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Does the Bible Teach Predestination?
An Exegetical Debate


Dr. James White vs Darryl Barksdale

Closing Statement

By Darryl L. Barksdale

I would like to begin this statement by extending a sincere thanks to my opponent, Mr. James White. He has certainly kept me honest within these proceedings and has shared some valuable insights into the rationale behind his position, for which I am most grateful. I certainly wish him well in life.

 My Errors

Let me be brutally honest for a moment. I am not a Greek scholar, and, because of this, I have made several glaring errors in this debate which have proven to be most embarassing. I attribute them solely to the hastiness in which I prepared my responses to Mr. White, and realize in hindsight that I should have spent more time reviewing my responses before I posted them. He is quite justified in correcting me in the areas where I misspoke.

My request to the reader, however, is to carefully examine the bulk of my arguments, especially the numerous arguments that I posed from which Mr. White tiptoed away, and compare them with Holy Writ to see if they are not reflective of the truth. Even if one removes the arguments that contain errors of translation, the remaining arguments are staggering in their cumulative condemnation of the doctrine of the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation.

From the previous statements and rebuttals of this debate, I would like to present a summary of Mr. White's main arguments for the position that we are individually predestined to salvation or damnation, and that no other interpretation of Holy Writ is plausible.

 A Brief Summary

Ephesians 1:3-11 is used as the mainstay of White's argument in favor of the predestination of individuals to salvation and damnation.

White asserts that in verse 3, among other things, only the "redeemed" are being addressed because Paul uses the personal pronouns "us" and "we," and thus this is proof that God the Father predestinates individuals to salvation or damnation.

Besides the obvious fact that we know that Paul did not even write the epistle to the Ephesians, curiously nowhere does Mr. White explain why these very common pronouns should be restricted to the "redeemed," rather than to those who were the intended audience of the author of this epistle.

This is a logical fallacy called "begging the question." In other words, the truth of White's conclusion that this verse teaches the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is assumed entirely from the premise that "us" and "we" should be used in an overly restrictive sense.

I suppose if you want to get really technical about it, the entire "us" argument falls apart because it is a syllogistical error of existential fallacy. White is drawing an unwarranted specific conclusion from universal premises… that "us" refers to only the redeemed, when it clearly refers to a much broader and more universal group.

When I addressed this erroneous assumption on White's part, he sidestepped the real issue and accused me of responding to the fact that "us" was the direct object of the "verbs describing God's act of salvation." Apparently Mr. White thought that no one would catch his error. I was not responding to White's "demonstration that 'we' or 'us' is the constant grammatical direct object of the verbs describing God's act of salvation," but rather to his insistence that "us" and "we" refers ONLY to "the redeemed," and that his unsubstantianted interpretation in any way proves the idea that individuals are predestined to salvation or damnation.

Mr. White continued his objection with a most interesting statement:

"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 challenged White specifically about his rendering of "us" as to be referring only to the redeemed! What is there on my part to prove? The word is not there! Mr. White has yet to provide any justification for defining "us" and "we" as only the "redeemed" or "elect" from the text itself, and yet claims that I have not proved my point and nor did I try! He has not provided us with even one quote. Not one reference to context to prove his point. Not one cite of any authority agreeing with his exegesis. Not one example of the author using the plural pronoun "us" in reference to only the redeemed or the elect in any other passage.

So, where did he come up with this idea? White explains that the "us" of Ephesians 1:5 is the "we" of Ephesians 1:11 and the "elect" of Romans 8:33 and those who are "given" by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.

Where in the world does Mr. White find justification for this? Is this Mr. White's idea of proper "exegesis"? Is this how he deals with difficult passages? To simply fabricate a connection between two different passages, clearly written by two different authors to two different audiences years apart? Does he present any exegetical reason why the pronouns in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 are in any way related exegetically to the "elect" in Romans 8:33 and John 6:37? No. Apparently, Mr. White is unwilling, or unable, to deal with the actual text within its proper context.

I would submit to our readers that this is an excellent example of the weakness of Mr. White's entire argument for predestination. As I originally observed, in order to force-fit the clear, plain text to conform to Calvinistic dogma, one must "add to" the Word of God meanings that are simply not there. One must create a "canon within a canon." One must twist the purity of God's Word excruciatingly beyond recognition in order to force it into a Calvinistic paradigm. I do not believe that this was the intent of the original authors.

