Arminian Audio: Brown / White Discussion

Christian radio host Dr. Michael Brown recently did a debate with Dr. James White. The debate lasted two days, and took place on Brown’s call in show: The Line of Fire. Brown argued from a Non-Calvinist position, and White came from the Calvinist position. The questions included: Does God love everyone? Does God give everyone a genuine opportunity to be saved? What did Christ’s atonement accomplish? Are the number of elect fixed? Does God reprobate specific individuals? Does Calvinism result in pride for its adherents?

Here are the link to Brown’s blog (where you can also comment), and the direct mp3 links.
January 26, 2010 (mp3) – Brown and White discuss Calvinism – part #1
January 27, 2010 (mp3) – Brown and White discuss Calvinism – part #2
January 28, 2010 (mp3) – Calvinists call into Brown’s show and ask him questions.

My thoughts:
Both theologians clearly had respect for each other and accepted each other as believers. Brown went out of his way to point out that Arminians and Calvinists agree on 99%, and that we are all brothers in Christ.

James White is an excellent debater, and I was afraid that he would clobber Brown. However, Brown did quite well. It no doubt helped that he was hosting the show, chose the format, and was the one asking the questions.

White depended very heavily on the “Two wills of God” theory – This is the Calvinist theory that God has a hidden decretive will that overrides and contradicts his revealed will. Thus God says that he doesn’t want us to sin, and commands us not to sin, but he has secretly decreed that we will sin, and then damns us for doing what he has decreed (so goes the theory). I think the scriptural support for this theory is non-existent, and I would have like to have seen Brown point this out in stronger terms.

I would also have liked to see Brown better develop the concept of Prevenient Grace. PG largly mitigates many of the complaints that Calvinists often have about Arminian theology (that we believe we save ourselves, etc). Brown did develop this a little more on day two.

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13 Comments

Filed under Arminian Audio, James White, Michael Brown

13 responses to “Arminian Audio: Brown / White Discussion

  1. I thought the debate was okay. I think Dr. Brown went out of his way to be overtly nice to James White. I think this is good but White has a history of being rude to those he debates. Perhaps Brown knew this and threw White in a loop by being so nice to him. I have met Dr. Brown and he is a true gentlemen. He is very educated but the key is he is broken. I would not classify Dr. Brown as an Arminian though I know that he holds to very similar views on most theological issues.

  2. Sounds like a very colourful debate.

  3. Roy, you may be right on White being thrown for a loop. :) He was quite a bit nicer than usual. It was apparent too that White had a lot of respect for Brown's knowledge of the OT.Onesimus, yes, it was good. It sounds like they may do another debate in the future as well.

  4. I enjoyed the debate. Of course, its nothing we havent heard before, but when Dr. Brown said that its more glory to God if He allows "chess pieces" the free will to choose what they want but the game still works out the way He designed, was such a great analogy.

  5. Unfinished, that is a good analogy.

  6. Thanks for the links, I was looking for this. Currently downloading as I type.I think you're right that it was good that James White was on another person's "home turf," so to speak, especially after his shameful treatment of Catholic Matthew Bellisario, who runs the Catholic Champion Blog, on an episode of the Dividing Line. Like a news pundit, White cut off Bellisario in mid-argument and began going off on a strawman tangent about Catholic beliefs. It was a bit disappointing to see how a man who performs well under moderated debate reacts to contrary thought when he has control over the microphone.In any case, I'm looking forward to hearing this debate.

  7. Well having listened to it, I think they both made some good points, and I agree that Dr. Brown came across as very nice, and both of them were fairly civil. The third day, with all the callers, was a bit of a hoot. I loved Dr. Brown trying to make heads or tails with the one caller who didn't believe in all 5 Points. Thank goodness the consistent Calvinist was up after that guy. Wowzers.

  8. Tony, yeah that one caller was pretty fun. :)

  9. TCM

    Kevin,

    Scriptures in support of the “two wills of God” theory:

    Revealed will: Exo 20:13 “You shall not murder.

    Decretive will: Act 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
    Act 4:28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

    Revealed will: Exo 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    Decretive will: 1Ki 22:22 And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’
    1Ki 22:23 Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”

    –How else would you explain these and many other passages where God wills something be done that he has commanded not to be done? Thanks

    • Hi TCM, thanks for the question.

      I understand both of those passages as responses of God to sin, not evidence that he has contradicting wills.

      God wanted Jesus to die so that we can be saved from sin and be reconciled to him. If we hadn’t sinned, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die.

      God allowed a lying spirit to fool Ahab as a form of judgment in response to sin.

      You might also enjoy this post on SEA, it was added just a few days ago: John Piper – Are There Two Wills of God? A Response.

      God bless,
      Kevin

      • TCM

        Yes, I agree that these are God’s responses to sin, but this does not change the fact that God “wills things to happen that he does not approve”, to quote Mr. Birch, the author of the post you referred me to.

        I would be fine with not saying God has two wills, but instead two distinctives of his one will, I would agree with Mr. Birch, Dr. Arminius and Dr. Calvin that this would be a better way of putting it.

        Why does God will that not all be saved when he doesn’t approve of that happening? God willing things to happen that he does not approve is all over the Bible, but the whole reason for this discussion is unconditional election, Mr. Birch was right about that one. How we understand Romans is key, because if we misunderstand that book we project our misunderstandings on the rest of the Bible.

        And I’m glad you didn’t get raptured on Saturday. You’d be having a much better time in Heaven, but now you can help me work through this stuff. I am pretty well a Calvinist, but I want to really understand the other takes on scripture to make sure I haven’t missed it, plus there’s too many people I respect who are not Calvinists for me to not work to really understand where they’re coming from.

        Thanks Kevin!

      • Hi TCM, I admire your willingness to learn about Arminianism, even if you ultimatly disagree with what Arminians believe.

        I don’t find it helpful to speak of God having contradicting wills, or even two distinctives of one will. Arminius did describe God that way, but he meant something entirely different by it than what Calvin meant. Arminius came from a Calvinist background, so it’s expected that he would use that kind of language. But I I find that kind of language confusing, and also don’t see it as explicitly scriptural.

        God is relational. He loves us, he wants us to love him. But he isn’t coercive, he wants us to love him of our own accord. That’s why he gave us the ability to make choices. He desires to be in relationship with us. In order for genuine relationship to be possible, God had to allow for the possibility that we would do things that he does not prefer. Selfless love involves risk and the potential to be hurt. Even for God. Especially for God.

        When we understand God as relational, it is not a contradiction for him to allow things that he does not prefer. He allows those things for the purpose of making genuine relationship possible.

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