Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
04/08/2008 - James WhiteMr. Gregg continues to dwell at his keyboard this evening. He writes,
Dr. White, at the end of the third debate Monday, in the process of trying to bolster his assertion that Acts 13:48 teaches Calvinism, made two significant errors (which I had considered calling him on, but I didn't want to be nit-picky). First, he misquoted the line from Acts 13:48 as "as many as were appointed to faith" (instead of "appointed to eternal life"), and second, he misquoted Philippians 1:29, reading the word "appointed" in place of "granted." Talk about eisegesis!I have not taken the time to go back and listen to the recordings. Why should I? Steve Gregg hasn't even bothered to take the time to seriously interact with the hours of response I offered to his own recordings last year! Of course, in those instances, I played extensive amounts of his own words and then interacted with them, but that is hardly relevant now, is it? It is not like I have written entire books on this topic where I have addressed Acts 13:48 and Philippians 1:29 and have done so without misquoting them (or promoting false translations of them). But why should anyone worry about published works? Irrelevant! Point out when someone paraphrases a verse while they are rushing to finish comments within a short time frame on a radio program! That's far more relevant to the issues than any published commentary ever could be, right? He goes on,
Now I felt it would be uncharitable to jump on these mistakes, because I did not wish to embarrass him. If it were coming from a person of less familiarity with the material, I would think nothing of the mistake. But Dr. White has no doubt quoted these verses more often than he can count, which makes the error seem somewhat more inexcusable.
The word "granted," in Phil.1:29, is not the same word as tasso ("appointed" in Acts 13:48). It is the word charizomai, which is well translated as "grant." It is to show a favor or kindness.Of course, I never said they were the same terms, and anyone reading The Potter's Freedom would see that I gave the proper terms. But something else I pointed out in TPF was this:
Here Paul speaks of two things that have been granted to Christians. The term granted is the Greek term ἐχαρίσθη from the term charizomai, "to give as a gift." And what has been "granted" to believers? The eye seems drawn to the final phrase, "to suffer for His sake." This is what seems to take up the mind when reading the passage. It has been granted as a gift to suffer for Christ! What a strange thought for many today who have not experienced persecution and suffering, but it surely was not to those to whom Paul was writing. But just as suffering is not something brought about by our "free will," neither is the first thing granted to us: to believe in Christ. This is the normal term used for saving faith (πιστεύειν). God has granted to us to believe in Christ. Why would this be if, as we are told, anyone can πιστεύειν, can believe?Mr. Gregg continues,
To the Calvinist, the idea is taken from this verse that faith is simply a gift. This is an important concept to them, because they intend by it that no man can believe unless given a special gift of faith at regeneration. It is an important concept, and, if true, would be good to have stated in unambiguous terms in scripture (not in merely the standard ambiguous text, like Eph.2:8-9).I am noticing more and more that for Mr. Gregg and his cadre of followers, difficult texts are automatically "ambiguous." They are very quick to point out what a text doesn't say, but oh so very slow to give us much direct insight into what it does say. So we end up with the repeated Greggian phraseology, "That might be what it means, but we just don't know." We don't know if God knows the future. We don't know if God has a decree. We don't know...a lot of stuff! Maybe this is some more "epistemic humility," or, it might just be a lot of confusion. It is hard to say. In any case, which part of "to grant as a gift" in Philippians 1:29 is "ambiguous"? Well, there doesn't seem to be anything in Scripture that cannot become "ambiguous":
The most serviceable text, outside of Eph.2:8-9 to establish this "faith is a gift" claim is Philippians 1:29. But does the word "grant" carry this much doctrinal baggage? Of course, we can speak of a gift as something "granted"—but we can also speak of the granting of a favor or a privilege.Just as the discussion of Paul's willingness to be accursed in the place of his brethren according to the flesh in Romans 9 can be "ambiguized" into a discussion of the blessings of the lineage (though we never did figure out how Pharaoh fit in there), or the direct objects of finite verbs in Ephesians 1 can be "ambiguized" away, so too the infinitival form of "believe," along with charizomai, "to give as a gift" can be massaged and run through the Ambiguizer 3000 to come out to something much less than faith as a gift of God: instead, it's just the privilege of believing, you see. Gregg goes on:
In my opinion, Paul is saying that the Philippians have not only been granted the privilege of believing the gospel, but of enduring the suffering that comes with it. Both, believing and suffering for Christ, are privileges.
I certainly would agree with that statement, and have never found it to challenge anything I have ever believed. Not all people have had the privilege of hearing the gospel. "Faith comes by hearing," but hearing is a privilege some have experienced and others have not. God had directly decreed that the Philippians would have this privilege of hearing, because, when Paul and his companions, on their second missionary journey, were casting about for some indication of God's will for their itinerary, one of them had a dream telling them to go to Macedonia, of which Philippi was the foremost city, and the first city where they ministered (Acts 16:6-12).Please note carefully the methodology here. There is everything true in recognizing that God had granted the Philippians the privilege of believing, but is that what Paul actually stated in the inspired text? And I might add in passing, given Gregg has stated that Paul could have resisted God's drawing of him, I truly wonder upon what basis Mr. Gregg can even speak of God directly "decreeing" this, unless, as I would have to guess, that decree did not actually mean anything would happen as a result. It is still difficult to know how Mr. Gregg's theology actually functions. But in any case, as is consistent with his methodology, Mr. Gregg confuses the offering of commentary with exegesis. What does the above have to do with the fact that Paul said it had been granted to them to believe and to suffer? Consider the context again:
It is clear that, had Paul's team taken one of their other planned routes, the Philippians might not have heard the gospel for another generation. God specifically granted these readers the privilege of becoming believers, by sending the gospel to them.
