James White has changed the nature of this discussion as it relates to hypercalvinism. He recently posted a response to Tony Byrne on the AOMin blog, and also posted a video, which vitiates much of the discussion about whether James White is a hyper-Calvinist.
Having posted a link to the video, I must comment that some of what White says there is simply false and bombastic; and I don't post the video because I like it or approve of it, but because White makes an important doctrinal concession in it.
Taking the blog post and video together, we can say that White believes the following:
- God loves all men, though God's love is not monolithic
- God's will (his revealed will) is that all men obey his commands to repent and believe the gospel
- In that context (revealed will and command) we can say that God desires the salvation of all men
Having made those statements, much of what I (and others) have written in criticism of White as a hyper-Calvinist is no longer cogent. In my view, White has effectively exonerated himself from the charge.
I feel quite certain that White will take the position that this is nothing new for him -- this has been his position all along. That may be the case, but this is new as far as his statements on the record. I know of no other place in White's work where he has made these kinds of statements. I haven't read all of his work, and I freely admit that he may have held this position all along while I suffered under a cloud of ignorance. But I doubt it. Citations anyone?
And Tony Byrne has made the point on his blog that White's new position is unsupported by any scriptural analysis from White. How would White support his view that God loves all men? Or that God desires (according to his revealed will) that all men obey the gospel? I'm willing to grant White the benefit of the doubt on this; Byrne might want more trenchant statements from White.
The dispute could have been avoided
And should have. White could have answered this debate easily long before the John 3:16 conference by making these points clearly. He could have answered Allen simply by stating these things. But he didn't. He made these statements under a certain degree of pressure. He was forced -- or so it seems to me -- kicking and screaming into these admissions. Ok ... maybe I exaggerate; but that's the way I see it.
I also worry about the solidity of this "new" position. Will there be more "qualifications," and "clarifications?" We can only wait and see. For now I am willing to admit that White is not a hyper-Calvinist. But I worry.
Words have consequences
Having made these statements, White's previous statements on the subject become confusing and contradictory to the point of a hopeless muddle. One could go into long analysis of White's writings and parse his words, but that would be an entirely fruitless and jejune exercise. I won't do it.
There are two other important consequences. First, White is now on record (provided he doesn't start wiggling and provided we don't try to reconcile his recent statements with his old ones) as affirming an orthodox Calvinistic position. This is good.
Another important consequence is that Phil Johnson has gutted his hyper-Calvinism primer to the point of uselessness. Johnson (quite unnecessarily as it turned out) said in defense of White that Dr. Allen had misinterpreted his Primer. Now that is not exactly what Johnson said, but that is the way his statements are being interpreted (by both White and Tom Ascol, and presumably many others).
Johnson, who is normally careful with his words, began muddying the waters -- for the sake of his friend White -- by introducing qualifications about optative expressions, and alleging his personal knowledge of White's orthodoxy, and asserting the apparent misunderstanding of both by Dr. Allen. I deny that Allen misunderstood Phil's Primer ... he clearly understood it all too well. And White's statements up until recently put him solidly in the hyper-Calvinist camp, whatever Phil may say about "misunderstanding his primer."
As a consequence of Johnson's defense of White, other people have begun seriously to misunderstand it, and now Tom Ascol, for example, is saying that Steve Camp is not a hyper-Calvinist because Allen misunderstands Johnson's primer. Oh really!? Johnson would never (one hopes) say such a thing, but his sloppiness in recent weeks has given others a good deal of room to make these kinds of statements. The usefulness of his Primer as a benchmark has been eviscerated. And given Phil's qualifications on "optative" language, his primer as a teaching tool has been eviscerated as well. I would never, given his recent qualifying statements about optative expressions, point anyone to that Primer. I will point people to Tony Byrne for real instruction on the point from this time forward. (Byrne will point us to Curt Daniel and Iain Murray ... who presumably won't be issuing "clarifications" that arise out of personal motives and result in more confusion.)
Well, that's all I have to say on this matter of James White and hypercalvinism ... hopefully forever. If Johnson or White make additional statements that retract or clarify recent events I may revisit it. But I hope that doesn't happen.
For next time, I'm going back to my critique of Nicole.