This post will take James White’s cross examination questions to Bob Enyart and answer them. It should be noted that in Enyart’s cross examination, James White avoided direct questions such as answering the simple question “In Gethsemane, at the moment Jesus stated that God could send legions of angels to rescue Jesus, could God have done so at that moment?” Enyart, for the most part, directly answered White’s questions.
1. Did God know you would exist when he created the world?
No. In Genesis 6 we see God repenting of making man. God had decided that if He had known that man would become that wicked that God would never had created them. This is exactly how the text reads:
Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
God then performs a global reset, showing that God did truly repent of making the world. He destroys not only man, but birds, trees, animals, and the entire world’s terrain . This was God showing He regretted creating the world (the text is explicit). God did not foreknow that individuals would exist who were that evil and wicked. God repented when He saw the end result of His creation. God does not foreknow all individuals from eternity past.
While White believes the repentance in Genesis 6 is more of a “deep grief”, the repentance more fits the normal use of the word such as in Jonah:
Jon 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
See also: God Respond to Rejection
2. Did God know sin would exist when He created the world?
Sin and rebellion are always possibilities. Did God “know” that sin would exist in that it was extremely likely? The Bible is silent on the issue, so we all we have is speculation. But per Genesis 6, God did not know the extent of man’s evil from before the world began.
3. So you just identified the cross as a contingency plan, is that correct?
The cross is definitely a contingency plan. If the entire world never sinned, Jesus would not have to die. If the entire world repented of sin, Jesus would not have to die. Jesus, himself, indicates that the plan did not have to come to fruition when Jesus asks that he not be killed:
Luk 22:42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Jesus likewise states that God could rescue him at any time:
Mat 26:53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
If Jesus did not think the cross was a forgone conclusion, Christians would be wise to likewise think that the cross was a contingent, contingency plan.
The Crucifixion was Not a Fixed Event
4. When God created did He already have this contingency plan or did it come about after the fall?
The Bible is silent on this issue. God may have or may not have. God did seem to have Christ and redemption in mind from before the fall (this is not to say that the crucifixion was chosen as the methodology from before the fall):
1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
The one thing that is very important to avoid, which White falls prey to throughout his teaching, is presupposing all sorts of issues based on how it makes him feel. White is an emotional powder-keg, as evident by his avoidance of the Bible in the complicated and contradictory theology he believes (see his closing remarks). White thinks that God “not forever fating evil people to kill an innocent man” would be horrible, and bases his argument against it based on his feelings. This makes for horrible theology and is not an intellectually honest way to treat the Bible. [quote marks used to clarify sentence and are not a verbal quote]
5. Do you agree with Doctor Sanders that God cannot know what a free creature will do without sacrificing that creature’s freedom?
Two quick illustrations:
James invites Bob to an event scheduled the next weekend. Bob responds “No, I know I will be out of town that weekend.” James responds “You don’t ‘know’ that, something might happen to stop you from leaving town.” What would be Bob’s reaction? Most normal people would look at James like he is a ridiculous human being. Bob, in fact, does ‘know’ that he will be out of town in spite of an odd event canceling his plans.
Likewise, I can ‘know’ that if I go to Walmart right now that a cashier will accept my money in exchange for Doritos. I can know a creature’s (the cashier’s) free will actions without that creature sacrificing its freedom, without knowing the future exhaustively, and without knowing the particular individual.
What this illustrates is that Calvinists redefine “knowledge” to fit their Platonism!
When God uses the word “know” it is just how normal people use the word. In Exodus 18, God says “Now I know.”
Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
As White points out, Abraham could still rebel in the future, so the test did not ensure 100% that Abraham would never turn. The test did not establish fatalism. But tests, such as a wife sending one of her friends to test her husband’s fidelity, are not designed to give fatalistic knowledge of the future. Behavior tests give normal knowledge of the future, where things are extremely probable but not definite. In the same sense that I “know” I will wake up tomorrow morning, God “knows” Abraham will continue to serve God.
What White’s question assumes is a new definition for knowledge that is alien to normal human language. White defines “knowledge” as “100% certainty without variation.” Knowledge of the future, defined by Platonism is better labeled “fate”. To answer White’s question: creatures cannot be “fated” without sacrificing freedom. Yes.
Knowledge redefined by Calvinism
6. If God cannot violate someone’s will, can we violate God’s will?
How does someone “violate someone’s will”? That is a non-concept invented by theologians obsessed with Classical Greek ideas. God’s will can be thwarted, as the lawyers thwarted God’s will.
Luk 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
Throughout the Old Testament, a reoccurring theme is that Israel thwarts God’s will for themselves.
1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.
The Biblical answer is that God’s will is thwarted often by a rebellious and sinful man.