Mr. White insists that the idea that we are to be holy and blameless, that we are to be adopted as sons, and that we are redeemed through the blood of the savior is "personal," and is not referring to the collective audience to which the epistle is addressed. Where does the text itself support this? Nowhere. Mr. White never shows us even one instance of where the text clearly teaches this concept as he has presented it.

In the Old Testament, Jehovah laments to the Israelites how long He has waited as a hen to gather them under his wings. According to Mr. White's exegetical methodology, the Israelites should have been able to rest comfortably, assured of the fact that only one individual was being addressed, because Jehovah directed His lamentation to the pronoun "you."

Mr. White states that this is a "tremendous example of the differences in theology that comes from the scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the scriptures." I, for one, would agree. Mr. White's attempt to force-fit a 6th century paradigm of predestination onto scriptural passages which clearly do not teach them certainly falls into this category.

To summarize, I would ask Mr. White to reflect seriously upon his own statement, "Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate," and to apply that standard of efficacy to his own arguments, for White is clearly preaching a sermon here, not engaging in scholarly exegesis. Nothing more, and nothing less. By his own standard, nearly everything that he has presented that is not supported by solid, documented hermeneutically-sound evidence within the text of this debate must be rejected.

Shooting the Messenger

White has responded consistently to arguments that he cannot answer by attempting to shoot the messenger and hope that no one notices the message or its impact on his arguments.

For instance, he completely ignored a very germane discussion in my opening statement on sanctification and justification and our own actions and the effect they have on our salvation, calling the author of one of my cites "one of the worst" that he has seen. Of course, no justification was ever given for this for this inflammatory and unfounded accusation, and White never mentions this topic or the author he slandered again, nor has he ever bothered to address the very germane issues presented therein, which by themselves destroy the most basic premise of the doctrine of predestination.

When I quoted Werner Stenger, who in turn quoted Nietzche to stress a most pertinent point, White erroneously accused me of quoting Nietzche directly, condemned Nietzche (and me for quoting him), and completely ignored the actual message of the quote, which stated that true Biblical exegetes should "[read] facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand."

Does Mr. White take exception to this message or Stenger’s use of it? If not, then why attack the messenger? If so, what part of this message does Mr. White find to be objectionable, and why? The answers are very simple. By demanding, for instance, that words like "us" be too narrowly interpreted, or that when the Father says that He desires that all be saved He is really only speaking of the elect, White is violating the very principle that Stenger, not just Nietzche, is trying to teach. James White has, throughout this debate, created a "canon within a canon" to justify his doctrine. When the tough questions have come, he has chosen to shoot the messenger instead of addressing the message and has quickly changed the subject.

Arguments Ignored

White has ignored a veritable mountain of arguments that he cannot address.

He has failed to explain to us why Paul stated that the Jews who reject Christ will be included in salvation. Given Mr. White’s view of predestination, I for one would have been most eager to hear his explanation for how this is possible.

Mr. White has failed to articulate for us how it is in any way "just" that one be damned before the foundation of the world, before the stain of "Original Sin" would come upon him, and before an individual even exists. Perhaps a concise definition of "justice" from Mr. White would assist us here. Since individuals do not exist in Mr. White’s view prior to mortality, they have no acts or choices upon which judgment could be based. And if they did not exist prior to mortality, and if God’s judgement to salvation or damnation is based on what they will be when born based on God’s omniscient foreknowledge (though not due to any choice of theirs, for predestination denies Free Will), is not God guilty of creating evil, sinful monsters from the very beginning that have no other purpose than to be damned to the depths of Hell, screaming in agony for eternity? Perhaps Mr. White would explain just how "justice" fits into this scenario.

Mr. White intentionally neglects to include the definition of "foreordained" for the Greek proorizo, even though a considerable number of lexicons list it before "predestined." And yet he claims that the definition of that term is "without ambiguity."

Mr. White also fails to address the many citations I presented which pointed to an interpretation of Ephesians 1:3-11 not in an individual sense, but in a collective sense… of collective groups of God's people, such as the ancient Israelites. In fact, verse 14 uses that very term.. "God’s people." No, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Mr. White demands that "us" is personal, and refers to individuals as direct objects of God’s will. But the author of Ephesians never hints at this interpretation whatsoever, nor does he use the word "us" in this sense in any other passage. Mr. White never explains this curious phenomenon. He also never explains why he doesn’t seem to want to consider the rest of the book of Ephesians in his discussion of the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation.

