformed substance" (a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus).

The term "same" does not appear in what I wrote; it is obvious that I did not say that rc'y" refers to an embryo or fetus, but am referring to Mlego which, of course, any lexical source defines as "embryo, fetus." In the same way, he completely misreads my comments regarding the same term’s use in Jeremiah 1:5. He begins by denying the obvious: that yatzer is used in parallel with bara in numerous passages, and is part of a group of terms used to refer to creation (just one example: Isaiah 43:1). Then Mr. Barksdale writes, "Is Mr. White seriously suggesting that yatsar is only used in the Bible to refer to creation by God alone? Yup." He then goes on to disprove this false assertion. I never made the claim, however, that Mr. Barksdale refutes. In fact, any person who read my presentation can see that I said bara is used only of God (see footnote 3), but I never so much as intimated that this is true of any other term. Mr. Barksdale has simply misread my words.

But of far more concern and import to our debate is the attempt to deal in some fashion with the words of the Lord Jesus at John 6:35-45. There is truly no passage that is so clear, so cogent, so weighty in its teaching of the sovereignty of God in salvation and election than this. And certainly there is no end to the attempts that have been offered to get around the plain teaching it presents. But the text is clear. Jesus explains why men who have seen Him do not believe (6:36). He insists that ALL (not some, not most, but ALL) that the Father gives to Him will come to Him (6:37). Grammatically and syntactically, the act of giving by the Father must precede the coming to the Son. God acts in giving to the Son (election), the elected ones respond by coming infallibly to Christ in faith. Mr. Barksdale’s only way around this simple fact is to leave John completely and go to a disputed passage in Mark 16 which nowhere even attempts to address the relationship between the election of the Father and the response of the elect person. It is this "coming one" that is never cast out (6:37). The Lord goes on to explain the Father’s will for Him (v. 39): that of all that the Father has given to Him (here using the perfect de,dwke,n rather than the present di,dwsi,n used in 6:37 due to the gathering of the elect into a single whole, seen through the use of the neuter singular pronouns in 6:39), He lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day. He then identifies those who are so given by the Father as those who are coming and believing in Him (6:40). Remember, however, that Jesus has already indicated the relationship between being given and coming: the Father’s action precedes the action of man, and therefore determines it. This is re-iterated in 6:44, where the Lord makes it plain that no man has the ability to come to Him outside of the divine drawing of the Father, a drawing obviously that is limited to the elect, since it likewise results in their being raised up to eternal life. This is directly contradictory to Mr. Barksdale’s assertion that "ANYONE can come to Christ and be saved." Instead, Jesus taught that "whosoever will" is the key: and since no one will unless enabled by the Father (6:65), only the elect "will" do so.

But most instructive for us is the attempt by Mr. Barksdale to introduce us to a completely new, never before seen "translation" of John 6:39 that, seemingly, removes his difficulties with this passage. He begins with the seemingly obligatory insult: "The text of this passage allows for some other possibilities that Mr. White is loath for our readers to see." To be honest, I had never seen Mr. Barksdale’s "possibility," since, as we shall see, it doesn’t exist to anyone who actually engages in exegesis of the text. Here is his assertion:

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.

Now, I hope we all remember that Mr. Barksdale rejects any translations I offer, yet, we have here an offered "translation" from him. Surely, if there is merit in his assertion, this would alleviate him from many problems with this passage in John 6. Yet, isn’t it a little strange that he would offer us a translation of a language he does not claim to be able to read? And given that I am not familiar with a single English translation anywhere that renders the passage as Mr. Barksdale, what does it mean that he would go to these lengths? Let’s look at the claim, as it speaks to my opponent’s entire effort to engage in "exegesis" in this debate.

The first assertion to examine is his statement that divdwmi can mean "made." We are offered no lexical sources for this assertion. Where does it come from? The standard scholarly lexicon, that of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd edition, gives reference to a majority of the 446 appearances of divdwmi in the New Testament (75 in the Gospel of John). The vast majority mean "to give." The only exception is the fifth section under the third definition, which reads, "equivalent to tiqevnai put, place…put money in the bank Lk 19:23; appoint someone…judges Ac 13:20; w. double acc. appoint someone someth….(to be) apostles Eph 4:11….make someone head 1:22" (p. 193). Here is the only reference to "make" in the entry, and it is obviously not "make" in the sense of "create," but "make" as in "make someone head" or "place" in a position, a meaning utterly different than that presented by Mr. Barksdale.1 Further, BAGD lists John 6:39 not here, but under the meaning "entrust someone to another’s care," which is exactly what the Father does: He entrusts His people to the Son’s care for their salvation.

