The problem with this charge as it bears on the case for Calvinism is that, to judge by Witherington’s discussion and bibliography, he is almost completely ignorant of the exegetical literature in favor of Calvinism. For example, he attacks the Reformed reading of Rom 9-11 without a single reference to the commentaries by Schreiner and Murray, or the monograph on Rom 9 by Piper. There’s no interaction with the two-volume work on The Grace of God, the Bondage of the Will, which has a number of exegetical essays in defense of Reformed theology. No reference to Beale’s article on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exod 4-14. No reference to Carson’s commentary on John, or Silva’s commentary on Philippians, or Murray’s monograph on the imputation of Adam’s sin, or Vos on “The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God,” or Warfield’s article on predestination. These are just a few of the gaping lacunae.
I have read most all of those sources you have mentioned but this is quite beside the point. I said quite clearly at the outset that I was dealing with these different Evangelical theologies as they are found at the popular and most widely disseminated level. This means unlike most of my work I deliberately avoided spending much time debating other scholars. The issues was the ideas, not who said what.
Just in case I was unfair to Witherington, I decided to order his recent commentary on Romans: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Eerdmans 2004).
Unlike his popular-level book The Problem with Evangelical Theology, his commentary is supposed to be pitched at a more scholarly level.
It is de rigueur that commentators interact with other commentators—especially commentators who represent an opposing viewpoint. And Witherington says in the preface that he is writing from a self-consciously Arminian or Wesleyan perspective. So you’d expect him to defend his interpretation in response to the traditional Reformed reading.
So what do we find? Perhaps the better question would be, what don’t we find?
Murray’s commentary on Romans is passed over in silence. Schreiner’s commentary on Romans is passed over in silence. Piper’s monograph on Rom 9 is passed over in silence. Schreiner’s article on Rom 9 is passed over in silence. Beale’s article on Exod 4-14 is passed over in silence. Murray’s word-study on “foreknow” is passed over in silence. Baugh’s word-study on “foreknow” is passed over in silence. Murray’s monograph on Adam’s sin is passed over in silence.
In the annotated bibliography there is a passing reference to the commentaries by Calvin and Hodge. That’s the first and last time you ever hear of them.
You get the picture. We have, once more, a studied disregard for the opposing viewpoint. Zero interaction with its best representatives.
At the risk of stating the obvious, you cannot rebut a position whose existence you don’t even acknowledge. Before you can mount a counterargument, you need to present the opposing argument. To judge by these two titles, Witherington’s scholarship is a study in insularity and obscurantism.