April 13, 2008

My Analysis of the Gregg/White Exchange on God's Saving Will

The following is meant to be a serious but respectful critique. I wish to interact with the words used in the debate as they stand, yet in a civil way that is devoid of any personal attack (or anything demeaning). It is my hope that any response (by him or others) will be characterized by the same concerns. I will be emailing the link to this post to James White himself so that he will not have to hear about it secondhand.

During the final day (04/09/08) of the Steve Gregg/James White debate on the subject of Calvinism, the issue of God's universal saving will came up. The following exchange occurs at minutes 28:39 - 32:37 in White's mp3 edition. (Click here to download an audio copy of this portion of the debate)

Steve Gregg said:
"Alright. My turn to ask a question. When you bring up that Jesus didn't die for everybody, it raises an interesting question. And that would be about God's will and his love for all people. I just have a question, a very simple one. According to your self-described Calvinistic belief system, do you believe there is any sense in which God wills the eternal salvation of the non-elect that hear the gospel call? In other words, does God simply not have any interest in their salvation? Or is there any sense in which he wills that all men would be saved, even the non-elect?"
My Response:

One can see that this is a precisely worded question. He notes that James White describes himself as a Calvinist, so he's wondering what his own Calvinistic perspective is on this matter. He also specifically inquires about any qualifications, i.e., "is there any sense..." Moreover, he's not asking about mere physical preservation in this life. Steve Gregg is asking about salvation in the sense of "eternal salvation." He further specifies that his question pertains to the non-elect, particularly those that are exposed to the gospel call. This is significant because it touches upon God's will, not abstractly, but as associated with the gospel call. In other words, does he or does he not want all men to comply with that call when they hear it? This question deals with the issue of whether or not God himself is well-meaning or sincere with respect to the non-elect that hear the message concerning eternal life.

James White responds to Gregg:
"Well, that was a very confusing question because you said does God will that the lost hear the gospel call, and then you said does he will their salvation. Those are two different things."

My Response:

It's clear that White was mistaken about what Mr. Gregg in fact said.

So, Steve Gregg clarifies:
"No, I'm sorry. Let me clarify that and you can start over again. We will start your time again. Here's what I said. I'm reading it: "According to your self-described Calvinistic belief system, do you believe there is any sense in which God wills the eternal salvation of the non-elect that hear the gospel call?" I didn't ask does he want them to hear the gospel call. I'm talking about the non-elect who hear it. Does he, in any sense, will for them to be saved?"
My Response:

Everything in this question is carefully and precisely worded again. He even states that he's reading it. Further, he's not asking about whether or not God has decreed or effectually willed all men to be saved. Everyone knows that Calvinists deny that by the very nature of their position on election. So, the question is specifically getting at the Calvinistic notion of the revealed will of God in the gospel call. There really are only three possible positions:

1) God equally wills to save all.
2) God wills for all men to be saved in the revealed will, but especially the elect according to the secret/decretal will.
3) God only wills to save the elect.

As Mr. Gregg initially stated, the question seems to be "a very simple one," in terms of stating one's opinion. Obviously, after one simply states their opinion on the question, the explanation of how one's position is both internally consistent and exegetically sound gets complicated. When I asked Dr. Tom Ascol the same type of question, he answered plainly in a mere three sentences:
"I believe that God desires for all people to be saved but has purposed to save His elect. I see two (at least two) dimensions in God's will: revealed and decretive. Failure to make this kind of distinction is a failure to read the Bible's teachings on the will of God accurately."
"I affirm with John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4 that God loves the world with a deep compassion that desires the salvation of all men...God's will for all people to be saved is not at odds with the sovereignty of God's grace in election."
John Murray, in The Free Offer of the Gospel, said:
"God not only delights in the penitent but is also moved by the riches of his goodness and mercy to desire the repentance and salvation of the impenitent and reprobate."
"Anyone who knows me knows that I'm strongly committed to the idea that God in some meaningful sense seeks and "desires" the repentance of every sinner. (Note: I use the d-word advisedly, acknowledging that optative expressions when used of God are always problematic and never quite accurate. But I don't know a better way to say it; and denying it outright would seem to suggest that God's commands and beseechings are not well meant.)"
All of these men are clearly in position #2 above, and thus have grounds for saying that God is well-meaning to every man in the gospel offer, as Phil points out in the above quote. Debating an Arminian from the standpoint of position #2 (God desires the salvation of all, but purposes to effect the salvation of the elect) or position #3 (God only desires the salvation of the elect) makes a huge difference, so I think Steve Gregg's question is very important. Those in position #2 will think that Arminians are using half-truths as the whole truth in their biblical and theological interpretations, but those in position #3 will think Arminians have absolutely no element of truth in the area of God's salvific will. Thus, the two parties tend to speak past one another.