Hence, Mr. Barksdale is in error to say that divdwmi can mean "make" in the sense he then uses it. The word means to give, to entrust, and even when used as an equivalent term to tithemi, still means "to place in a position." None of these meanings, however, comports with the use made by Barksdale. This is one of the reasons why no English translation produced by scholars translates the passage as he does: the word doesn’t mean what Mr. Barksdale says.

But there is an even more startling problem with Mr. Barksdale’s "translation." It takes only a moment’s comparison to see the problem: an entire word, moi, the dative singular pronoun translated "to Me" in all English translations, is, quite simply, missing in Mr. Barksdale’s "translation"! That is, all English translations recognize that the passage speaks of the Father giving to someone, and that someone is the Son. "All that the Father gives to Me" is the phrase. "To Me" is completely missing in Barksdale’s "translation." Where did it go? Look again at his suggested rendering. I will place a line where the term moi should appear:

"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 [it] up again at the last day."

Obviously he can’t include it, since that would result in "which He made to Me," which is utter nonsense. The presence of moi makes the translation "made" utterly impossible. This is the other reason no English translation renders it this way—no person who can read the language would ever suggest it. The meaning of the word is thereby misrepresented by Barksdale, and the text itself is altered, with an entire word "skipped over" simply because my opponent does not wish to accept the plain teaching of the passage.

Now, we should stop for a moment to reflect upon this situation. The foundation of this debate was to be the exegesis of the text of Scripture. When one side has to change the text of Scripture by skipping over words and mistranslating basic words such as divdwmi, is this not an indication that the position being presented is unable to remain faithful to the text under consideration? The very first day I challenged Darryl Barksdale on this topic I pointed him to the fundamental structure of the text, and I have not changed my position since then. Yet, we have now seen that not only are his past attempts to respond to the exegesis of Ephesians or Romans marked by a singular inability to interact with the specific texts cited (resulting in his confusion as to what words are being discussed), but now we find him willing to offer his own "translation," along with the assertion that I am "loath" to allow anyone to consider it, which is in fact a complete mistranslation, based upon an erroneous understanding of one Greek word, and the complete dismissal of another! If Mr. Barksdale’s position is exegetically sound, why can’t he demonstrate it from the text itself?

In response to the citation of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 that follows this attempt to deal with John 6:39, I quote God’s Sovereign Grace, a work I wrote in 1991 (and offered to send to Mr. Barksdale at the commencement of our debate, but he declined):

Q: 2 Peter 3:9 indicates that God does not want anyone to perish. Doesn't this disprove the doctrine of election?

A: We must always apply sound rules of exegesis to the Scriptures. Peter accepted the Old Testament's teaching about the nature of God. He knew Psalm 135:6 and 115:3, and the truth that whatever God pleases, He does. And, since we have already seen that repentance is the gift of God, could He not give repentance to anyone He chooses? Finally, the context of the passage must be consulted. 2 Peter is written to the elect, as 2 Peter 1:1 shows. In chapter 3, Peter is explaining the delay of the parousia, that is, the coming of Christ. He explains that Christ will indeed return, and that the delay is in order that God may gather His people. "He is patient with you," Peter writes to God's people, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." The "everyone" is in reference to all of God's elect. The only reason that you are reading this book nearly 2,000 years later is because God has been patient, giving the world all this time, so that all of God's elect could be gathered in.

Q: 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Doesn't this disprove the concept of election?

A: Again, the entire context of Scripture, as well as of the passage, must be considered. Aside from all the passages that clearly indicate God's ability to save all men, and bring all men to a knowledge of the truth if He so desired, we again note the context of the passage. Verse five speaks of the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, and, as we saw in our examination of the atonement and intercession of Christ, this work is undertaken in behalf of God's people. Therefore, the term "men" in verse 5 is limited to the elect of God. As John Owen noted in this regard,

What then, I pray? what will be concluded hence? Cannot Christ be a mediator between God and men, but he must be a mediator for all men? Are not the elect men? do not the children partake of flesh and blood? doth not his church consist of men? What reason is there to assert, out of an indefinite proposition, a universal conclusion? Because Christ was a mediator for men (which were true had he been so only for his apostles), shall we conclude therefore he was so for all men? (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 78.)

