Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

MUST-HEAR: Audio debate between James White and Michael Brown on Calvinism

A nice friendly debate with more light than heat. (H/T Apologetics 315)

The MP3 file is here.

Calvinism is the view that God decides whether you go to Heaven or Hell. Nothing a person does or abstains from doing throughout their entire life affects their post-mortem destination. In fact, no other person or circumstance affects where they end up, either. Everyone who goes to Hell goes there as a direct result of God’s free choice that determines, apart from any actionor circumstance, that a person will go to Hell.

Summary:

  • Introduction to Calvinist James White and some of his 90 debates
  • What is Calvinism and why is it important?
  • Does God love all people the same way in Calvinism?
  • Does God desire the salvation of all people in Calvinism?
  • Is the offer of salvation to all people a genuine offer on Calvinism?
  • Does Calvinism diminish or augment God’s sovereignty?
  • Can God accomplish his will by permitting evil creaturely actions?
  • Did Jesus die only for the “chosen”, or for the possibility of salvation for all?
  • Does a person’s responding to God’s offer of savaltion detract from Gods glory?
  • Does our ability to resist God’s grace mean that we are “stronger” than God?

There is a little static in the audio for a few seconds every time they come back from a break, but nothing major. There are no commercials. And the debate is SO worth it, because there are almost no good debates on this topic, although you may be interested in reading the debate between William Lane Craig and Ed Curley.

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13 Responses

  1. Neil says:

    Did Brown do a good job? White is a phenomenal apologist but I like to listen to debates where the debating skills are evenly matched. Otherwise the “winner” may not necessarily be on the correct side of the issue.

    • Brown did a GREAT job. He answered every objection from White and White was on the defensive almost immediately. I actually need to go back to this debate and write up some more of what Brown says.I did not expect White to lose this debate, but he did. It’s weird because it’s James White, but losing. Never seen that before. I’m doing a Roman Catholic debate from him next, and he’ll bounce back.

  2. James says:

    The statement, “Calvinism is the view that God decides whether you go to Heaven or Hell,” could at best be considered polemic, and certainly contains no light, little heat.

    For a fully Calvinist view of systematic theology, Christian Theology by Millard J. Erickson would serve well. Pages 386 and 387 most closely address the silliness that WK has proposed as a definition here, though it falls in the middle of a chapter so some back reading may be necessary.

    Enjoy.

    • Heh heh. I have Milard Erickson’s systematic theology book and I like him fine.

      My characterization isn’t silliness. I’m just taking the spin off it. James, on Calvinism, God decides where everyone goes, either by act or omission. That’s the bottom line. It’s not silliness.

      But I AM sorry if I was mean to you.

      Don’t be too mad.

    • Tom says:

      I agree with James, Wintery. Your definition of Calvinism is definitely a bit polemic.

      What if I said, “the non-Calvinist position is that man essentially has to do something to earn salvation. It’s salvation by doing a good work, no grace.” Am I taking the spin off of it or just being polemic?

      Don’t worry, though, I’m not mad at all. Just struck me as a bit of a caricature. I’d suggest Grudem’s Systematic Theology for a good accurate take on Calvinism. Erickson’s not a Calvinist as far as I know.

      • Both theologians are Calvinist.

        On my view, accepting the free gift of salvation is not a “work”. A work is following the moral law in order to gain some sort of standing with God on your own.

        I have a question.

        Does anything that any person does have any effect on whether they go to Heaven or Hell, on Calvinism? I would prefer a yes or no response. If I am wrong, I am anxious to be corrected.

  3. Tom says:

    Hmmm, maybe I just didn’t like Erickson because he is egalitarian? Can’t remember; its been too many years since I read his systematic even though it’s within arm’s reach on my shelf!

    To answer your question, people cannot do anything to get to heaven (just like what you believe!). Hell is our default position. Without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we would never choose to believe. So, it is the Spirit who enables believers to believe in Christ and gives the desire to please and honor God. Because of this regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, believers respond in faith. This is not a good work though as Ephesians 2 tell us and as you have already said. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). Agree or disagree?

    My question(s) for you: Does God know who will be saved? If so, why does he create those who simply will not believe?

    • I agree with everything you said there. Everybody is drowning, the default position is Hell, God must act as the sole intiator of grace. Agree, agree. BUT I think that this grace is resistable. So who is responsible for where they end up? Man is. And remember that God knows in advance who can respond and who can’t respond, and he places each individual in a time and place where they will get all the grace they need in order to not resist. Some people resist in any set of circumstances, and therefore they may get no grace (or they may get some and resist it). But it’s their fault, not God’s. See the difference?

      On my view, God does know who will will be saved and damned, and creates the damned ones anyway. But remember, on my view, he isn’t responsible for their damnation, they are. I actually believe that the damned play a vital role in getting others to repent.

      Wasn’t it you who was supposed to read about middle knowledge? (My view) One of my smart commenters was supposed to read about that, and I think it was you! Middle knowledge keeps the sovereignty of God and everything else that James White wants, but it retains free will and human responsibility. You have to check it out.

      • Tom says:

        Well, I’m certainly not a smart commenter but I’ll let you keep on thinking that! It was me who was supposed to read about middle knowledge.

        Regarding irresistible grace, it seems that we may actually agree. Sometimes people think irresistible grace means that people are forced against their will to be Christians or that people don’t make a voluntary choice. I reject those things as I’m sure you would as well and so do all Calvinists. Irresistible grace simply means that God brings about the salvation of his people without fail.

        One verse to describe irresistible grace is John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

        I would take the illustration of “everybody is drowning” further and say that everybody is dead (Ephesians 2). In addition, I would agree that man is responsible for where they end up and I agree that the damned play a role in getting others to repent. You almost sound like a Calvinist, Wintery!

        So a few questions:
        1. Regarding this quote by you, “he places each individual in a time and place where they will get all the grace they need in order to not resist”, what would be some verses supporting this notion?

        2. Does God save because he knows what people will decide OR does he save because he determines it? In other words, is it dependent upon human decision or divine will?

        3. Finally, I’d like to get your response to the following verse: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

        No rush on responding. I may not get to check back in until tomorrow. Lots of snow where I’m at!

        • I really, really appreciate your comments. It sounds we at last agree a little.

          Your answers:

          1) Acts 17:27
          2) Some people can be saved by being placed in a time and place where they will respond. God places them in that time and place. So he saves them, but not by overriding their free decision to respond, which he knows in advance. He knows what they need to believe in him and he gives it to them. The ones who don’t believe are the ones who will not believe no matter what he does. The fact that the humans can respond in a certain situation is useless unless God choose to do something to give them that situation, e.g. – by putting them in a place where they will hear the gospel, and whatever apologetics/theology they need.
          3) I totally agree with this verse. No one desires God.

  4. […] it is God choosing us ahead of time or God knowing we’ll choose him.  I enjoy hearing from experts on both sides of the debate to understand the merits of both views.  There seems to be a natural tension here.  God is definitely sovereign and many passages, […]

  5. […] with him. There is an interesting debate between Michael Brown and James White on the matter. Someone described the debate as “a nice friendly debate with more light than […]

  6. […] MUST-HEAR: Audio debate between James White and Michael Brown on Calvinism « Wintery Knight. […]

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