Mr. White rejects the notion that the author of Ephesians is discussing a plan that has been laid for "God’s people," even though this is exactly what the text clearly states, and several experts that I cited confirm. Mr. White ignores the fact that the text states that we are "predestined" or "foreordained" not that we will, but that we should be saved. Not that we are sons of God, but that we may be adopted as such. Mr. White has never yet explained why a more forceful, distinct, and unambiguous phraseology was not used in this "God-breathed" infallible passage.

White also curiously neglects to explain how we can possibly "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12) if we are predestined to salvation or damnation from before the foundation of the world through no act of our own, through no fault of our own, and are thus powerless to effect that outcome. Perhaps Mr. White would have been kind enough to share with us exactly what "salvation" we can "work out with fear and trembling," given his position. According to Mr. White, this was all decided long before we suddenly "flared into existence" out of nothing.

White also fails to acknowledge his blunderingly erroneous interpretation of the Jacob and Esau example given in Romans 9, demanding that it be grossly misinterpreted… that is interpreted literally to support his thesis, when any barely literate Biblical scholar knows that the story is figurative, and refers to nations, not individuals.

White also fails to explain anywhere in his treatise the informative statement in Hebrews 5:9, that Christ "is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him." Isn't obeying Him something that "man does" that affects his salvation? White insists that nothing we can do will effect our salvation. That has all been decided long before we came into being. So why then can our obedience, or lack of it, affect our salvation and why is this ability even articulated, when according to White it doesn’t exist? White fails to tell us. He also fails to explain where the author of Hebrews restricted this statement to the "elect."

In one of the most egregious examples of blatant eisegesis in this debate, White dismisses the clear, plain statements of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim 2:4 that the Father desires all to come unto Him with a spammed answer from another work that he authored that clearly exposes the fallacy of his argument, and which gives us rare insight into the extent of scholarly dishonesty to which White will descend in order to lovingly protect his logical fallacy.

White explains that neither passage of scripture can be interpreted as they stand, and that they must be altered to force-fit Calvinistic theology. In a truly dizzying display of circular logic, White explains that 1 Timothy 2:5 "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." Can Mr. White be serious? The only way that this explanation works is to redefine the "us" in Ephesians 1:3 to refer only to the redeemed! Is this Mr. White’s idea of scholarly exegesis? Does White present any evidence from this author to demonstrate that this term is used in this manner in other passages? No. Does White present any hermeneutical evidence whatsoever to justify this gross eisegesis other than that it is necessary to be able to discard this contradictory passage, making his thesis more tenable? Again, no.

Perhaps Mr. White would explain to us why the authors of 2 Peter and 1 Timothy were so mutually incompetent as to somehow neglect stating this most crucial of facts, as was John, apparently in John 6:39,40. Were they not inspired? Was the Bible not "God-breathed"? If so, why then does God need James White to properly "interpret" it for the rest of us by overlaying the clear, plain meaning of the actual text with Mr. White’s assumptions and cherry-picked definitions? Why, if Mr. White is correct, would these authors articulate these sacred concepts using such consistently erroneous and misleading phraseology? In reality, this is yet another instance on Mr. White's part of begging the question. But that should not surprise us. White’s entire premise is built upon the sandy foundation of logical fallacy.

Fortunately, Evangelical scholarship has distanced itself far from this kind of embarassing eisegesis. A prominent Evangelical reference says this about the two passages in question:

"Timothy 2:3-4 states, 'God our Saviour… wills (thelei) all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' Second Peter 3:9 expresses a similar sentiment: 'The Lord… does not will (boulomenos) anyone to perish but that everyone might come to repentance.' It should be emphasized that neither text says that all will be saved regardless of their disposition toward the gospel. In the first text, 'to come to a knowledge of the truth' is a formula that means to make a rational decision about the gospel, that is, to respond to the gospel message. The second text similarly relates God's will to save the all-inclusive 'anyone' to the volitional element involved in repentance. Consequently, while these texts tell us that God's will to save extends to all people, and that he desires to save rather than to condemn, they do not remove the necessary element of the faith-response to the gospel."1 (emphasis mine)

At this point, I cannot help but hear Mr. White’s own words ringing clearly in my ears. Is this not a "tremendous example of the differences in theology that comes from the scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the scriptures"?

The Preexistence of Man

White rejects the preexistence of man without any justification at all. He simply does. This is the logical fallacy of exclusion. The fallacy of exclusion occurs when evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration. Mr. White has done this repeatedly in refusing to consider the considerable evidence pointing to the premortal existence of man.