The same is to be said for verse 6, where the ransom sacrifice of Christ is mentioned. We have seen that this sacrifice was made in behalf of the people of God, not for each and every individual. Therefore, if verses five and six specifically mention the work of Christ in behalf of the elect, verse four does as well. This fits consistently with the entire teaching of Scripture. "All men" here is the same "all" that are given by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.

Q: Doesn't the Bible exhort "whosoever will" to come?

A: Yes, it does. The Gospel message is addressed to all men. However, just who "wills" to come? We know that the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and that no man seeks after God (Romans 3:11). We also know that the Lord Jesus said that no man is able to come to Him unless the Father draws him. So, outside of God's initial move in regeneration, no man will "will" to come to Christ.

Q: If God has already chosen who will be saved, why share the gospel, since they will be saved whether we are involved in evangelism or not?

A: This is probably the most common objection that is voiced against the doctrine of election. There is a clear answer, but before getting to that, we should note that the question is not a proper one; that is, our questions should be based upon the teaching of the word of God, not what we can or cannot necessarily understand. Even if we did not have an answer to the question, would this necessarily mean that Ephesians 1:11 does not teach what it obviously teaches?

But, we do have an answer anyway. First, we evangelize to glorify God. We do not go out to "save" anybody, since we are incapable of doing that in the first place. We share the gospel because by so doing, we bring glory to God. If that is all the reason we had, it would be sufficient. But there is more. We know that God has given us a great privilege to be used by Him in His work in this world. He has given to us a blessing to be able to share the gospel with men. God has decreed both the ends and the means. He has decreed to use men in sharing the gospel with His elect. Why has He done so? I do not know. I only know that His Word reveals that it is so. God has not seen fit to give us knowledge of who is, and who is not, His elect. Therefore, we share the gospel with all men, and trust God to honor the proclamation of His message by drawing the elect unto Himself. We can share boldly with all men, knowing that God is powerful to save, and as long as we seek to glorify Him, He will care for us and bless us with His Spirit.

 

The Matter Concluded

The Bible teaches that God predestines men to salvation through Christ Jesus. It is clear that the elect are known to God, and are chosen on the basis of His own mercy, grace, and will. We have already seen this plainly presented in Ephesians 1, Romans 8-9, and John 6. Try as anyone might, it is a fruitless task to attempt to deny these plain facts. Every effort to overthrow this doctrine has failed, for the Word is too plain, too consistent. Mr. Barksdale could not answer that first day in the AOL chat room why it was that the accusative direct object of "predestine" was the plural personal pronoun, "us." To this day, he cannot overthrow that simple fact.

Few of those who reject God’s electing grace have any accurate knowledge as to what they are denying. Most react solely out of emotion, not out of thought or study. When one truly begins to consider what it means that "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9) and that it is "by His doing you are in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:30), certain truths come flooding into the mind. First, that God is truly worthy to be worshipped and praised, since He is truly God (and not man, Hosea 11:9), the Creator, the Potter, in whose hands I am but the clay. The arrogant pride of man is shattered by just a glimpse of the true God, and it is that pride that is so badly crushed by the sovereignty of grace. All grounds of boasting, all reasons for arrogance and pride, are cut off by the gospel of grace. I am no better than any other. I am not "smarter" in that I have "figured it out" while the lost do not. I am not "more righteous" because I somehow "worked the plan" while those in eternal punishment did not. No, there is only one thing that separates me from the sinner undergoing righteous punishment in hell: grace, a five letter word that becomes to the believer life itself. That is why in eternity to come it is grace that will be our song, grace that will be the object of our praise (Ephesians 1:6). And that is why it is that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), for "it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (v. 13). The fear and trembling I have is in recognition of the holiness and awesomeness of the God who is at work within me, doing His good pleasure!

