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Thread: James White & Michael Brown Debate Part II

  1. #1

    James White & Michael Brown Debate Part II

    Monergism vs. Synergism Debate Part II

    Bravo Zulu to James White in Part II of this debate where Michael Brown attempted to provide an exegetical underpinning to his semi-Pelagian views. A few observations:

    1. As I noted previously, Michael Brown has a strange idea of what he considers to be exegesis. He falls back on the "I'm just providing exegesis from the text..." line repeatedly but, in over 3 hours of debate, he does not engage in real exegesis of particular texts.

    That many who would listen to this debate would not be able to tell the difference between what Michael Brown calls exegesis and what exegesis actually is points to the poverty of expository preaching in many Evangelical circles. His approach is a typical "find a bunch of other texts with similar words and ideas and string them together to confirm an already arrived at conclusion before one gets to the text." In other words, it follows the format of a typical topical sermon you'll hear on any given Sunday in thousands of Churches where nobody actually expects a text to fit within a given context but that texts are "floating" to be grabbed and pulled together.

    Again, real exegesis involves moving from immediate context (words, sentences, syntax, pericope, paragraph, book) to larger contexts (author's usage, biblical theology) and then these ideas coalesce in the logic of the whole of a systematic understanding of the Scriptures. In other words, if one is going to engage in real exegetical debate about the meaning of 1 John 2 then it doesn't do to simply quote the text and immediately jump all over Scripture without first establishing that an immediate context *demands* a particular reading of a text. There is "data" from different pericopes and authors and books that need to be considered together to come to a Systematic conclusion that might shed light on readings that can break different ways (assuming we believe that God does not contradict himself).

    For all his training in the definitions of *words*, Michael Brown does not seem to have a grasp on fundamental rules of hermeneutics and any student of this process (even at a rudimentary level) sees many flaws in his presentation. On the issue of exegesis of texts, Michael Brown failed repeatedly to establish that immediate context forced his interpretation and didn't even seem to notice that his marshaling of other texts reflected his systematic understanding of texts in the way he put words and passages together.

    2. Along this line, his response to systematic questions of how he was arriving at certain conclusions revealed a really weak understanding of systematic theology in general. He didn't even seem aware of what (if any) understanding of \God's foreknowledge as a "divine newscaster" and "awesome maker of lemonade out of lemons" implied. At one point, James pointed out that Michael was presenting a view of God's foreknowledge that was Molinistic and Brown's response was essentially: "I'm just presenting exegesis." I'm certain he believes there is a certain logic in his presentation but he didn't seem to be able to acknowledge that the logic he put forward was theological and systematic. It was both frightening and confusing to consider some of his conclusions only to hear him retreati into "I'm not sure what this means theologically but only exegetically" responses.

    On a side note, I want to commend James White for not pursuing Michael down certain trails today. He showed great restraint in the Molinist discussion sensing that it would not be an effective use of his limited time. James: you're a pro.

    3. Michael's presentation of God's desire for salvation and preparation thereof is most troubling and reveals, perhaps, some Pelagianism (and not merely semi-Pelagianism). In an alarming analogy at one point when discussing Elijah, Michael presented God's reserving of the 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal in this way (in so many words): "God is like a schoolteacher who desires all of His students to do well on an exam. The exam results are up to the student. He will reward those that do well on that exam (faith and fear in Him) but the results are up to the Student."

    In other words, as Brown asserted, when Elijah was told that God had reserved for Himself 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal, it was not a matter of God ultimately ordaining that 7000 should not bow the knee but that He foreknew those "students" who would, themselves, be "humble" and "fear" Him and, based on their response, would reward that humility and fear with a "good grade."

    In summary, I found this debate confirmed the difference not only between what is and is not proper exegesis but it confirms Dordt's estimation that a semi-Pelagian view of faith turns faith into a work that God rewards.
    Ruling Elder, PCA, Northern VA

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  2. #2
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    Again, real exegesis involves moving from immediate context (words, sentences, syntax, pericope, paragraph, book) to larger contexts (author's usage, biblical theology) and then these ideas coalesce in the logic of the whole of a systematic understanding of the Scriptures.
    And the latter is where reformed theology excels.

    This is why having a confessed theology based on it is so important.

    It is something like Arminian influenced theology looking for one verse to say God is sovereign, rather than relating it to the whole of God's character.

    It is especially powerful that the Westminster Standards represent the system of doctrine contained in Scripture and also are footnoted with Scripture proofs for every statement and/or proposition of doctrine in them.
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    [I]Post Tenebras Lux;[/I] [SIZE="2"][I] "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." - Revelation 21:4[/I][/SIZE]

  3. #3
    Excellent analysis, Rich. I've only listened to about half of the second half of the debate, but I did notice at one point Dr. Brown complained about Dr. White's usage of texts outside of the one(s) being discussed at the moment. It obviously took Dr. White back for a moment, but I couldn't help but see the irony in that Dr. Brown's "exegesis" is simply stringing together a series of texts to support a preconceived position.

    The other thing that sort of surprised me (in both halves of the debate) was Dr. Brown's insistence that he has assurance of salvation and the Calvinist does not, and he has all these issues figured out ("clear" and "no mystery") when considered the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. As I said, quite surprising. When man claims to have God completely figured out, that's a problem, imho.
    Tim Phillips
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The PuritanBoard exists to promote robust discussion of theology in a Confessionally Reformed context. The modern trend of short statements of faith belies the many places where the Scriptures teach with great clarity. Though our respective Reformed confessions sometimes disagree, we believe that Churches have been given the gifts of teachers and elders to lead to the unity of the faith and the result of that unity is a Confessional Church confessing together: "This is what the Scriptures teach." The Confessions are secondary to the authority of Scripture itself but they arise out of Scripture as a standard exposition of the Word of God.