Boast Only In the Lord: A Response to James White’s Review of the Free Will Debate
Click here to watch the Free-Will debate
Response by Theodore Zachariades
In two “Dividing Line” podcasts, Mr. James White reviewed the recent debate that Sonny Hernandez and I had with Leighton Flowers and Jonathan Pritchett. These were separated by a couple of days, but they are his final word on this debate, at least according to his latest program.
While there are portions of White’s comments that may be taken to heart, the overall impression that he made on me is that he is the expert, and he has all the right answers, and that we had better learn from him in how to go about this task of debating. We were even given a number, certainly impressive, in his estimate: 161!
All I can say is that it’s ironic that he accuses me of inserting myself into the debate, but it is White that has inserted himself into this critique. Furthermore, while being ready to charge that it is uncharitable to call out heresy on the part of opponents he does so within the same broadcast himself. Surely, there is some inconsistency here. He accuses me of consigning people to hell, when I have not said this. Also, White suggests that it is impossible to see into men’s hearts, but he thinks he can divine my mind.
I have refused to call Flowers and Pritchett brothers because of their statements about how they perceive the gospel. It is a false gospel they present that teaches that Christ’s work is insufficient to save. Pritchett and Flowers may have slipped into error, or as White often appears to insist—it is their willful rejection and willful ignorance of clear biblical teaching about the nature of the work of Christ. They may not be my brothers today, but that does not mean they are beyond redemption. I discriminate on the essentials of the gospel. If White tries to suggest that because they do not deny that Jesus came in the flesh, citing 2 John, then that means they are not false teachers; this just means they are not guilty of that specific heresy. There are others that affirm that He came in the flesh but are still considered outside the pale of orthodoxy. Believing the way they do, Pritchett and Flowers must confess that Jesus is not enough and that faith is of ourselves. Hence, in their system we make ourselves differ by our grateful response to gospel offers. This is a subtle form of works salvation. If this is not another gospel, I don’t know what is.
Furthermore, White seems to imply that they know better and are thus stubborn in their refusal to submit to God’s sovereignty. How can I claim these men as brothers when they are defiant against so much scripture, starting with the nature of man? What of their denial of God’s control over the affairs of men, except in special cases? And what of this latest discovery of their position, that men have the ability to create their desires ex nihilo? This is an unhealthy exaltation of the powers of man. James White appears to admit that it is idolatry. So, Mr. White, are you a brother with idolaters? I will rather stay at arms-length, until they repent of their scripture twisting, and bow before God’s sovereignty and acknowledge that salvation is of the Lord. From a human perspective this seems highly unlikely. But what is impossible with men is possible with God. My prayer for Flowers and Pritchett is that they are granted repentance by God so they will comprehend the true grace of God.
At times, White insinuates that I am a “hyper Calvinist.” I reject the charge. Also, when he briefly mentioned my book against Leighton Flowers, he showed surprise that Tom Ascol, among others, have favorably endorsed it, noting that “Ascol is not a hyper.” So, I am a hyper Calvinist and uncharitable because I am loud in my denunciations of Flowers and Pritchett, but White is absolved of any wrong-doing because he calmly accuses me, evidently prior to reading my book and only hearing one exchange. Read the book, Mr. White, then ask Dr. Ascol why he endorsed it, if you still need to! Just because I have a different approach to dealing with theological error than Mr. White does is not to say that it is wrong. Scripture does have precedent where a blunt and direct challenge to opponents is evident. Think of Elijah vs. Baal’s prophets, Paul on Cyprus, Peter against Simon Magus, and Jesus with the Pharisees and Scribes. Indeed, the Bible has various approaches to dealing with naysayers and theological opponents.
Response from Sonny Hernandez
Mr. White is certainly entitled to his opinion. As an accomplished debater, Christians can learn a lot from his scholarship, which is why my colleague Dr. Zachariades and I were interested in listening to his critique of our recent debate. Sadly, we were both perplexed, because this critique actually turned out to be what I perceived to be a platform for Mr. White to boast in his accomplishments and erudition. This was deeply vexing.
For the record, the standard or criteria of how debates are critiqued should never be measured by James White or any man. On the contrary, it should be measured by appealing to the infallible and inscripturated Word—which has "various ways" of dealing with theological practices, aberrations and opponents.
I would like to respectfully encourage Mr. White to not set a standard of how men can elevate their accomplishments, but to set a precedent of how older men are to be godly examples to those who are watching. Several friends and colleagues have warned me not to respond to Mr. White because they feel he craves opportunities to: habitually post comments on his social media accounts to play either victim, mock, or accuse of wrong doing, so he can receive consolation likes, defend his pride, protect his popularity, or to incite his fan-base because he knows that they will bombast anyone that he decries on social media. I do not know the validity of this, but I pray that Mr. White is better than that. Let’s see…
Furthermore, I noticed recently, that Mr. White publicly decried what he calls the “Howsian group” on social media for refusing to accept his debate challenge, and then calling it “…theological cowardice at its best.” I have no interest in emulating Mr. White in this practice. However, should Mr. White feel compelled to publicly call me out because I believe that Arminianism is heresy, let it be known: I am not part of the “Howsian group,” and I do not run from challenges to defend the truth, and I do not compromise on gospel essentials.
Although I disagree with James White on many things he said in his critique, I will take to heart some of the advice that he has provided. I pray that he will also take the advice that Scripture offers as well:
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17)