When confronted with the fact that the Lord told Jeremiah that he knew him before he was born, White attempts to wiggle out of the obvious by claiming that other definitions of "know" exist. But do any of them apply to this passage? No. The text is clear. And Mr. White is either unwilling, or unable, to address the text itself in any responsible manner. Either the passage has been badly mistranslated and is in error, or it is very succinct and clear and should be considered in the plainness in which it was written. God knew Jeremiah before he was born. This clearly implies the existence of Jeremiah prior to birth. We are still waiting to hear a plausible explanation using sound hermeneutical principles from White.

White insists that the Bible never hints of a preexistence of man. He dismisses the Sons of God shouting for joy at the creation of the Earth in the book of Job without any merit or reason whatsoever. He admits that the Hebrew for "sons" that I presented was correct. He does not claim that the verse was mistranslated. He does not provide any evidence that I have not correctly interpreted the text. He simply denies it, and demands that I prove that the text means exactly what it already says it does. This is another excellent example of how Mr. White deals with text that he cannot explain away. There were "Sons of God" who were literal offspring, as the passage clearly states, shouting for joy in the premortal realm at the creation of our Earth. Mr. White has yet to deal with this fact.

What of the blind man? In yet another example of an excellent argument ignored for rather obvious reasons, in John 9 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 was born blind?" (John 9:2, emphasis mine)

This passage poses a most difficult challenge to Mr. White. According to Mr. White’s view, it is impossible for an individual to "sin" prior to birth, since he simply doesn’t exist. Given this view, it would be interesting to see Mr. White explain why the apostles thought he could sin prior to being born if the premortal existence of man was an unknown concept, and why the Savior, in the midst of a sterling teaching moment, failed to correct their misunderstanding. The Savior had every opportunity here to teach all of us that the man couldn’t have sinned because he didn’t exist prior to birth. But the Savior accepted their premise without flinching, without comment, and most notably, without correction. Mr. White fails to address the enormous implications of this passage in any way whatsoever. He simply pretends the argument was never raised.

White claims that neither the Bible nor the early Christian Church held any concept of the preexistence of man. Once again, he ignores volumes of evidence which contradicts his assertion, and to be honest, he has to. Why? Because if man preexisted this mortal life, the entire predestination heresy would collapse under the weight of its own faulty logic. If the preexistence of man is true, predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is false.

If premortal man had the ability to choose and to be known by the Father of our Spirits before coming to this Earth, then it makes sense that his calling or foreordination as an adopted Son of God (or not) came as a result of the choices he made in that sphere, rather than from the arbitrary whims of an unjust, tyrannical God. We would then understand that God is indeed who scripture teaches us that He is; a loving, just Heavenly Father.

Contrary to Mr. White's assertions, belief in the premortal existence of man was very real in the early Christian Church, and continued until 553 AD, when it was extinguished by an edict known as the Anathemas Against Origen, promulgated by the Roman emporer Justinian. The Pope consented to this edict, although under extreme duress. In The Secrets of Enoch in the Apocrypha, Enoch was told that "men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous."2

Josephus noted that the Essenes believed in the soul’s premortal existence, and R. H. Charles describes it as a "prevailing dogma" in later Judaism. The concept of the premortal existence of man was very common to Greek thought, and is given prominence in the Koran.

Most Latter-day Saints would be struck with the clearly familiar ring of the following, taken from The Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel:

"In the beginning of things God the All-Father also created a great number of souls destined one day to inhabit a human body. There is a treasure or storehouse in Heaven where these souls are kept until the moment arrives for each of them to descend upon the earth and be united to 'mortal coil.' According to some myths these souls are hidden beneath the throne of All-Father, whilst in other places it is maintained that the souls yet unborn walk freely in the celestial fields in company of the souls of the pious who have already passed through a body. Some souls are spirits sent down upon earth and ordered to inhabit a human body as a punishment for faults committed. For others it is a test and an opportunity to show their strength. In the struggle of the soul, the celestial inmate, against the passions and instincts inherent in matter, the soul has an opportunity to show its worth and remain faithful to its celestial origin or to betray it."

In 3 Enoch (Hebrew Enoch), Rabbi Ishmael, the recipient of the vision, is shown the spirits of the righteous who are yet to be born.3 He is then enabled to understand a phrase in Isaiah 57:16. The text in the KJV of the Bible states, "The spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." But the Enoch text is significantly different: "For the spirit clothes itself before me, and the souls I have made."4 The interpretation given the passage is that righteous spirits need to be clothed with physical bodies in order to return to the presence of the Holy One.