Verses in which God is thwarted
7. When God restrains someone from committing evil, is He violating their will?
No. Will cannot be constrained by definition, although people might be prevailed upon to change their will. In the Bible, God pleads with Israel and says “what else could I have done to make you love me.”
Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
God has exhausted His options to change Israel’s will. In the verse above, God turns angry and resolves to destroy Israel because they will not change their will.
Isa 5:5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Isa 5:6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
The history recorded in the Bible shows God who contends with rebellious human beings, God tries everything He can to change their will, but very seldom does it work.
8. If God restrains evil, how is that not a violation of will?
Because “violating will” is a nonsensical and vague phrase. If micro-robots took over someone’s body and forced them to do jumping jacks, this is not a violation of will. This is instead a hijacking of a body. God does not ever seem to do even this in the Bible. If He did, he would be morally culpable for their acts, not them. Just as King David was morally culpable for killing Uriah the Hittite, God would be responsible for the acts He forces upon people.
See Proxy Sins.
When God applies coercion, that is exactly what it is (coercion). When God wanted King Nebuchadnezzar to become righteous, God turned the king into a crazy man beast in order to break Nebuchadnezzar’s pride. If God could just “violate” will, why did God not just snap His fingers to break the king’s pride? The Bible throughout shows God using His power to effect His will on Earth. Just as a government institutes law to coerce individuals to behave, God institutes divine law against people and nations. God says the righteous will be blessed and the sinners destroyed.
Restraint of Free Will
As an interesting side note, in hypnotist manuals they stress that they cannot even hypnotize people to do something against which the person is morally opposed.
9. In Isaiah 41 we hear “tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome.” Could you please explain how it is that God can give this challenge, and can you tell us how God can fulfill this challenge, Himself, in an open theist universe?
This is where I might vary from Enyart’s answer. The verse in question is in the context of power actions. The entire 9 chapters from Isaiah 40-48 is God attempting to convince Israel that God is powerful enough to accomplish what He says He will do.
Imagine that. Not only did Israel at that time doubt God’s ability to perform even the simplest of actions but God dedicates His own words and time to convince them otherwise. God is wholeheartedly attempting to convince Israel that He is the one true God and is powerful enough to do what He says. Ancient Israelites not only did not believe God was omniscient, omnipresent, timeless, and immutable, but also they did not believe God was omnipotent. How differently would Isaiah have written if he were a Calvinist instead of an Open Theist? Instead, Isaiah writes like an Open Theist: God is powerful enough to do what He says.
That is the context of Isaiah:
Isa 41:22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.
God says something an brings it about. See the very next verse:
Isa 41:23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.
In short, here is God’s argument why Israel should believe God is the true God:
I am God and I will protect you and kill the wicked. Once you see this you will know that I am God because I said it and I brought it to past. Look at these false gods. What power acts have they claimed they would do and then accomplished. (Note how this filters the claim that a false god performed just any random event. Whereas a coincidence might to attributed to a false god, if the false worshipers are asked to produce a prediction of the event before the event happened then it is much harder to attribute randomness to a false god.) Furthermore, I challenge them to predict their own power acts right now, just as I have just done, and we will see who is the true God.
This is NOT a claim of knowledge. That would be counter to the entire point of Isaiah 40-48. God, as is echoed throughout the Bible, is saying that He knows what will happen because He is powerful enough to bring it about. God says He will do something and the God does that thing.
This is NOT about all past events in history, such as the first man stubbing his toe or some future man flushing a toilet. The context is God’s prophecy and acts, particularly in regards to Israel’s current and past geopolitical status. Isaiah’s point is that God will act and has acted, with prophecy confirmation. This proves God is the true God.
10. Do you believe Judas could have repented and not betrayed the Lord?
Yes. God, throughout the Bible, states that if the wicked repent then God will respond in turn. Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 18 are the most prominent examples of this in the Bible, but these normal operating procedures are repeated ad nauseam in case people just don’t understand. God rejoices when the wicked repent. He is not mad that his prophecy doesn’t come true. Instead, God uses His failed prophecy to illustrate His mercy (such as in Jonah).
11. In light of.. John 13, when Jesus says, he specifically cites the scripture “but the scripture will be fulfilled “he who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” Could you explain how the scripture could not be fulfilled and yet Jesus not be speaking falsehood here?
The Augustinian Christians have an unnatural standard for what they believe constitutes falsehood. In Jonah 3:4, God had Jonah prophesy 40 days until Nineveh would be destroyed. Nineveh was not destroyed. The prophesy did not come true. But neither God nor Jonah were speaking “falsehoods”.
Likewise, God had promised to drive out enemy nations from Israel, but in Judges 2:20 God says that He will not do what He had promised. God was not speaking falsehoods.
