Justification Debate Update White vs. Wilson

Special thanks to Richard Barcellos, managing editor of the Reformed Baptist Theological Review, for the debate update. Again, this is Rich working from memory and not from the mouth or keyboard of Dr. White. Below are Rich’s highlights of the debate (with permission).

The debate went as expected; no surprises. Both men were cordial and even humorous at times. Wilson stated from the outset that he is a Calvinist, believes in the five solas, justification by faith alone in Christ alone, and the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ. In Wilson’s opening statement, he argued from Heb. 10:29 and other apostasy passages to the nature, membership, and curses of the NC. White argued from Heb. 8 and 10 (where Jer. 31:31-34 is quoted) to the nature, membership, and blessings of the NC. Wilson argued for the violability of the NC based on apostasy passages in the NT and the nature of previous covenants. White argued for the inviolability of the NC based on the words used to describe it and its promised blessings for all in it (i.e., law written on heart, knowledge of God, sins forgiven). Wilson argued that Mt. 28:19 connects NT baptism with initiation into the NC and thus that Trinitarian baptism is the door to NC membership. White opposed. White pulled the Mormon Trinitarian card out (ie., they baptize in the name of the Triune God). Wilson countered that they don’t believe in the Trinity. White asserted that in his many debates with RCs he has come to the conclusion that they (at least some of them) don’t believe in the Trinity. They may give lip service to it, but when you factor in Mary as co-redeemer, a denial of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, the denial of the grounds of justification being the imputed active and passive obedience of Christ, etc., the doctrine of the Trinity is eclipsed and baptism is divorced from the true gospel. There were many more things said, of course, but time and space do not allow a fuller report. I will close with a few observations.

1. I very much appreciated the demeanor of both men. It was a peaceful debate, as it should be among fellow believers. Both men are to be commended.

2. I thought Wilson’s theological methodology was flawed. He went from obscure and debated (even among paedobaptists) texts (esp. Heb. 10:29) to making categorical statements about the nature, membership, and curses of the NC. Should not categorical statements be made from the texts that deal explicitly with the New Covenant? He generalized particulars from obscure texts and these became the litmus for his interpretive and theological process.

3. At one point, White read Heb. 10:16-17 noting the pronouns (i.e., them and their). His point was that this text, which is dealing explicitly with the NC, notes that those in this covenant have the law written on their hearts and minds, and their sins and lawless deeds are remembered no more. This became White’s litmus for understanding the apostasy passages. He referenced 1 Jn. 2:19 as support that some could go out from the NC community, yet having never been of it in truth. White’s methodology is to be preferred. It is worth noting that other contemporary paedobaptists use Wilson’s methodology at this point. RBTR II:1, Jan. 2005, will carry a piece by Sam Waldron that deals with Richard L Pratt at this point. Waldron’s piece comes from the new book “A Reformed Baptist Manifesto” which is available from Solid Ground Christian Books at: http://www.solid-ground-books.com/books_ReformedBaptistAcademicPress.asp.

4. One highlight of the evening was seeing and shaking hands with Doug Wilson and his son at In-N-Out Burger prior to the debate. We both smelled like onions that night. I had to chew many pieces of gum and trust that DW did as well.

Again, we appreciate Rich’s debate summary. I will be eagerly awaiting when the debate is available for purchase at AOMin.org, Dr. White’s website.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Mark

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