The Potter's Freedom: Conclusion

Chapter fourteen of James White's The Potter's Freedom (Calvary Press Publishing, 2000), his final albeit brief chapter, is titled "The Potter's Freedom Defended," which sums up White's and the Calvinist's overall hermeneutic. The opening statement is very revealing concerning a problematic characteristic among many Calvinists: "There are few truths more precious to the Reformed [he means Calvinistic] believer than the doctrines of grace [he means Calvinism]." (329) (emphasis added) I was once mocked by a Calvinist for suggesting that Calvinists love their theology more than Christ Himself, which is idolatry. Only days later, John Piper issued his narcissistic, idolatrous poem, "The Calvinist," further supporting my thesis. But Calvinists themselves continue to support it also.

From my perspective, having been a Calvinist and now a convinced Arminian, I see my Arminian brothers and sisters far more enamored with Jesus Christ than Arminianism. This cannot be admitted with regard to Calvinists and Calvinism! In my opinion, many Calvinists maintain an idolatry problem, and one of which needs to be repented. Many Calvinists are enamored with Calvinism, not Christ or Christian theism -- John Calvin, not Jesus Christ. 

For example, Calvinist Charles Spurgeon equated the gospel of Jesus with Calvinism. (link) John Owen lied about Arminius and the Remonstrants, and insisted Arminians are spawns of Satan, because, of course, only Calvinism is correct. Augustus Toplady thinks Arminians worship the false idol of free will, because, of course, only Calvinism is correct. B.B. Warfield insisted that evangelicalism stands or falls on Calvinism. (link) Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition and Ardel Caneday think that God has to "open blinded eyes" to "the truths of Calvinism" before they can accept them. Therefore, logically, God is to blame for us not believing in Calvinism, which is God's objective, glorious, and eternal truth. R.C. Sproul thinks Arminians are barely saved; while J.I. Packer thinks Arminians are unChristian. Al Mohler thinks only Calvinism will fill the longing of the next generation. What all these Calvinists hold in common is a high regard for Calvinism. 

Calvinism, for James White, is "the very essence of the meaning of grace." (329) For him and other Calvinists, "God's freedom [to unconditionally elect only some unto salvation], His proper right of kingship [i.e., He can do whatever He wants, even influence evil, and still be considered holy, good, and just], His unchanging nature, and eternal decree [He has decreed whatever comes to pass from eternity past], are precious." (329) In essence, then, what White and other Calvinists find so "precious" is their view that God decrees sin, the most heinous forms of evil (greed, lust, hatred, murder, abortion on demand, rape, child molestation, sexual vices, theft, injustice, etc.), decreed our fall into sin, decrees whatever we do, judges us for our sins that He decreed from eternity past, and unconditionally elected to save only some: these aspects are "precious" to the Calvinist. 

White continues: "The freedom of God's grace is the greatest joy that can be known." (329) Really? Is that freedom experienced, embraced, and celebrated among those whom God has from eternity past decreed not to save? Odd, I think, that "the greatest joy that can be known" has eternally caused the greatest displeasure, pain, and torment to untold billions of humans God created in His own image. This is what Calvinism accomplishes: calling evil good and good evil (cf. Isa. 5:20) -- blaming God for decreeing sin and evil and calling Him good, holy, and just. How deplorable. White continues:
To know, both in mind and heart, that God freely chose to redeem me from the pit and draw me to Himself, is an awesome thing. It brings deep humility to know that I did not differ one wit from the person who remains in his or her sin. I am no better than another. I was no more intelligent, no more spiritual, no more wise, than anyone else. It was not something I did, not something I accomplished, not something I would ever have chosen had He not been gracious to me. (329) (emphasis added)
Can you imagine boldly, boastfully confessing publicly about how God unconditionally elected you unto salvation and not others, and how this brings you such "deep humility"? Is he really so blind to his own faux pas here? Or is this merely an example of the "deep humility" that God's salvation has brought to James White's soul? I did not differ from the "non-elect" -- those whom God did not unconditionally elect unto salvation; I was no better than the "non-elect"; I was no more intelligent than the "non-elect"; I was no more spiritual than the "non-elect." But God unconditionally picked me for salvation. I am one of God's special unconditionally elect. Who communicates in such a manner? Odd, is it not, that for all of the alleged glorifying of God this unconditional election unto salvation is suppose to grant him, White still manages to focus on himself, nine times in a brief statement. No doubt that is further evidence of the "deep humility" he has experienced as a result of God's unconditional election.

