James White and Titus 2

Well I never continue to be amazed at the extent that people go to justify their theology. This past week, I received word that James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries mentioned my article about Calvinism on his podcast. I then checked my twitter account and received a note from White saying he had “briefly reviewed” my article. So I decided to check out his review. He did read several paragraphs that I wrote and made a comment or two and then took off on a former podcast dealing with Michael Brown’s references to the “all’s and every’s” in the Bible. You may listen to this podcast if you really want to by clicking here. I am grateful to White for letting me know his reference to my article came just before the 22 minute mark.

I sent White a twitter response saying, “Your review was certainly brief. You reminded me of the preacher that opens his sermon with a text and preaches his message never referring back to the text.”

White pointed to Titus 2 as a perfect example of Brown’s errant approach in referencing a text without considering its context. Here is the text in the calvinist’s favorite ESV that White refers too.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Of course the verse in focus here is verse 11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Non-calvinists make reference to this verse and a couple others to point to the availability of salvation to “all” as opposed to a select group of people or the “elect only”. While I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, I do not see this as a mandate to every living person in the world but rather the availability of salvation to all men who hear the gospel.

White asks the question, who is the “us” in the text; is a reference to everyone in the world? He says “no.” He reasons, for that same grace that brings salvation is the same grace trains “us” to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled lives and to wait for the blessed hope..” He then goes on to ask, is this same grace that brings salvation for all people available to the atheist? No for if that were true then this grace would be a grace that fails because not everyone receives salvation.

White continues, “Now are you going to tell me that the lost person in hell is going to be able to stand and say these words: ‘Jesus gave Himself for me; it was His purpose to redeem me but I frustrated the grace of God… ha ha ha’ from the pits of hell. Is this going to happen? No!” White at the end of his podcast goes back to the person in hell and makes this comment: “I do not believe that any person in hell will be able to say what Paul said, ‘The son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

What is amazing to me is White’s refusal to do what he criticized Brown for not doing. White’s tirade is not an exegetical one but rather a philosophical one. He asks, who is the “us” that verse 11 is referring too? Well, let’s look at that. Paul begins verse 1 with the following statement: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound[a] doctrine.” Apparently Paul is speaking directly to Titus for there are those he mentioned in chapter 1 preachers who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” Paul did not want Titus to be guilty of being one of those kind of preachers.

Paul continues to Titus, you teach sound doctrine to older men and women so that they might teach younger men and women the way. Verse 7, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

The he writes what he did in verse 11: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” White’s assertion that “the grace of God has appeared to bring salvation for ”all people” is the same grace that has appeared to “us” is an errant connection that has nothing to do with neither the text nor the context. His is nothing more than an eisegetical comment. Paul is not saying as White suggests that the “us” who are taught is all-inclusively related to the grace that has brought salvation to “all people”.

What Paul is saying in verse 11 is this: Titus, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. His reference to salvation being available to “all people” really has absolutely nothing to do with the reference to “us” in the next couple of phrases. That assertion is absurd in and of itself. It simply is not accurate. Why is this important to White? It is important because for White God’s grace accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish. Jesus did not die to make salvation “possible”; He died to bring about salvation for those He died for. This same grace that sanctifies us is the same grace that saves us. White’s argument is really very simple: since it is God’s grace that “is training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” that same grace saves us.

That statement is correct. The same grace that saves us is the same grace that sustains us and sanctifies us. The mistake White makes is he tries to turn that around to say… the same grace that sanctifies us is the same grace that saves “us.” The mistake is in the use or association of the “us.” White equates the “us” who are saved to be the same “us” that God’s grace is extended to FOR salvation and that simply is not a justified exegetical position here. It isn’t. So, White’s conclusion is that God’s grace is reserved for the elect only and therefore salvation is available for the elect only and that simply is not what this text says.

God’s grace Paul tells Titus, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions…” White wants us to accept his statement that the grace that is training us is not just the grace that saves us, but rather the grace that trains “us” is only available to the “us” God plans to sanctify. It is an argument that “may sound right” when you hear it being made but it it simply is no where close to what Paul is saying in this passage.