James White replies to Gregg:
"I've never heard of a distinction between the non-elect who hear and the non-elect who do not, to be perfectly honest with you. And, from a Reformed perspective, there wouldn't be any real differentiation between the two that I can see as far as having any relevance to that particular question."
My Response:

He's never heard of a distinction between the non-elect who hear and the non-elect who do not??? One wonders if he has heard of the heightened damnation that some of the non-elect will receive as a result of hearing the gospel and spurning it. They were more privileged than those who have not heard it. Peter touches on this concept:
NKJ 2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession itself makes the distinction between the non-elect who hear and those who do not hear the call:
"Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess."
This is repeating some of the language found in the Westminster Confession:
"IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested."
The Larger Catechism touches upon the subject in several places:
Q. 60. Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
A. They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.

Q. 61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?
A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.

Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God's special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

Q. 68. Are the elect only effectually called?
A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
Moving on, James White's opinion (which is position #3) starts to become evident by this statement:
"And, from a Reformed perspective, there wouldn't be any real differentiation between the two that I can see as far as having any relevance to that particular question."
Apparently, according to this statement, the non-elect that hear the gospel call are not receiving any indication that God genuinely wills to save them, any more than those non-elect who don't even hear the evangelical call. It seems as though non-elect human beings are no different from the non-elect angels in this respect. There is absolutely no good news in the gospel for non-elect human beings in any situation, not even for those in the "visible church."

James White continues:
"But, if you're asking do I believe that there is a salvific intention on the part of God in his will to save those that he then does not exercise sufficient power to save, that he does not give the Son in their behalf, he does not send the Spirit to bring them to spiritual life and grants them the gifts of faith and repentance, then certainly not. The idea of the salvific work of the Spirit of God and the decree of their salvation is specific and it is for the elect, and the number of the elect are known unto God (not passively, but actively) as he is the creator of all things. And, so, as a result, from the very beginning, God's knowledge is perfect on that matter. There is nothing in the elect or the non-elect that either draws the grace of God, or makes someone better than someone else, or anything along those lines at all. So, the idea of a universal salvific will is different, however, from what that is normally confused with; and that is, since the church is not given knowledge of who the elect are, we proclaim the gospel universally to all men, not knowing who the elect are, leaving the results in God's hands, trusting that the Spirit of God will make that message come alive in the hearts of his people. Many of the objections that I hear are based upon the assumption that we somehow can know who the elect are, and hence would, in some way, limit the proclamation, limit the call to repentance; and therefore no longer be used of God as the means by which he brings that life giving message to his elect people."
My Response:

None of this actually addresses the question. The above is just an elaboration of White's view pertaining to God's decree to save the elect alone. The deflection begins by the terms, "But, if you're asking..." It's very clear that Mr. Gregg was not asking for a description of God's efficacious will to save the elect alone, but rather if Mr. White thinks God in any sense wills the salvation of the non-elect. The question is left unanswered (and forgotten perhaps), even after a 1 minute and 56 seconds reply.

