Monday, May 02, 2011

The Potter's Freedom: a Response to Chosen But Free

I see that Ergun Caner has asked his Theology 202 class to provide on-line book reviews of Norman Geisler's "Chosen but Free." I've had a chance to read many of the reviews. Let me provide some thoughts in response. But before I do, let me say that I hope Dr. Caner has encouraged his student's to check out Dr. White's excellent rebuttal to that book: The Potter's Freedom.

1. Thoughts for a Bumpy Ride

This review reflects the misconception that Geisler is presenting a "balanced" view in contrast to Arminianism and Calvinism. While Geisler may characterize his position that way, Geisler has essentially presented the Arminian position that was condemned by the Synod of Dordt. Had this reviewer, who goes by SpeedBump, read Dr. James Whte's rebuttal to Geisler's work, he might have been able to more clearly see through Geisler's claim to be providing a position that is balanced between Calvinism and Arminianism.

2. thoughts:

This review, by "edare," seems to reflect a view that arguing about predestination is a waste of time. So much for Geisler's book! Nevertheless, the review goes on to reflect a belief that the future is not fixed but instead can be changed by the choices we make. This view must necessarily be wrong, since if God can see the future, it is absolutely certain to happen just as God has foreseen. That's true without getting into the mechanics of how God knows the future. Finally, the review argues that the commands for evangelism make no sense if predestination is true. This argument, however, is based on a failure to appreciate that God appoints not only the ends but the means. Calvinism (notwithstanding caricatures of it) is not fatalism. Scripture does not teach that God simply appoints the ends, but also the means to that end. God makes the preaching of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, as both the Scriptures and the Reformers teach.

3. jorge0109

This review was quite interesting for me. In the midst of the review is the following quotation:
“Geisler engages in this redefinition not only with regard to the general term "Calvinism", but he also redefines the individual doctrines which are part and parcel of Calvinism. This is seen in his discussion of T-U-L-I-P”
This appears to be taken from James Harrison's review. James Harrison is right, of course, but it is not clear that jorge0109 has understood the material he quoted. jorge0109 concludes the review similarly to "edare," with a comment suggesting that predestination would render evangelism pointless.

4. Victoria's Blog

This review appeared to me to be more or less a review of the first chapter of Geisler's book - the chapter in which Geisler suggests that ideas have consequences. Dr. White's "The Potter's Freedom" has an answer, but an answer to this general line of argumentation was already set forth in A. W. Pink's "The Sovereignty of God." ( free download)

5. My Story

This review from "rkgirl214" highlights another aspect of the problem with Geisler's book. Geisler's book tries to argue that today's Calvinists and the original Calvin are out of line with one another. In the absence of a rebuttal like The Potter's Freedom, such a position may even seem reasonable. Moreover, this reviewer indicated that a favorite aspect of the book was Geisler's use of Scripture. The Potter's Freedom, however, provides an excellent demonstration of the shallowness of the use of the Scriptures in Geisler's book. For example, there are three main verses that get quoted in Geisler's book and The Potter's Freedom provides a fully analysis both of their use and abuse, as well as a sound exegesis of those texts.

6. Stephanie's blog

This review likewise seems to adopt Geisler's position that Calvinism as a distortion of Calvin's teachings. That issue, rebutted in The Potter's Freedom, is actually not the central issue. The central issue is whether the teachings are the teachings of Scripture. Once we understand that they are, the issue of whether they are also Calvin's teachings becomes an issue of very secondary concern. I'm not perfectly clear whether Stephanie understands that Calvinism is not so much about exegeting Calvin as it is about exegeting Scripture. In any case, I hope that this response to the review will encourage Stephanie to check out the rebuttal to Geisler's work, so that she can see what the Scriptures teach on these important issues.

7. Every Now and Then

This review stood out from the others, in that the author of the review appears not to have accepted everything that Geisler said. The reviewer, Autumn, comments that she is not sure about Geisler's view of eternal security. On the other hand, Autumn seems to find one of Geisler's analogies helpful. I present her take on it here:
I really liked his analogy of the man who can choose between two women to marry. One he knows will never say yes, no matter how hard he tries to persuade her, and the other he knows that eventually, with some persuading, she will fall in love with him and agree to marry him.
I wonder whether Autumn has considered that God is able to win anyone's heart. There's no heart that is too hard for God, just as there is no rock too big for God to lift.

Scriptures tell us "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21:1) If the king's heart is in the Lord's hand, we can know that ours is as well. Consider Saul of Tarsus. Before God converted him, he was not just ambivalent and neutral - he hated and persecuted the church. He was the "chief of sinners." Yet God saved him.

Read the Scriptures. God stopped the mouths of the lions. Do you really think God can't change hearts? God claims that ability, after all:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

That is why, when we talk about being born again, we attribute this change completely to God:

John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Notice that it says "nor of the will of man." Is that what you believe? Or do you believe that being born again is based on a decision you make?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found Geisler's book ridiculous, and thought James White's initial reply was needed. Obviously, I do not agree with White's Calvinism (big shock, right?), but his book / reply to Geisler was spot on in many instances (e.g. the botched "superlapsarian" embarrassment in Geisler's first printing).

I think Geisler presented an Arminian-ish position but deigns to bear the name! Would to God that he and others would just buck up and admit what they really are. Now let me tell you what I'm really thinking!