An Examination of James White’s Parable: The King and the Castle

In the book The Potters Freedom, Calvinist James White sets forth a parable called “The King and the Castle”.  The purpose of the parable is to explain why (in White’s view) the concept of  “Limited Atonement” does not impugn the character of God.  White contrasts his story with one written by non-Calvinist Norm Geisler.  A summary of Geisler’s parable can be found here: The Farmer, the Boys, and the Pond.

Here is a paraphrase of “The King and the Castle”:

The greatest king of all time leaves his castle to do good things.  When the king returns, he finds that his subjects have been robbing, murdering and raping his friends.  In addition, they have intentionally set fire to his castle, and if they do not quickly escape, they will all perish in the flames.

The rebels have no justification for their behavior.  The king has always been good to his subjects.  He has provided for them, and they have feasted at his table.

Despite the king’s graciousness, the rebels have sinned personally against the king, and have done it repeatedly.  They have a long track record of rebellion despite the king’s mercy.

Even though the fire in the castle is raging and the death of the rebels is certain, they continue to destroy everything that reminds them of the king and his authority.  They are gleeful with their wickedness.  They enjoy being disobedient and hateful.  They even encourage others to join the rebellion.

If the king attempts to save the rebels from the fire, they would certainly mock him.  They would refuse to come out, they would curse the king, they would throw debris in his face, and they would run back into the smoke and flames.  Given the opportunity, they would attempt to drag the king into the flames and kill him too.

By all rights, the king should have the castle surrounded and make sure that everyone inside dies.  The king instead shows love beyond all imagination by sending his only son into the fire to pull some of the rebels out of the flames.  The son dies in the fire after saving the rebels that he wanted to save.

Given the atrocious behavior of the rebels and their hatred, the king is completely justified in saving only some of the rebels.  He saves them by his free grace, and he has the right to choose whom he wants to save, and he has the right to allow others to justly die in the flames.   In reality they all deserve to die.(1)

White’s parable is reasonable if the rebels have genuine free will.  In fact it somewhat models the parable of  the “Vineyard Tenants”  given by Jesus in Matthew 21:33-45.  However, the parable becomes silly when interpreted through the lens of exhaustive determinism where all actions are preordained.  The parable only makes sense if the rebels could do something other than what they do.

But in White’s view, the rebels cannot do other than what they do.  He leaves this “little detail” out of the parable.  In reality, the rebels are burning down the castle because the king desires it.  The king has decreed that the rebels burn down his castle, and he has caused them to do it.  He has decreed that they mock him.  He has decreed that they kill his son.  The king’s actual complaint should be against his double-minded decrees.

White believes that everything we do is necessary and has been decreed by God.   He writes:

…God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatever comes to pass in the universe.  Nothing is outside his control, nothing is without purpose…This extends…to every aspect of human history, personal relationships, and most importantly, to the life of every man, woman, and child. (2)

White goes onto say that God ordains the “actions of men, even their choices.”   Given such a view, White’s parable is absurd.  If  White’s parable is to be consistent with his theology, the castle rebellion occurs by necessity and design of the king.  Yet White makes it sound as if the rebels have a choice in the matter (the Arminian view!).  White’s parable is inconsistent at this point.  His theology necessitates that the rebellion occurs only because of the king’s good pleasure.  The king has ordained the choices of the rebels.  The rebels are puppets following the king’s script.  They cannot do other than what they do.  They rape, murder, and burn at the king’s command.

The real problem with White’s parable is that his descriptions of the king are not reconciled with his deterministic assumptions about God.  White says the king is the greatest of all times.  But a great king doesn’t ordain for his subjects to burn down his own castle.  White says the king only does good things.  But a good king doesn’t blame his subjects for doing what he has coercively caused them to do.  White says the king is loving beyond all description.  But a loving king does what’s best for his subjects, particularly when he knows they are doing precisely what he intended for them to do.

White parable inadvertently shows the absurdity of Calvinism.  A righteous king would never decree that his subjects rebel, and then punish them for doing what he caused them to do.  Such a king is not righteous or loving, he is not the greatest of all times, and he isn’t good.  Such a king would be sadistic and capricious.

————————————–

(1) The parable can be found on pages 306-312 of “The Potter’s Freedom”.  There is also a you-tube video here where White describes his parable and criticizes Dr. Geisler’s view.

(2)The Potter’s Freedom, p 45

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6 Comments

Filed under Calvinism, James White, limited atonement

6 responses to “An Examination of James White’s Parable: The King and the Castle

  1. Pingback: An Examination of James White’s Parable: The King and the Castle | Society of Evangelical Arminians

  2. TCM

    A couple of statements didn’t make sense to me in this post:

    “He has decreed that they kill his son. The king’s actual complaint should be against his double-minded decrees.”

