Friday, April 18, 2008

James White vs. Steve Gregg Debate

I just listened to the debate between James White and Steve Gregg. Very interesting. I've been on a yearlong assignment to figure out Calvinism, and this debate is pushing me closer to Calvinism. Weird--I've never been a fan of Calvin. Anyway, James White had the more cogent presentation. All Steve Gregg could offer was why each Calvinist proof-text didn't really mean what the Calvinist thought it means, in a disjointed one-off fashion (at least much more so than James White). Admittedly, one must analyze individual verses, but Steve offered no complete picture of an Arminian viewpoint.

On Day 4 all Purgatory broke loose as Steve got childish during the Q&A section. It got ugly and tense, as Steve kept interrupting James, when James was trying to give complete answers to the questions. Finally James had to regroup as he realized he wasn't interacting with a mature, friendly, debate opponent.

I guess Steve thought he'd like to see how James White would like the tables turned on him, and let someone dominate him. This became clear as someone posted some childish nonsense on Steve Gregg's forum about how James White played a heavy hand against Tim Staples back in their debate about the Papacy in 2000. Well, the two situations were different. In 2000, Tim Staples demonstrated he couldn't follow the agreed-upon rules of the debate (e.g., using the Q&A time to make rambling commentary) and it was only after a long time of enduring this nonsense that James White decided he'd had enough and locked Tim down for a little while with short yes-or-no questions. This was not the case prior to the mess on Day 4. The format was more casual, not adversarial: there was no need to be a stickler for debate rules; one could be a little loose. But when Steve asked James some questions that required time to answer, he didn't give James the required time.

Seems that in this age, people are always interrupting. For heaven's sake, at my work people talk at the same time others are talking--and this is in a two-way conversation! And you know it's really bad when people who interrupt you get interrupted. Our society is childish in this regard. We need to be quick to hear and slow to speak.

And another thing: James White is constantly being critized for dominating, or being mean, when actually he just thinks he's right and wants others to benefit from his insight. When you have good confidence that you're right, you shouldn't be tentative. Just state it. There should be no fear of being called arrogant. I guess there are too many arrogant people who are wrong and come off as though they were right, so others are turned off. But it may be equally true that many people are afraid of taking a stand and letting the world know about it. Be right (i.e., do your homework!) and don't be ashamed of it!

I wanted to post this on Steve Gregg's forum, but I was unable to register (apparently it thought I was a spambot. Weren't they Jamie Sommer's adversaries?). Oh well.


Anonymous said...

James couldn't answer Steve's recognition of the fact that you can't be held accountable for something if you don't have any choice in the matter. How can God hold humans accountable if they don't have any choice in choosing if you respond to Him or not? How do you answer that? that is what it really comes down to, however, God does hold us responsible, since it is obvious that He holds us accountable because He gets mad at those who disobey Him, how does that fit into Calvinism?

Sam said...

I don't know if that was it, Anonymous though that is flawless reasoning. They were discussing Romans 1:18 and who it was Paul was referring to. I think in order to keep from being button-holed by yes or no questions, James was trying to race to the conclusion of the first 3 chapters of Romans in order to show that the Paul was referring to all men. However, James only asserts that the first 3 chapters refer to all people. He never proves it by any form of exegesis.

The reason James was fighting being button holed is clearly because if he dealt with the text at hand he would not be able to defend the Calvinist position at all. You can usually tell when someone is aware of the weakness of their argument because they usually avoid the evidence at hand by changing the focus or filibustering. James did both. If he would have answered the questions shortly, he could have allowed Steve to go through the lack of evidence thoroughly and then James could have used his own time to refute Steve's argument. That is, after all, how a debate is usually conducted. But James' frequent debates has allowed him to know how to frustrate Steve's attempts. I found he did a lot of that throughout the debate.

I fail to see how stating a fact makes someone a Baby or childish though. Steve simply said that if James had given shorter answers, he would have been able to go further. Steve is right. There was no reason for James to try and go against the grain in order to waste Steve's allotted time.
I find it somewhat childish to frustrate someone's argument because you are about to look bad and then being rude about it very childish. If James was so confident he could have played along. However, Steve has walked through that questioning process before several times and I think James was aware of that but knew that the format would not allow for such a process. James was caught a little off guard by Steve changing the format for his own time slot to go through it anyway. I believe it is a very effective method of showing the weakness of James' interpretation. It seems James thinks so too. If you have ever heard James debate before you can tell that he was frustrated and nervous at that blind-side. Had Steve's argument been weak, James would have let him go all the way through it and then sprung the trap afterward.

You know as far as Steve giving a different interpretation to Calvinist verses, I think if it is possible to read them another way, then it shows that the verse is not sufficiently strong enough to prove Calvinism anyway. It's kinda like trying to prove that a man, who is dressed like a woman, is actually a man, judging by outward appearances. Someone could point at the skirt, the high heels, the makeup, the blouse, the jewelery, the long hair, and the smooth complexion and say that those prove that it is in fact a woman But if the person in question had an adams apple, it would be proof enough that it is a man even if it were only one piece of evidence versus many. Now if a person kept reinterpreting the evidences by saying, "it could simply be a man dressed as a woman", unless someone could prove it was in fact a woman it is useless to say, "all I see is someone reinterpreting the evidences". The reason it is useless is because the person saying that it could be a man dressed as a woman could be as correct as the person who disagrees, even if it sounds ridiculous to suggest that it may be a man dressed as a woman... of course maybe not in this day and age but you get the point I think. The problem with Calvinism is it tries to say that the adams apple is not sufficient evidence to disprove or disregard all the many evidences that it is in fact a woman. Calvinism says they can both be true and then say, "it's difficult to explain, but we should trust it anyway"-Spurgeon.

I'd rather reinterpret the insufficient evidences because of their weakness and use the solid evidences which are numerous and completely sufficient.