Steve Gregg pauses for a moment, and then says:
"Alright. Well, that's just something I just wanted to hear you say. That's fine. You don't believe that God in any sense wants to save those who are the non-elect, though he does want them to be preached to, apparently, so that they'll receive the greater damnation, as if they needed more. I mean, it seems to me that Calvinism teaches that people are born damned, and they're already as damned as they can be. But they'll, I guess, get hotter hell if they've heard the gospel, even though they've had no opportunity to...no real genuine option of receiving it. It's a different sense of justice, and I think [than] most humans and most Christians [would] feel comfortable with. But I know that you'd probably consider that human sense of justice, including that view that Christians hold, maybe isn't the same as God's."
My Response:

Steve Gregg is clearly left with the impression that his opponent does not think that God in any sense wills to save the non-elect. Further, he thinks that White's view is that God's singular interest with respect to the non-elect and the gospel call is to heat hell hotter for them. That's an alarming impression to leave a non-Calvinist (or anyone else) with! If James White does not think that is the case, then one hopes that he will clarify the point. But, if God does not will to save the non-elect in any sense, then what other conclusion can be drawn? Either the gospel is well-meant or it is ill-meant in their case. It can't be non-meant. Mr. Gregg now erroneously thinks that "Calvinism" itself (since White spoke of "a Reformed perspective") teaches an ill-meant gospel offer for the non-elect. He also concludes that the non-elect are in no sense savable. They are born damned, as if there is no hope for them whatsoever. It's as though they have natural barriers (or "no option") in the way of their salvation from birth, and not merely their own moral barriers. A radical supralapsarian and voluntaristic (ex lex) picture of God is associated with Calvinism in Gregg's mind, such that God has one kind of justice and human beings have an altogether different one.

Mr. Gregg may be leaping to some unwarranted conclusions based on the words in White's response as they stand, but I think he was left with some warrant for saying some of what he says. What Gregg concludes from the discussion is a serious distortion of historic Calvinism, and I would encourage James White to correct the record, if he has the time in the near future. However, I recognize that this is a busy time for him as he seeks to effectively engage Islamic apologists. May he and others at least keep these things in mind for prayerful consideration.

I also intend on interacting with a phone call he recently received on the Dividing Line dealing with the same question about God's universal saving will. That he holds to position #3 (i.e., God ONLY wills to save the elect) is clear in his response to Jason, the caller.

Update: See James White's Denial of God's Universal Saving Will for the documentation.

Update #2: This is all the "response" there was by James White to this post.

15 comments:

YnottonY said...

I would like the readers to also know that I am not saying that James White denies that God wills for the non-elect to be under obligation to repent and believe.

Rather, I am saying that he denies that God wants the non-elect to comply with those obligations and thus to be saved. That's a fair representation gathered from his phone conversation with Jason on the post-debate Dividing Line broadcast.

Cadis said...

Hi Tony,

You said:
"Steve Gregg is clearly left with the impression that his opponent does not think that God in any sense wills to save the elect. Further, he thinks that God's singular interest with respect to the non-elect and the gospel call is to heat hell hotter for them. That's an alarming impression to leave a non-Calvinist with"

First I want to ask ,In the first sentence of this paragragh..Did you mean elect or non-elect?

Second, I want to say, yes it is an alarming impression that is left not only for the non-Calvinist but the Calvinist. It immediately closes the ears to further discussion, and rightfully so.. So yes it is an alarm, to the ears of Steve Gregg and mine as well.

YnottonY said...

Hi Cadis,

Yes, that is what I meant. Thanks for pointing those things out to me. The corrections have been made. And yes, your second observation is quite true, I think.

Carrie said...

Hi Tony,

I put this comment on another blog that was linked to this post but it was not allowed. Yet it was responded too.

At any rate this was my reply that was not allowed.

Hello,

I don't really wish to comment on this post in its entirety but rather the nature of the post itself.

It would seem that the title of your blog is suggesting that James White is being attacked.

I have read the blog post in question and there is nothing in it that could be deemed an attack.

Are we to think that a critique of a fellow Christian's ideas and thoughts is considered to be an attack?

An exchange of ideas about the things of God is healthy and encouraged in Scripture.

Deeming a critique of a position as an attack is unwarranted, especially when nothing has been said against the person whose views are being critiqued.

I think your post is an unfair assessment of what has been said at the Theological Mediations blog.

I do hope you consider what I am saying as a critique and not an attack and maybe reconsider the title and content of this post.

Thank you for your time.

