As some of you might recall, I posted a short article about a debate that James White had with Leighton Flowers. It was supposed to be about Romans 9. When Leighton pretty much just ignored the topic of debate, and used it as an excuse to launch into what was basically a screed against Calvinism. After watching that debate, I thought, “What a hash, and waste of time.” I was hoping for a well thought out position that could interact, and challenge some of the notions that I hold to. Not to overthrow those notions, but rather to sharpen, and hone them. (Good arguments have a way of doing that.)
Well, I went into this debate with low expectations because, “I heard things.” Let me just say that my expectations were a bit high. It was very disappointing to me. I have some friends who are Calvary Chapel peeps, and they usually can separate their feelings towards Reformed soteriology, and their feelings for me as a person. We can have a chat, and discuss theology without it getting to the, “Shots fired!” battleground. This debate was a, “bait and switch.” James White went to Norwalk, California prepared to debate Romans 9. When the debate started it turned into an anti-Calvinist, sneak attack. Where Steve Tassi abandoned the rules and format of formal debate. He used the debate as a forum to express anti-Calvinist, and anti-James White sentiments, that seemed to be fueled by his personal traditions, and a false caricature of Calvinism. (Straw Man)
I felt bad for everyone there, especially people who paid to travel there. I felt bad for them, not just because of financial expenditures, but mainly because they were not able to get the benefit of a spirited, well thought out debate. The debate Dr. White had with Dr. Michael Brown was much more educational and edifying for all involved. It followed the rules of debate, and both sides presented well thought out arguments from their own positions, while remaining friendly and respectful.
I enjoy watching debates that are well done. I get a lot out of them. I am vexed, because in many ways this was a waste of time, resources, and efforts. It was also a waste of opportunity. This could have been a great way for the men to genuinely listen to each other, to hear and understand what was being expressed. They could have come away from this as better friends, and more understanding brothers in Christ. I don’t blame James White for this. I understand why he got impatient. I could even understand why some people might have misunderstood his attempts to coax or goad Dr. Tassi into following the rules as snarky or mean. I don’t think Dr. White was being snarky or mean. I just said I could understand why some people would think that, so don’t be putting words in my mouth, so to speak. I thought James did as good a job as could be expected, under the circumstances. I don’t think I could have been so gracious to Dr. Tassi. I was fighting my frustration just watching the debate.
Let’s look forward to more good debates, and learn from the bad ones as well. That way they aren’t a total loss. I learned that when you get thrown a curve ball you need to think on your feet, and be well prepared ahead of time. If you’re a Christian who is well studied in the word of God, you can respond to most arguments thrown at you, even if they are off topic. Also I learned that we must be patient with people who don’t see, or hear what we are really saying. We have to maintain our composure and soldier through, just like Dr. White did. We can do those things, and still call people on their errors, without being unloving. Squishy doesn’t equate to loving, or non-loving. Standing firm for, and on the word of God, is loving.
Apparently, the video won’t play on other sites, because the owner(Tassi’s ministry outreach) has disallowed it. So here is a link to the video on Youtube so you can watch it.