See also: SAB on Nations being driven out.
The reason both these incidents (and others) are not falsehoods is because the conditions changed and a fulfillment would be unreasonable. If you tell your teenager that you will take them to Disneyland, but then they run away from home, you do not have to track them down, tie them up, and smuggle them to Florida in order to “not have been speaking falsehoods”. That would be absurd. Likewise, God uses reasonable standards when dealing with both people and nations. God will respond to nations and God will respond to people:
Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
Notice that God does not do what He thought He would do also that God does not do what He said He would do depending on the actions of the people. The only people insistent that everything has to happen as planned is the Calvinist, and this is because of their dedication to the Platonist attributes of God.
In short, something God thinks or something God says can be falsified without God having spoken falsehood.
In response to James White’s second point, about the prediction itself, it is not an actual prediction. The reference is to Psalm 41 and this is a Psalm where King David is talking about his dealings with his enemies:
Psa 41:7 All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt.
Psa 41:8 “An evil disease,” they say, “clings to him. And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more.”
Psa 41:9 Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.
Psa 41:10 But You, O LORD, be merciful to me, and raise me up, That I may repay them.
Psa 41:11 By this I know that You are well pleased with me, Because my enemy does not triumph over me.
Psa 41:12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And set me before Your face forever.
There is no hint of prophecy in these verses. This is why it needs to be stressed “fulfilled”, as used throughout the book of Matthew, is better translated as “paralleled”. The Jewish culture of Jesus’ time were looking for parallel concepts, not predictions of the future. If Jesus’ life and ministry significantly paralleled Old Testament themes, that is how it was considered true.
12. (Referencing John 13:19) If Judas had not done what Jesus had said, then how would the disciples know that Jesus is the I AM?
Joh 13:19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.
One very interesting thing about John 13:19 is that White claims this as a parallel “deity test” to various verses in Isaiah 40-48. White also admits that Jesus did not know the end times per Mark 13:32. This means that both John 13:19 and Isaiah 40-48 do not necessitate fatalistic knowledge of the future! God and Jesus can both not “know” various things and still makes these claims. This is an excellent verse against Calvinism.
But how could Jesus make such claims with accuracy and stake his claim to being the Messiah upon it? Certainly this is the same Judas that Jesus spent three years preaching alongside. Certainly this is the same Judas who had been showing increasing dissatisfaction with Jesus. Certainly this is the same Judas who has been stealing money from the collections for his own use. Jesus intimately knew Judas’ character, plus had access to God to fill in the details of what had already transpired. This first part is how Jesus knew Judas would not repent. Judas was already in deep with the plot. The second part is speculation of one of the many ways Jesus could know about the plot. Nothing in the verses necessitate omniscience or fatalism. In fact, because Jesus did not know everything they destroy other Calvinist prooftexts about omniscience.
13. Could Jesus have not gone to the cross?
Yes. Jesus, himself, believed he did not have to go to the cross. This was discussed in question 3. In the actual debate, Enyart had explained this earlier as well.
The Crucifixion was Not a Fixed Event
14. Is it possible for the Son as a human being with free will to have chosen to rebel against the father?
Satan definitely believed so. Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness in an attempt to get Jesus to side with Satan.
James White believes he knows more about what Jesus can and cannot do than the authors of the Bible and than Satan. Satan will engage in bets with God (Job 1 and again in Job 2). Satan did not believe God knew the future. Many people throughout the Bible negotiate with God to revoke His prophecies (Exodus 32 and Genesis 18). But James White does not see God in the same light as those who best knew God. James White thinks he knows better than those who spoke with God “face to face”.
James White instead bases his understanding about God on how the implications make him feel and how the implications interact with his grand and crazy metaphysics. This is not a rational way to do theology. Truth is not dependent on James White’s personal whims. The Bible should not be viewed through the lens on Plato.
When Jesus says that he willed not to die by crucifixion, Jesus should be believed (not James White). James White has a crazy belief that if Jesus actually exercised his will (to not die by crucifixion) then the Godhead would “cease to exist”. Is that a Biblical belief? What verses explain the results of Jesus rebelling from God or ever suggest it cannot happen? Why would it even be a rational conclusion that rebelling would make the Godhead “cease to exist”?
Like so much of James White’s theology, it is just made up in his own head. Here is White’s argument: “if the future is not settled, if Jesus can rebel, if God can change, then we cannot trust Him.” The points and purposes of most James White’s questions are all about feel good metaphysical implications without reference to the Bible. The Bible gives reasons we can trust God and it is always by pointing out past faithfulness (not by falling back on impecability or immutability or any other pagan attribute). Enyart responds mostly with Biblical illustrations showing how even the Bible undermines White’s emotional arguments. White responds by emoting.