Blessings,

Carrie Hunter


** Scratching head as to why it was not allowed **

Steven W said...

It was pretty telling that White thinks the well-meant offer is "minutia."

It's a big deal. It's a really big deal.

Micah said...

So, based on what you've written, you (and others apparently) believe that God fails to achieve what He desires?

Simply put, God's purpose is not established and he does not accomplish all His good pleasure?

Aaron Ronetski said...

Hi Tony,

It seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about what you mean when you refer to a well meant or ill meant gospel offer. As I've read some of your stuff, I think the best analogy here is whether or not God wills us to obey His commandments. Of course He does, but it obviously doesn't happen. There is a duality to His will, commonly referred to as preceptive and decretive.

I think what some of your opponents fail to see is that you're not saying God's purposes in salvation are thwarted, but that He really does desire the salvation of all men--in some sense. He desires that all be saved, but that too doesn't happen.

The thing I disagree with you on is the extent of the atonement. I believe God's intention in it dictates its extent. I think He can still desire the salvation of all men--in some sense--without Christ paying for the sins of every person who ever lived.

Be that as it may, I appreciate your thoughtful examination. I hope James White responds. I think this issue is a blind spot for a lot of modern day cowboys, er, I mean Calvinists :0)

YnottonY said...

Hi Steven,

It is not only telling, but also quite disturbing. All of the Reformed confessions frequently speak of "offers of grace" that are made, even to the non-elect (see the Larger Catechism Q #68). Clearly they have "well-meant" offers in view, which in turn presupposes a willingness in God to save all, as Phil Johnson accurately states in my above post:

"...denying it outright would seem to suggest that God's commands and beseechings are not well meant."

The compassionate heart and willingness of God to save all that hear the external call of the Gospel hardly qualifies as "minutia"! It's the evangelistic/missionary theme of the entirety scripture. Affirming that does not in wany way negate God's efficacious will to save the elect alone through the grant of faith by the Spirit. For goodness sake, a supralapsarian like William Perkins said:

"There is but one will in God: yet doth it not equally will all things, but in divers respects it doth will and nill the same thing. He willeth the conversion of Jerusalem, in that he approveth it as a good thing in itself: in that he commands it, and exhorts men to it: in that he gives them all outward means of their conversion. He wills it not, in that he did not decree to effectually work their conversion."

In expounding Isaiah 55:1, Samuel Rutherford says that God expresses "a serious and unfeigned ardencie of desire, that we doe what is our duty, and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ, and our salvation..."

The above is just a small sample that represents the high end of historic/Confessional/Orthodox Calvinism, yet they could speak that way without hesitation. There is clearly a desperate need for Calvinists to read the primary sources on the will of God and the Gospel offer.

YnottonY said...

Hi Micah,

I am glad you raised these questions, because they also come up in White's conversation with Jason on the Dividing Line (2).

You ask:

"So, based on what you've written, you (and others apparently) believe that God fails to achieve what He desires?"

Me now:

When you say the term "desire," it seems to connote an effectual will, decree or purpose. That is not what I am saying. Look at Tom Ascol's careful terminology that I provided above. He said:

"I believe that God desires for all people to be saved but has purposed to save His elect."

His use of "desire" is referencing God's revealed or preceptive will, and "purpose" to reference God's secret/decretal will. It's equivalent to saying that God "desires" for us to keep his commandments. So, the term need not necessarily connote an effectual will. I mean, are we going to deny that God wills or "desires" for us to keep or comply with his commandments when we do not? That would be blasphemy, right? If God wants/wills/desires for us to keep his commandments when we do not, then are you going to say that God has unfulfilled desires? The only options are to 1) deny that he wants us to keep his commandments or 2) admit that God wills some things ineffectually. However, we need to keep in mind that it is God himself who wills and nills the same thing, but in different senses. While God wills for us to keep his commandments, he may decree to permit us to sin for some greater end. So, it's not as though God is unable to accomplish what he truly wills by command, but that he nills it according to his greater purpose. It is not as though men are thwarting what God EFFECTUALLY wills. Men are thwarting God's PRECEPTIVE will, but only according to what God himself has decreed. Or, as Perkins puts it, God "in divers respects doth will and nill the same thing." That's not a contradiction because we distinguish between SENSES in which God is willing things.

