Friday, February 24, 2006

Caner vs. White

Ergun Caner and James White have had a fascnating discussion on the whole Calvinism/Arminianism debate (can be seen at ... thanks to Alan Bandy for the link). I don't desire to adjudicate the debate, but comment on one of White's points. He continually welcomes critique of his exegesis ... so ...

White says:
"1) John, as is his custom, refers to Christians as "the believing ones" (toi'" pisteuvousin). English translations normally miss this important element of John's gospel (the contrast between true, saving faith, which is almost always expressed through the use of the present tense indicating an on-going, living faith, versus false faith which is almost always placed in the aorist tense, making no statement about its consistency or vitality). It is literally, "even to those who are believing in His name" or "the believing ones (who believe) in His name." The term "believing" is a present participle."
While generally speaking, White is correct that when John uses the present tense he is referring to "true, saving faith". However, there are a few exceptions ... which may account for his tentative language ("almost always" twice). For example, the disciples in John 2:11 "believed" (aorist) and they are portrayed entirely positive; the aorist "believe" in 9:36 has zero negative connotations; neither do the aorist "believe" in 4:50 or 4:53; that's four that go against his pattern. Furthermore: the imperfect (which in his apparent view of Greek verb tenses would connote continual past action) is used negatively of belief in 12:11; note that the perfect participle in 8:31 is portraying what White calls a "false faith."

The main issue is that White seems overly dependent on the tense of the Greek verb for understanding the concept of believing in John's Gospel; instead, he needs to focus more on the context. A little more Stan Porter, and a little less John Calvin, might do him some good.


Alan Bandy said...

Does this mean you want to debate White?

Thanks for your insights. As always we want to temper our theology through careful exegesis of scripture, not through conformity to theological systems.

David A. Croteau said...

Debate White! No way. I might get challenged, but I don't think a public debate on Greek verb tenses would be understood by more than 20-30 people anyways, and I wouldn't be one of them ;-)