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About sbcissues

Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
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13 Responses to James White and Titus 2

  1. Jon Carter says:

    “White continues, “Now are you going to tell me that the lost person in hell is going to be able to stand and say these words: ‘Jesus gave Himself for me; it was His purpose to redeem me but I frustrated the grace of God… ha ha ha’ from the pits of hell. Is this going to happen? No!” White at the end of his podcast goes back to the person in hell and makes this comment: “I do not believe that any person in hell will be able to say what Paul said, ‘The son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” ”

    So my question is if White doesn’t believe that the lost person in hell is going to confess Jesus–than how does he reconcile “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess…” So what is the lost person going to confess? I guess in White’s mind the “every” in the Romans 14 passage must mean the “elect” only….

    • sbcissues says:

      Jon,

      I think you missed White’s point here. What he is making light of is the potentiality of God’s grace to “everyone.” If God’s saving grace is given to EVERYONE and many do go to hell they might be able to say what White has proffered here. He is making the point that this is of course ridiculous and so is the notion that God’s grace is available to everyone.

      What is especially interesting is the last remark about the lost person in hell not being able to say with Paul that the Son of God loves me and gave Himself for me. White is saying here two things:

      First, Jesus did not die for the person in hell on the cross. Now some will look at that statement and say… hum… that sounds right… but in reality what that means is this: Jesus did not die for everyone at Calvary; He only died for those that calvinism says are the elect and since Jesus did not die for those who are not the elect THEN there no possibility for them to be saved and go to heaven so God has predestined those to hell.

      There is a second aspect to his statement as well and that is the person in hell cannot say with Paul that the Son of God loved me. There is this underlying theme in the reformed system that says God does not love the non-elect in the same manner that He loves His elect.

  2. Bob Wheeler says:

    I think that White’s exegesis of verse 11 is strained — the verse looks like a clear statement of the free offer of the gospel to the entire human race, and that would be consistent with other passages such as I John 2:2.
    Yet you could hardly ask for a clearer statement of the Calvinist doctrine of the atonement than the one contained in verse 14: “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” What does it mean to “redeem” someone? The Bible never states that Christ “redeemed” the entire human race. And the purpose of the atonement is clearly stated: “to purify for himself a people for his own possession . . .” In other words, what we have here is the idea of Particular Redemption.
    As believers we have a responsibility to be faithful to Scripture taken in its entirety — even if our puny minds can’t fit it all together. God loves all mankind and desires the salvation of all mankind. But the Bible never says that He chose all mankind or redeemed all mankind. The “elect” and the “redeemed” are the ones actually saved!

    • sbcissues says:

      Bro. Wheeler,

      Thank you for your comment. I believe White’s comment is indeed strained as well.

      However, I am afraid I believe your comment is equally strained. I do not see any reference at all to any particular redemption as you are defining that term. Let’s look at the text.

      11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Note I am sticking with the ESV, which I do not use personally but will for this exercise.

      There is not even a hint of particular redemption even hinted to in this text. What Paul is saying to Titus is that Jesus gave Himself for us… us being those who are saved… to redeem us or simply redeeming is from all unlawfulness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession…

      Now I will agree that there particular redemption is a valid concept for indeed the redemption wrought on the cross is not universal in its application for not all are saved and recipients of this redemption. The difference then has to be in its scope. There are two basic camps.

      One, is the calvinist camp that says Jesus died to redeem the elect and the “us” in verse 14 is a direct reference to that. Well I do not believe the “us” argument in verse 14 that you propose is any stronger than the “us” argument that White argued for in verse 11. I might even be tempted to accept argument his over yours.

      The second camp would be those who see the scope of the atonement as being available to those who believe in Christ. I believe verse 14 could well be written in the following way:

      Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us (who have believed) to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

      I do not believe Paul is saying “Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us (the elect) to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

      If Paul had been referring to “the elect” I believe that is what he would have said.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Oh yes… you are correct when you say… God loves all mankind and desires the salvation of all mankind. But the Bible never says that He chose all mankind or redeemed all mankind. The “elect” and the “redeemed” are the ones actually saved!

      I do not even have any problem with the last sentence for the elect and the redeemed are indeed the same group: those who are actually saved.

      However that does not mean that the redeemed are the only ones Jesus gave Himself for. That is an illogical conclusion and that is the primary problem with the treatment of this text as I see it.

      You brought your theology to the text instead of taking your theology from the text.

  3. Tim G says:

    When dealing with White one must remember that he thrives on bullying people into his limited corner for a beat down on his terms and his thoughts. He is all debate oriented with little substance in real conversation and dialogue. He baits to only draw attention.