For more on this, I would strongly encourage you to work through R. L. Dabney's article on God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy. As Phil Johnson says, "This article overhauled and revitalized my understanding of the doctrines of grace."

Micah said:

"Simply put, God's purpose is not established and he does not accomplish all His good pleasure?

Me now:

Again, notice the terms "purpose" and "good pleasure." These terms connote decree or effectual will for you. No Calvinist would say that God's effectual will ("purpose" in that sense or "good pleasure" in that sense) is not established or does not come to pass. What we're saying is that God truly wills for men (in the revealed will) to keep his commandments, even the evangelical commandments to repent and believe. God commands all men everywhere to repent, right? Well then, it may truly be said that he then wants compliance, seeing that he is not an insincere or hypocritical commander. He means what he says, and he's seeking our compliance through so many prophetic pronouncements in scripture, and through his faithful servants. Jesus even indiscriminately told many wicked men this:

NKJ John 5:34 "Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.

With respect to John 5:40 in the immediate context, the Puritan John Flavel said:

"What a mournful voice is that in John 5:40: "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." How ready would I be to give you life; but you would rather die than come to me for it. What can Christ do more to express his willingness? All the sorrows that ever touched the heart of Christ from men, were on this account, that they would not yield to his calls and invitations."

Flavel does not hesitate here (or elsewhere) to express God's universal saving will in this way because he's referencing that aspect of God's will that seeks compliance to his commands, i.e., God's revealed will, not the decretal "purpose" or "good pleasure."

YnottonY said...

Hi Aaron,

You said:

"It seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about what you mean when you refer to a well meant or ill meant gospel offer."

Me now:

I agree, but it is surely not my fault :-) My blog is filled with primary source material that, I think, is abundantly clear. By "well-meant," I, at the very least, mean that God in some sense truly wills all that hear the offer to be saved. As Phil says, all the commands and beseechings of God are well-meant. Why? Because "God in some meaningful sense seeks and "desires" the repentance of every sinner."

Some are trying desperately to escape the force of this by saying that God wills all to be under obligation to repent and believe, but not that he wants all to comply with what he has commanded. That is patently absurd. It's like a loving and sincere parent wanting the child to be under a commandment to give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18), but not that the parent actually wants the child to comply with the commandment and give thanks. For an excellent refutation of that nonsense, read the Puritan John Howe (2, 3).

Further, they seek to escape the force of this by saying that God wills for men to repent and believe, but not that he wants them to be saved. That's as ridiculous as a creditor wanting you to pay what you owe, and yet doesn't want you to be discharged from your debt. As John Frame accurately says in his book on The Doctrine of God, If God desires people to repent of sin, then certainly he desires them to be saved, for salvation is the fruit of such repentance." Jonathan Edwards said, "He does not merely command us to receive him, but he condescends to apply himself to us in a more endearing manner. He entreats and beseeches us in his word and by his messengers." It's amazing to me to see the rationalistic attempts on the part of some to negate the biblical truth that God wills all men to be saved. It parallels the rationalism of the Arminians whereby they seek to argue that God EQUALLY wills to save all men.

You said:

"As I've read some of your stuff, I think the best analogy here is whether or not God wills us to obey His commandments. Of course He does, but it obviously doesn't happen. There is a duality to His will, commonly referred to as preceptive and decretive. I think what some of your opponents fail to see is that you're not saying God's purposes in salvation are thwarted, but that He really does desire the salvation of all men--in some sense. He desires that all be saved, but that too doesn't happen."

Me now:

I totally agree. Your words above partially answers what Micah is wondering about.

