Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Greg Stafford Attempts to Reply
04/11/2007 - James WhiteRegular readers of this blog know that for a couple of months now I have been posting clips from various debates. Why? Because I learned how, that's why! I've done more than sixty such debates, and many of them have been video taped. The large majority of my readers have enjoyed watching clips of debates on a wide variety of topics, including Islam, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Inclusivism, Open Theism, etc. Monday I posted a section from the debate with Greg Stafford on the deity of Christ. Since Stafford obviously monitors this blog, he is well aware of the fact that I have been using YouTube and GodTube to post clips. So why he would now write on his blog, "Now we find White trying to use sections of our 2003 debate for some to-be-determined purpose, sections which I think show clearly that he not only did not understand the issues he asked about properly but where, again, he basically ignored my answers." I am more than happy to allow those not trapped in a cult (and those who are) to view the debate and check the assertions of both sides. Unlike Mr. Stafford, I have no need to blow my horn and proclaim victory, etc. I will leave him to join many of my other former opponents in that game. But what on earth does "some to-be-determined" purpose mean? I felt this would be a good clip to use to illustrate the kind of listening skills needed to follow the argument in debate, nothing more. I could have used any number of debates, but this one likewise allows for an explanation of the glorious truth that the New Testament writers did not hesitate to apply to Jesus passages that were originally about Yahweh Himself.
Now, I had a few folks write to me Monday and say, "Oh brother, I wonder how many pages of text Stafford will crank out in response to this?" We have not been disappointed. But I hardly expected anything else. Mr. Stafford has a lot of time on his hands. That's fine. If anyone thinks volume of writing = truth, well, I can be of little assistance there. I honestly believe the more closely folks look at Stafford's writings, the more they will see the constant element of special pleading and circular argumentation. He cannot see his pre-commitment to unitarianism, so plainly documented in the clip itself, and unless God is gracious to him, he never will. So his writings remain a good example of the circularity that comes from commitment to a false religion.
I will not waste much time on Stafford's thinly veiled "White is afraid of me" stuff:
As many who have followed this Chat know, I have made myself available to Dr. White and to his ministry for debate at practically any time. I have not heard from him, or from his ministry, in some time, and my associate, Richard Rawe, was recently told by Rich Pierce of AOmin.org that I am "low on the priority list," and that it may be "two years" before Dr. White can make time to debate me. When asked by Mr. Rawe to set a date two years from now, Mr. Pierce declined.I will never cease to find it amusing whenever anyone accuses me of being afraid to debate someone, especially when it is someone I've already debated! Stafford is now sounding like Sungenis, for example. Stafford's behavior a few months ago left a very bad taste in my mouth, to be sure. Further, when the idea was first raised, Stafford believed it a ruse to draw him away from a debate with Morey that, to my knowledge anyway, has not taken place. But more to the point, Greg Stafford does not determine the Lord's direction for my areas of study. I have nothing to prove to someone such as Mr. Stafford, and I do not make decisions on what is worthwhile as far as the investment necessary to produce an edifying, useful debate on the basis of school-yard taunts. Right now I am focused upon the October debate with Shabir Ally in Seattle, not upon the subject of the Watchtower's denial to God of exhaustive knowledge of future events. Another denier of God's omniscience and eternal decree has contacted me as well, and if in the Lord's providence I should choose to address this issue, the two debates might well be arranged. Mr. Stafford may be able to schedule things a month in the future. I am not, and I find this kind of behavior on his part less than useful.
Stafford has posted the following:
Not only has White finally realized that the LXX of Isaiah, which John was quoting in John 12, references the glorification of Christ, the very same glory that Isaiah "saw" in Chapter 53 (Hebrew), but it is also the same glory that Isaiah "spoke about" clearly in that same Chapter, to which John refers in John 12:41. White had no answer for where Isaiah "spoke about him" in Isaiah 6 in our 2003 debate, and he has no answer now:There is no end to Stafford's ability to engage in obfuscation regarding the text of inspired writ in defense of his personal take on Watchtower theology. Those who have attempted to deal with him for years know this well. But his replies only dig him deeper into the hole his error has created for him.
First, note how Stafford's interpretation is completely disconnected from John's purposes in his Gospel. What connects the citation of Isaiah 53:1 with Isaiah 6:10 is not a discussion of glory, but a discussion of judgment. That is the theme that connects the two citations. Notice the text:
John 12:37-43 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM." 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
Follow the idea:
37: they were not believing
38: who has believed?
39: they could not believe
40: God's judicial blinding and hardening
41: Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke of Him
42: Some believed, but, did not confess because
43: they loved the approval of men rather than God.
So the primary connection, provided by John himself, is the issue of unbelief and judgment. So when we come to verse 41, and John says Isaiah saw Jesus' glory, and spoke of Him, is he referring to both texts, or only one text? Stafford has to direct our attention away from the citation of Isaiah 6:10 for obvious reasons. But the fact is that Isaiah said both things, and both have a common theme (which is why John cited them). So when John says Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus' glory, and spoke of Him, what is the natural understanding the original readers of John's Gospel would gather?
Let's remember that the Greek speaking audience of this Gospel would have possessed and read the Greek Septuagint, the LXX. I have asserted that John is plainly making reference to Isaiah 6:1 when he says Isaiah "said these things" because Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him. Stafford cannot allow this because, of course, he's one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and he cannot allow anything that would violate the central, definitional doctrine of the Watchtower. Let's compare. Here is Stafford's proposed reading:
kai. doxasqh,setai sfo,dra
ei=den th.n do,xan auvtou/
Now compare mine:
|Isaiah Source||John's Reading|
ei=don to.n ku,rion ... plh,rhj o` oi=koj th/j do,xhj auvtou/
ei=den th.n do,xan auvtou/
The linguistic parallels are overwhelmingly clear. Finding a verbal form (doxasqh,setai) in 52:13, while ignoring the direct parallel found in 6:1, using the same verb (ei=don is the first person singular aorist form, "I saw," while John uses the third person singular, ei=den, "he saw," since he is referring to Isaiah) and the same noun (th/j do,xhj auvtou/, genitive form, vs. John's th.n do,xan auvtou/, accusative as the direct object of the verb) is a classic example of eisegesis created by external authorities. It is also important to note that the LXX differs from the Massoretic text at this point, so, John's focus upon the glory is all the more important and significant. There is only one reference to what Isaiah "saw" in these texts, and one reference to "his glory" as well, and it is in the introduction to Isaiah's temple vision. Given that John makes the direct connection of the one whose glory Isaiah saw with Jesus, you can see why Stafford cannot, presuppositionally, "see" the direct linguistic parallel.
I might add another observation. There is another reference to "seeing," though in a different form, in the Isaiah source materials:
Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand (52:15).Should Stafford attempt to make a connection here, I would simply point out that not only is this a future form, but the context is exactly opposite of what you would expect. This is about the suffering servant, not the glorified one. This speaks of the marring of crucifixion, the suffering of the offering of Christ. If such a parallel were suggested, in light of the 6:1 parallel, one would only see how far someone is willing to go to try to find a way around the actual text.
So is there any weight to Stafford's attempt to get around this clear connection? No, surely not. "He spoke about him." Whose glory did Isaiah see? Yahweh's. Did Isaiah speak about Yahweh? Yes, all the way from 6:1 to the citation of 6:10. There is no substance to the objection whatsoever. So, why would anyone look to 52:13 here? Simple: the Watchtower says so. And so we can see that the citation Stafford provided above has no merit, either in its argumentation, or in its silly assertion that somehow I have just "now" discovered the LXX of Isaiah (since, of course, I quoted it in my book from nine years ago).