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.