Space will not allow any further excursions into the writings of the Apocrypha such as Esdras, the Apocalypse of Baruch, 1 and 2 Baruch, or the Early Church. Suffice it to say, Mr. White is wrong when he suggests that the doctrine of the preexistence of man is not presented, at least indirectly, in the Bible. And he is most definitely wrong in suggesting that this doctrine was not present in the early Church.

If we had the time, I would love to see Mr. White address ancient Jewish tradition regarding the Heavenly Councils, and who composed those councils, and what significance they had on Jewish belief. I would love to see his commentary on Psalms 82. I would further love to see Mr. White address the glaring errors he has made elsewhere regarding the "monistic monotheism" of the Jews and the early Christians, and to have him address the outstanding scholarship done by Larry Hurtado and many others on this topic,5 with which I have confronted him previously, and which he has yet to address.

I would also be most eager to see Mr. White explain the Synodal letter of the African Bishops banished to Sardinia from the year 523:

"The question as to the origin of souls, whether they come ex propagine (as offspring or posterity), or whether for every new body a new soul is created (sive novae singulis corporibus fiant), we will pass over in silence. The Holy Scripture does not decide this question, and it should be examined with pre-caution."6

This passage indicates most clearly that even in the first quarter of the 6th century, the doctrine of a premortal existence of souls was still being held by some, at least, of the Christians and was being actively discussed.

In Summary

Mr. White has the audacity to proclaim that "the Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit." And yet, we have seen throughout the entire debate that all of Mr. White’s arguments rely exclusively on his "creative editing" of Holy Writ to force it to conform to Calvinistic thought. He has used ad-hominem attacks to promote his message. He has shot a number of worthy messengers bearing truth that he simply does not want you to hear. He has used circular arguments and a veritable boatload of logical fallacies. And he has used his personal hatred of Mormons to turn this debate into yet another of his anti-Mormon pulpits. Not to mention self-aggrandizement opportunities.

He has relentlessly and viciously attacked me and insulted me for making several errors of translation, while turning a blind eye to his own glaring mistakes, logical fallacies, and misrepresentations of fact. He deliberately misrepresents LDS theology with blatant, flat-out lies such as "…in Mormonism’s theology, there is no eternal, omnipotent Creator," when he clearly knows, or should know, that such is not the case. If Mr. White's position were true, would he have to resort to such invective and personal attacks? Surely not.

Again, I remind our readers that 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 the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is the only way that Scripture can be legitimately interpreted. The task that White has so arrogantly established for me is not to prove that predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is wrong, but simply that other interpretations are hermeneutically possible, or at least legitimately plausible. I believe that I have accomplished this many times over. One only has to look at the mountain of arguments that Mr. White carefully avoided to see evidence of this fact.

Has White accomplished his task of showing that the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is the only plausible way to interpret Holy Writ? I will leave that up to our readers to decide.

Let me close this most insightful and revealing debate by sharing with you, our readers, the conclusions of a prominent Evangelical reference on the subject of predestination:

"It would be hard to fit together a predestination to judgement and the operation of human free will and our responsibility. The failure to find the salvation offered to humankind by a gracious and loving God seems more wisely assigned to the way men and women 'reject God's purpose for themselves' (Luke 12:30) rather than to a prior, unalterable rejection by God."7

God is Sovereign, my friends. God is omnipotent. That does not mean that God is a tyrant. Nor does He need to be to measure up to those divine attributes. Our Heavenly Father is a just God. He loves us. He desires that all of us come to Him through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. But He loves us enough to let us decide if we will or not.

He has called us. He stands beckoning. Will we accept His invitation? Our ability to truly answer that fundamental question for ourselves is the greatest gift He could have ever given us. Of this I so testify in His holy name. Amen.



  1. Philip H. Towner, "God's Will", Elwell's Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1996), p. 822

  2. 1 Enoch 69:11

  3. 3 Enoch 43:1

  4. 3 Enoch 43:3

  5. Hurtado, L.W., "What Do We Mean by 'First-Century Jewish Monotheism'?", in Lovering, E.H., Jr., ed., Society of Biblical Literature 1993 Seminar Papers, (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), pp. 348-368.

  6. Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, vol 4, ed. William R. Clark (T&T Clark: Edinburgh, 1895), 125

  7. Francis Foulkes, "Predestination", Elwell's Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1996), p. 629

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