You said:

"The thing I disagree with you on is the extent of the atonement. I believe God's intention in it dictates its extent. I think He can still desire the salvation of all men--in some sense--without Christ paying for the sins of every person who ever lived. Be that as it may, I appreciate your thoughtful examination. I hope James White responds. I think this issue is a blind spot for a lot of modern day cowboys, er, I mean Calvinists :0)"

Me now:

I understand. However, as you can tell, this post is not about the atonement, although some (not you) are trying to make that the subject. I am more than happy to accept your view as genuinely Calvinstic (but not Calvin's own view properly speaking) and within the bounds of Reformed confessionalism. That's why I cited four men (Murray, Ascol, Piper and Johnson) on the will of God who are also advocates of a strict particularism on the atonement question. While I hold a moderate view myself (like John Davenant and James Ussher), I have no interest in alienating fellow Calvinists who adhere to your atonement views, so long as they also maintain 1) God's universal saving will, 2) common love, 3) common grace, 4) well-meant gospel offers and 5) duty-faith (human responsibility to believe savingly), since all of these things are interrelated. We can have spirited discussions about the atonement, but no compromise can be allowed on the above 5 points. An explicit denial of one or more of those points constitutes hyper-Calvinism.

With that said, I do not want comments to veer off into the extent of the atonement controversy. This post concerns the universal saving will of God. How that doctrine relates to the atonement is interesting and relavent, but that needs to be discussed WITHIN the boundaries of agreement on the above 5 points and in a different post/context.

Thanks,
Tony

David said...

Hey there y'all,

The idea that God expresses himself has having a two-fold aspect in the volition of God is standard, it truly is THE Reformed Doctrine. There have been discussions and debates on how much "volition" is in the revealed will, but almost to a man, the Reformed have affirmed some connection at key points: God desires compliance to his commands. God desires that all men be saved, and this by way of his desire that they come to him to be saved. God desires to save all men, by will revealed, through the free publication of the gospel.

Some modern exponents of this doctrine are:
Are There Two Wills in God?

And here: The Free Offer of the Gospel

The idea that God could desire compliance to his commands to 'repent', 'come to Christ' 'believe in Christ,' but not yet desire to save them, just makes my head hurt. That is just mental gymnastics. Its non-sense. A doctor desires the sick man to comply with the prescription to take the medicine, but in no way desires to heal the sick man. Thais what implied in the mental gymnastics evasion. Such an evasion should be dismissed out of hand.

What is more, as soon as you say God loves all men, it has to follow that there is also a corresponding well-meaning care for the one loved. The only options are to deny that God loves the reprobate in any sense (Hoeksema) or that God only loves the reprobate with regard to their physical and temporal well-being (Gill).

For material on the true Reformed position on the will of God, scope out God’s Will for the Salvation of all Men. Scroll down until you get to this subject. Calvin goes so far as to affirm that Christ came into the world to save it (and by world he explicitly includes the reprobate) and that God so loved the whole human race, that he gave his Son: John Calvin on John 3:16

David

YnottonY said...

I guess this is all the "response" there will be by James White to this post.

Cadis said...

It is a shame that James White, a man who's time is so valuable, spent approx. 10 min. responding with a wave of a dismissive hand and with such a flippant attitude, when he could have taken 2 min. and given an answer. If I were to continue my reponse to this sound clip I'm afraid I would fall into the same folly as James White.

Tony Byrne said...

Here's a new link to the audio response from James White, since the previous link is dead.

Tony Byrne said...

The following quote by White himself is relevant to his own responses to Steve Gregg above, and how he has dealt with criticism in this area of the well-meant gospel offer. He changes the subject frequently and dissembles:

He recently wrote (referencing the current political realm):

"With proficiency in the art of cross-examination comes the ability to identify non-responsive answers. That is, many people, sensing the direction you are taking the examination, will seek to change that direction by answering a question you did not actually ask. Or, it may be clear that they do not have a meaningful answer, and are well aware of it. And so they dissemble. Mislead. Misdirect. If they are good at it, they will get the audience to think they have actually answered the question when you well know they have not. If you press the issue you can discover fairly quickly whether they actually have any depth of knowledge of the topic or whether they are simply playing games with you and the audience. Maybe they are simply repeating what they have heard from others, and are not capable of defending the position at all. After many decades of doing debate, I have learned to detect early on whether the person I am debating is a reflective, thoughtful person, or a person without substance who is simply seeking to sway the audience with emotions and rhetoric."