As mentioned in the previous post, John Calvin taught the following: "If it is asked how the difference arises -- why some steadily persevere, and others prove deficient in steadfastness, we can give no other reason than that the Lord, by his mighty power, strengthens and sustains the former, so that they perish not, while he does not furnish the same assistance to the latter, but leaves them to be monuments of instability."1 What a tragic and deplorable view of God. This, God forbid, could happen to James White if God should so decree it. What assurance has White or any Calvinist that God will not, in the very next minute, strike such a one with spiritual blindness, thus causing their fall from His grace? They cannot know the secret will of God; they can have absolutely no assurance whatsoever that, in the very next minute, they experience an anxious hatred of God and all things spiritual. How does White or any Calvinist rest in any semblance of assurance when embracing Calvin's views of salvation and perseverance and sovereignty?

In "defending" White's views of the "Potter's Freedom," he insists that "Calvinism's God is so great, so powerful, and so free, that He can answer the 'big questions' without being stripped of His freedom and His ability to positively decree whatsoever comes to pass." (331) Again, I argue that, for the Calvinist, God can perform (or decree) any act possibly conceivable and still remain holy, good, and just. No matter how much God Himself protests the Calvinist's notion that He has decreed whatsoever comes to pass -- i.e., the burning of Israelite children to a false god was an act, so says God Himself, which "I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind" (Jer. 19:5) -- the Calvinist appears to turn a blind eye and maintain his or her position in spite of the revealed text to the contrary.

Briefly addressing God as Potter and the problem of evil, White suggests that the Arminian cannot provide comfort to those who grieve by referring to the sovereignty of God. (332) This, too, I think is rather rich. In lieu of a free will theodicy, whereby God permits or allows free will evil actions to occur, White and other Calvinists think that people would find more comfort in the theory that God has a purpose in the suffering He has decreed to bring about in time (even though that purpose cannot always or perhaps ever be known.) So, to say to the parents of a young six-year-old girl who was raped and left for dead that God decreed it, it happened because He decreed it, but He decreed it in order for some mystic, cosmic purpose, is much more "comforting" -- a comfort the Arminian cannot provide. 

Well, James White, you have got us there! We cannot -- will not! -- provide such "comfort" to grieving people because that is an overt distortion and marring of the character and nature of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. How you can so boldly and arrogantly claim as much -- and one day you will have to face God and answer for this monstrosity of a theology -- is, truly, beyond my ability to comprehend.  

Let me provide a brief conclusion to White's work using his own words against Geisler: The single most important issue that we wish to communicate to the reader is this: James White's attempts to defend Calvinism through the use of Scripture fail, consistently. On an exegetical basis, The Potter's Freedom does not pass the most cursory examination, let alone an in-depth critique. The reader has seen examples of eisegesis in every single post. Surely the strength of Arminian theology is its biblical basis, and the weakness of Calvinism is its philosophical basis. The Arminian position begins with scriptural truths. The Calvinist position begins with philosophical necessities, and we have seen, over and over again, the result of forcing philosophical presuppositions into the text of Scripture. When one can turn John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4 into affirmations of determinism, obviously the text itself is not driving the interpretation. (336-37)

