This morning, I listened to the most recent Dividing Line from James White. While the Rob Bell interview he covered at the end was quite interesting (and demonstrates a lot of Arminians out there owe Justin Taylor a huge apology), the purpose of this post is actually to point out something from the middle question Dr. White was asked about Chorazin and Bethsaida.
An Arminian question posed to John Samson (which he passed on to James White) is essentially this: Since Jesus says that had Tyre and Sidon seen the works performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida they would have repented in dust-cloth and ashes long ago, doesn’t this imply that Total Depravity is wrong, because those people would not have repented due to the regenerating work of the Spirit, but rather upon the observation of a few miracles?
Now, I agree with White’s interpretation of the text, and think that his view is most likely the correct one on this issue (i.e., that the point of the passage is that those who had the light of Scripture had become more blinded than those who had not had it, and were therefore condemned more than those who had not had such light). I further believe that the repentance that Christ talks about in that passage is not salvific repentance, but rather a turning from some aspects of evildoing (similar in a way to how God restrains evil on earth using civil governments to enforce morality without that enforced morality being salvific).
Regardless, it is too irresistible not to try to tweak the Arminians a bit, for this passage is actually far more detrimental to the Arminian view than to the Reformed view.
Let us take the usual Arminian assumption that the passage is talking about salvific repentance for a moment. Where did Tyre and Sidon end up? Hell. What this means is that Christ knowingly and intentionally sent people to Hell after saying that if they had but seen the “mighty works” they would have repented. To which one could ask, using Arminian definitions of the terms:
What love did Christ show those souls who are in Hell when He knew full well that they would not have gone there if He had but shown up and performed miracles for them? Christ knew how to guarantee these people were not in Hell—presumably without violating free will (since we are going by Arminian assumptions here)—and yet He did not do the very thing He said would save them. Where is the universal love of Christ toward all men in that view? Where is God’s intention to save as many as He can after that? Are there not people in Hell whom God could have saved, knew how to save, and willingly did not save? If so, what precisely is the moral objection to Calvinism again?
Naturally, the Arminian could agree with me that Christ is not speaking of repentance unto salvation—but if he goes this route, then his objection to the Calvinist is rendered moot as well, for Christ is not saying one could become saved without the regeneration of the Spirit, but only that one can turn from extreme evil behavior in this present life simply by observing miracles. Therefore, it’s not a rejection of Total Depravity. But if the Arminian is to insist this is talking about repentance unto salvation, then it causes far more problems for his theology than it scores points against the Reformed view.
Again, I believe these points to be tangential to the meaning of the passage, and I think White’s interpretation is the correct one. If you have not listened to it, I highly recommend you do so. Nevertheless, Arminians, you have some tough questions to answer.