    As for his comments, if people in Hell do not realize that they missed heaven, he is thus changing one of the main characteristics of hell – knowing what was offered and rejected. Sad!

  4. Matt says:

    I don’t see how Titus 2 support either a limited or unlimited atonement. In context, “all people” appears to refer to the different people groups Paul just mentioned: old men, old women, younger women, young men like Titus, and slaves. Grace has appeared to all these people, these believers he just mentioned, that is, so they might live godly in their respected ministry roles in the church.

  5. Randy says:

    Here is my biggest problem with those cleaving to Calvinism – how do you properly evangelize? When I give an invitation, I believe I can honestly say this:

    “Jesus died on the cross for your sins. So repent, and give your lives to Christ.”

    How does the Calvinist do this? What does it sound like? “Jesus died for the elect. If you happen to be one of these elect, and I have no way of really knowing, then you can live eternally with Christ.”

    I must ask this then – is this perhaps why we see the invitation disappearing amongst those of a Calvinist bent? It becomes an exercise in futility.

    I can’t even see this reconciling with John 3:16 – it puzzles me greatly. It says, “For God so loved the world…” Not the elect. The language doesn’t even lend itself that way, being the Greek word “kosmos.” I have a hard time wrapping my head around the Calvinist thought process.

    • Jof says:

      hmmm I’m not sure how you define “properly evangelise” unless of course you mean the particular methodology you use. Perhaps you could direct us poor ignorant Calvinists to the text in the NT that has any of the Apostles declaring to unbelievers “Jesus died for your sins”…maybe brother the issue is not Calvinists but you and your tradition, can I suggest preaching the gospel the same as the Apostles did – Jesus died for sinners, repent and believe to be saved.

  6. Matt says:

    Randy, John 3:16 in context would be radical for a Rabbi to hear. God loves Gentiles and Jews. World need not mean “elect” any more than it means “every person who’s ever lived anywhere.” And anyone who believes (a condition) will be saved. No one knows who is or isn’t elect, so evangelize all.

  7. sbcissues says:

    Bro. James made a couple comments on his July 4th broadcast about this article and thankfully they were at the beginning. Thanks for asking your listeners to read the article but I would like to invite you to point out where my response is in error and do it here in writing. You were not doing anything but playing to an audience and your references to peanut butter grace were a disgrace to any theological discussion of any substance.

    I was also caught off guard by your closing statement which basically said… there is no need to reason with people like me, IF I am even a brother, “God will deal with him in his own timing.”

    I do not understand calvinism. I get it. Your reasoning is simple; I am either an unregenerate or one who God has not in His own timing brought me to the glorious light of the calvinist gospel.

    I do understand calvinism a lot better than you think but admit I do not understand calvinists. Here is what I do understand though: I do not believe neither you nor I are saved because God picked “us” over many others. That idea is so grossly errant it makes me sick. How is that for a use of “us” where God’s grace is concerned?

    • Cory says:

      Just a point of clarification, White’s actual statement on his July 4th broadcast was that “you can’t really try reasoning with folks [who argue using a visceral traditionalism] and you’ve got to leave them to the Lord; if they’re brothers in Christ, God will work with them in His own time, in His own way and you just sort of go on from there.” Although he was accusing you of holding to tradition in a visceral way and employing eisegesis because of it, he wasn’t actually accusing you of NOT being a brother in Christ.

      • sbcissues says:

        Thanks for standing up for Dr. White. What is equally interesting about White’s comment you mention is his analysis that I am responding in a non-intellectual emotional traditional manner. It must really be a challenge and a horrible burden to have such spiritual insight after only a brief interaction. If I wrote the following statement about him or you, “if they’re brothers in Christ, God will work with them in His own time, in His own way and you just sort of go on from there.” I would be criticized to high heaven for insinuating that White was unregenerate, which is a common perception among the regenerated elite… I mean elect.

        Here is what is interesting to me, no one is willing to engage my position that White’s argument concerning Titus 2 is fundamentally flawed in that White wants us to accept his statement that the grace that is training us is not just the grace that saves us, but rather the grace that trains “us” is only available to the “us” God plans to sanctify.

        This is his argument and maintain his logic is flawed and that is what I said and neither he nor anyone else has to this point been willing to engage that issue.

        It is WRONG.

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