    God did decree that men kill his son, even though God commands against murder in Exodus 20:13 :

    -Isa 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him…

    -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.

    Can you explain how the above verses fit with your theology?

    “A righteous king would never decree that his subjects rebel, and then punish them for doing what he caused them to do. Such a king is not righteous or loving, he is not the greatest of all times, and he isn’t good. Such a king would be sadistic and capricious.”

    How does the above statment work with this passage?:

    -Deu 2:30 But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.

    It appears God did indeed decree Sihon to rebel against him by attacking the Israelites for the purpose of punishing him. See also God’s dealings with Pharoah in Exodus, Joshua 11:19-20, 2 Sam 24:1, 1 Kings 22:19-23, Ezekial 14:9, and 2 Thes. 2:11-12.

    Thank you

    • Hi TCM, thanks for stopping by.

      Jesus died to save us all – from Isaiah 53:
      5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
      he was crushed for our iniquities;
      the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
      and by his wounds we are healed.
      6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
      each of us has turned to his own way;
      and the LORD has laid on him
      the iniquity of us all.

      Arminius wrote that “[God] used those who wished, of their own malice and envy, to put Christ to death, in a mode, which, He knew, would conduce to His own glory and the salvation of men.” source.

      For an explanation of hardening in the OT, see this post: The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

      The question is not whether or not God foreknows the evil actions of men, but whether or not he causes men to be evil in the first place.

      • TCM

        Kevin,

        Thanks for your quick reply, I appreciate it. I really like the tone of your blog, from what I’ve read everyone seems gentle and respectful with their posts. It’s great to be able to discuss different views about God’s revelation in this way, I have learned the most when I’ve had to defend my views or challenge others. May the Lord direct our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thes. 3:5). I pray that my comments will not be taken as mean spirited or offensive, I just genuinely want to understand God’s Word.

        My intent in quoting from Isa 53 was not to challenge the notion of Jesus dying for all, it was to challenge your statement:

        “He has decreed that they kill his son. The king’s actual complaint should be against his double-minded decrees.”

        Do you believe that God did not decreed that men kill his son? That is how I took that statement, if I misunderstood you I apologize. But it seems to me that God did indeed decree that evil men kill his son according to the scriptures I cited, especially Acts 4:27.

        As for God hardening hearts, I don’t see how the article on Pharoah helps you with this statment:

        ” A righteous king would never decree that his subjects rebel, and then punish them for doing what he caused them to do. Such a king is not righteous or loving, he is not the greatest of all times, and he isn’t good. Such a king would be sadistic and capricious.”

        According to the post on Pharoah you believe that God “encouraged, strenthened, assisted, and helped” Pharoah to do evil, and then God punished him for the evil that God “encouraged, strengthened, assisted, and helped” him to do. A lot of people would say that this is not righteous and loving of God to do. What is the basis on which we judge God to be good or bad?

        God turned the heart of the King of Assyria in Ezra 6:22 to do good so why wasn’t he helping Pharoah to do good if he wanted him to repent?
        There appear to be numerous examples in scripture of God not wanting people to repent so they will be punished (Deu 2:30, Joshua 11:19-20, 2 Sam 24:1, 1 Kings 22:19-23, Isa 6:10, Ezekial 14:9, and 2 Thes. 2:11-12)

        Sorry for the longwinded comments, sometimes it’s hard comment on just one point.

        Thanks and have a good weekend!

      • Hi TCM, thanks for the reply.

        It comes down to how “decree” is defined. If it’s defined as God giving men evil desires so that they do things they wouldn’t have otherwise done, then no, I don’t see that taught in scripture.

        If it’s defined as God foreknowing what someone will freely do in a situation, and using that knowledge to bring about his purposes, then yes, I see that as scriptural. God handed Jesus over in the second sense, not the first.

        Regarding hardening, God reserves the right to use it as a form of judgment because of continuous obstinate sin (sin which wasn’t caused or preferred by God in the first place). Even when hardening occurs, God does not work coercivly. God works in such a way that the person is not acting contrary to his desires, but is rather is being encouraged to follow through with his already existing desires. God gives the person the tenacity to follow through with what he wants to do.

  3. Bill Hier

    Why not simply request a debate on these matters with James White?
    I’ve read his book – I do believe you need to address everything in it, and what better platform for doing so than a formal debate upon these matters?

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