Phil. 1:27-28 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by [your] opponents-- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that [too], from God.Now, I can see why God's sovereignty would be a foundation upon which to call the believers to conduct worthy of the gospel so as to stand firm in the face of their opponents. I can see why a Christian who has been called by God's sovereign grace to fulfill God's purpose in his or her life would stand firm in the face of opposition and would see their steadfastness as a sign of their salvation, and of the destruction of God's enemies. And I can see why Paul would speak of this as coming "from God." All of this makes perfect sense, and does not require us to for a moment to fiddle with the translation of the text. God granted them faith ("to believe"), and the same God who granted them faith grants to them as a gift that they should suffer for Christ's sake, just as the apostle. A wonderful text indeed! But I finish with Mr. Gregg's comments,
There is another aspect to this that Paul may also intend. One of the Philippian Christians, Lyddia, had been of the faithful Jewish remnant, and was among the first converts there. We are specifically told that God opened her heart to heed what Paul preached (Acts 16:14). No doubt other of the faithful Jews and God-fearers in that town had the same experience of God opening their hearts. For those, like Lyddia, who were looking for the Messiah, having Paul come to her town was indeed a great favor from God—in view of how many similar faithful Jews there must have been in many of the towns that Paul never visited.I only point out that even though Lydia was a God-fearer, God still had to open her heart so that she could respond to the things Paul was saying. And while again, all of this is true, none of it militates for a moment against what I said: saving faith is the gift of God, granted, given, to the elect of God. Without the Spirit of God, there is no saving faith. The point is established.
In the same thread, however, was a post that really got me going. If there is one thing I can say for the large majority of the folks I have seen posting on this topic, it is this: context means nothing to them, either in biblical exegesis, or in their criticisms of yours truly. Someone using the nick CThomas decided to demonstrate once again that the production of meaningful parallels seems difficult these days. He posted the first few moments of my cross-examination of Tim Staples from Fullerton in 2000 on Papal Infallibility. Since I went after Staples and managed, by one count, to get in 40 some odd questions, CThomas decides this makes me a hypocrite for objecting to the way Steve Gregg tried to address Romans 1 and the depravity of man. Once again, lets compare contexts.
First, Mr. Gregg claims to be my fellow Christian. Mr. Staples is an apostate, a convert to Rome.
Second, there was a scheduled period of cross-examination in the debate, and a specific format intended for it, as a part of the rules of the debate with Mr. Staples. Unfortunately, there was no such agreed upon format with Mr. Gregg.
Thirdly, this was a simulcast radio program/webcast where sound issues, connection issues, etc., join with an inability to see the other person, requiring significantly different parameters for interaction (if the audience is going to be taken into consideration).
Thirdly, Mr. Staples had just finished his period of "questioning" me, and had violated every agreement he had made at the beginning of the debate. He had taken the first few minutes to make a statement, without asking a single question. He had only managed about four questions in 12 minutes, meaning he had spent his time arguing and making statements rather than asking questions. So by the time we got to my time, I was significantly less than pleased. So I decided it would be good to have a lesson in cross-ex, and that is what I provided to him. It may have been the longest 12 minutes of his life, and I note, St. Joseph's Communications does not make that debate available.
Now, Steve Gregg said he wanted to start having some interaction. I was provided no specifics, but, I signaled Rich to keep the microphone open (we had been closing it during his portions). Nothing happened for quite some time, and when we finally did start interacting, it became quite clear that he intended to use the "I will ask a complex question, say it isn't, cut him off after a short period of time, and continue on with another question that is predicated upon whatever answer I want to attribute to him" routine. Ironically, my very first response to him he ended up confirming (i.e., Romans 1 cannot be separated out from 2 & 3, and together they proclaim the apostle's case for universal sinfulness). So I honestly do not to this point know what his objections actually were. That's part of the problem of talking over folks. The sound quality, given that Steve Gregg, as far as we can tell, is not actually at a radio studio, is marginal on our end already; if you start talking over someone, you can't even tell, in my headphones anyway, if the other person is still talking, or has stopped talking; and you surely struggle to follow what is being said. So, if you care about the audience, you just can't keep talking over each other. It did not take long for me to conclude that Mr. Gregg was going to ask a question, give me a brief time to start a response, and then cut me off (perhaps thinking his connection to the studio would trump mine, possibly?), and so I objected to the methodology. If Mr. Gregg seriously wishes to try to convince the audience that this means I was unwilling to answer serious questions, well, I can only point to decades of putting myself "out there" in far more difficult contexts---and in a much wider context than Steve Gregg has---as more than sufficient refutation of such a cavil.
So I say to CThomas, your attempted parallel is as fallacious as the attempted parallel between the mistranslation of Acts 13:48 and the contextual interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:4. Think about it.