White's and the Calvinist's theory that God determines the outcome of every event by His foreordained decree, including the choices people make -- and even their very own intentions -- has been contradicted and thus undermined by the Christian scriptures (cf. Genesis 6:3, 5, 6, 7, 8; 18:25; Exodus 3:19; 6:1; Deut. 30:15, 19; 1 Samuel 23:10, 11, 12, 13, 14; Isa. 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Jeremiah 2: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 29, 30; 3:21, 22; 4:3, 4, 14; 5:19, 23, 28, 29; 6:16; 7:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 23, 30, 31; 13:11; 19:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Ezekiel 18:4, 23; 33:11; Luke 13:34; John 3:16, 17; 15:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Acts 7:51; Rom. 11:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32; 1 Tim. 2:4, 5, 6; 4:10; 2 Pet. 3:9). So much, then, for James White's Potter-God. White cannot even properly exegete and interpret the Potter passage of Jeremiah with any semblance of integrity. Did White not miss the fact that the clay became spoiled in the potter's hand (Jer. 18:4a)? How do we account for such? Did God cause the clay to spoil? According to Calvinism, yes. But instead of judging or condemning the spoiled clay, the potter did good to the clay: he re-worked the clay into another vessel, "as seemed good to him." (Jer. 18:4b) 

So, if God wants to be merciful and turn to do good to people, can He not freely do so? (Jer. 18:5) Not according to Calvinists! God is a vengeful God who must demonstrate His wrath! Never mind that wrath is not even an essential element defining His nature or character, as is love (1 John 4:8). God is capable of pronouncing judgment upon the disobedient (Jer. 18:7). If such disobedient persons turn from their evil, God will do good to them (Jer. 18:8). God is also capable of pronouncing to do good to people (Jer. 18:9). But if that people turn from Him, He will change His mind regarding the good He swore to do for them (Jer. 18:10). The Potter is not as the Calvinist portrays: the Potter of the Bible warns people against performing evil, not decreeing they do evil (Jer. 18:11). The fact that God warns against doing evil should be a clear indicator that He has not, then, decreed for them to do evil. (Jer. 18:12, 13, 15) Not so for the Calvinist! Their all-determining deity appears to have more in common with the Greek gods than the God of the Bible. 

Moreover, White has clearly demonstrated that he cannot sufficiently answer how God can both determine or decree the choices and actions of people, and at the same time berate those people for doing what He determined for them to do, confront their sinful ways, and then punish them for the same. That is not just. Calvinists can insist that God is still just, but that kind of God is not a God of justice just because they say so. Calvinists detract from the justice and glory of God, we believe, by perpetuating such an error. 

Furthermore, if White insists that people can "frustrate" God's will with their "freedom," we believe the notion of anyone "frustrating God's will" merely assumes that God has "willed" or decreed every minutiae of our existence, including who will and who will not believe in Jesus Christ, a human-constructed, erroneous theory that is contradicted by Scripture, we believe (cf. Deut. 30:15, 19; Ps. 26:5; 97:10 119:104, 128; Prov. 6:16; Jeremiah 2:5-9, 13-17, 20, 29, 30; 3:21-22; 4:3-4, 14; 5:19, 23, 28-29; 6:16; 7:3-7, 23, 30, 31; 13:11; 19:5; Isa. 5:4; John 1:12, 13; 3:16; 12:32; Rom. 1:16, 17; 2:4; 3:21-22, 23, 24, 25, 26; 10:13; 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:4, 6; 4:10; 1 John 3:8).

The all-controlling, all-decreeing Potter that Calvinists worship is a distorted version of the true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is "the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being" (Heb. 1:3 NRSV). To, again, use the words of White, that I will turn on him and other Calvinists: A person who cannot provide a contextually-based, fair and honest interpretation of such passages as Jeremiah 19:1-5; Ezekiel 18:1-24; 33:1-20; John 1:1-13; 3:16-18; 1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; 2 Pet. 3:9, must face this fact and be willing to abandon recently- or long-held and maybe even cherished traditions -- even traditions propagated by James White himself. (337) If White's The Potter's Freedom is among the best the Calvinist can offer, then I see very, very little threat to the future of Arminianism, the orthodoxy of the early church.2


1 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 2.4.199.

2 Kenneth D. Keathley, "The Work of God: Salvation," in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 703.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.