I am under no illusions that the majority of folks will like what I have to say. God’s truth is not a matter of vote or popularity: indeed, truth is rarely very close to popular opinion. And when it comes to telling men and women of the sovereignty of God, and how men are enemies of God, lost sinners utterly without hope (Romans 3:10-18), and that they are completely and totally dependent upon God and His mercy to save them, I well know how the heart as yet to be touched by grace responds to that message. But I boldly proclaim it anyway. Why? Because it is true, and because God will honor His truth. His sheep hear His voice. His people will not be caused to stumble by His Word. The message will get through to the elect, and no power in heaven or earth can stop God from bringing His people into relationship with Himself. Conviction and conversion is God’s work---I am but privileged to be an instrument to bring His truth to His people in His time and in His way.

 

A Word to LDS Readers

Over the past decade and a half I’ve spoken with literally thousands of LDS people. I well know how very different this message is to your ears. It is truly my hope that you will consider well the teaching of Scripture: that you will recognize that one cannot skip and jump about seeking to find some other passage to explain away the meaning of the one under consideration. Take the time to check out the sources cited, but more importantly, the text itself. Listen to Paul describe election in Ephesians 1, and see if there is, indeed, anything "human" mixed into it. Listen as Jesus says "no man is able to come to Me" in John 6:44, and that "all that the Father gives Me will come to Me" in verse 37. Follow the Golden Chain of Redemption in Romans 8, and see if it is not the work, completely, of a sovereign God.

Mr. Barksdale has accused me of taking "digs" at Mormonism by doing such things as citing Joseph Smith’s own words in the King Follett Discourse. Such are not, of course, digs, anymore than Stephen Robinson or Daniel Peterson are taking "digs" at Mormonism when they, likewise, cite the same words. The simple fact of the matter is, electing grace has no ground in Mormonism simply because there is no corresponding God in Mormonism who could produce it. That is, it is theology proper (the doctrine of God) in Christianity that supports soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). But in Mormonism’s theology, there is no eternal, omnipotent Creator, hence, there is no possibility that a Mormon, assuming the LDS doctrine of God, could understand the concept of sovereign grace. If you believe God is an exalted man, one of our own species, the idea of election, predestination, and even sovereignty, can make no sense to you. I am well aware of this. One might well say, "Then why bother talking to Mormons about such things?" Because, I have seen my God reveal Himself through His Word to LDS people. I’ve seen Him utterly remove the false concepts about His existence, and replace them with the truth of His eternal power and sovereignty. I’ve seen Him open eyes to the depth of sin, and the absolute necessity of grace. That’s my confidence, and it is truly my prayer that you will be the recipient of His grace even this hour.

 

A Word to My Fellow Evangelical Christians

Years ago I began saying this, and I will say it again: the Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit. We have no right to shave off the "rough edges" in the interest of making the Gospel "look better" to our modern, self-absorbed world. We have no business meddling with the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the Gospel that changes hearts, and makes those who hate God love Him. It is the only power given to the Church, and we should treat it as precious.

There are many in Evangelicalism who have relegated the discussion of election and predestination to "deep doctrine we don’t need to worry about," or a topic "upon which good men have differed." Yet it is definitional, fundamental, and determines the very nature of our theology, our evangelism, our view of the Church, and our apologetic. We are deprived of our foundation and depth in truth when we ignore these topics, or fail to proclaim them, fearing the face of men. The great London Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said it in terms granted by divine ability:

There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation — the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands — the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as; the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except upon His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of Heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His scepter in His hand and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.2

I ask you to join with me in revealing to our LDS friends the truth about God: who He is, and what He has done in Christ Jesus. They speak often of the Gospel, but have not heard it. They need bold Christians who share in love: love for God, love for His truth, which leads to a love for those who need to hear that truth. We are not loving the LDS people when we give them only half-truths. We show our love most fully when we lay ourselves on the line, absorb the slings and arrows that come from sharing with them, and trust God with the results. Only then are we truly fulfilling Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God’s free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God’s grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others. ---John Calvin

May God be glorified as His truth is made known.

 

Endnotes:

1 For those interested, this usage is even further removed from the use made by Mr. Barksdale: it refers to a double accusative (as in Ephesians 1:22), and there is, of course, no accusative direct object of divdwmi in John 6:39!

2Sermon delivered May 4, 1856 on Matthew 20:15, The Spurgeon Collection CD-ROM, Ages Software, 1998.

Word Count: 4991


Copyright 2005-2006 Alpha and Omega Ministries