White vs. Sungenis on Predestination

Finally the (almost) full video of the White vs. Sungenis Predestination/Free Will debate is available on Youtube. Again, I will be content with a couple of comments on the debate.


Dr. White did a good job in giving a clear presentation and defense of his Reformed position. His rhetorics and conviction were enjoyable to watch, and at times his presentation of the Pauline Gospel was very powerful and authentic. White was strong on some Pauline texts such as Ephesians 1-2 and Romans 8-9, which Sungenis could not match with a very credible exegesis. I would say the same goes for John 6.

White’s weak points, biblically, were in connection with classic passages such as 1 Tim. 2 as well as the warning passages. His exegesis is simply not credible here. “Kings and rulers” doesn’t “define” the passage to mean “groups of people”, a more natural reading would be “especially/including kings and rulers”. And I don’t find it credible that Matthew is simply describing the persevering faith of the elect in “who perseveres to the end will be saved” or that Paul really meant that no regenerate person would ever deny God when he said “if we deny him”.


Dr. Sungenis did a good job in putting the whole debate into perspective in terms of Church history. For most of the debate, it seemed to me that both debaters were stuck in the 16th or 17th century, claiming that “the Bible teaches/does not teach” this or that and trying to harmonize difficult passages with little credibility. But in his closing statement Sungenis in my opinion got the better of White by admitting some sort of a plurality of theologies in the Bible (which is now widely recognized by both Catholic and Protestant Scripture scholars) and pointing to the need of a unified Church.

Sungenis was weak, however, in over-idealizing the Catholic position – as if the Catholic Church really took all Scripture at face value (this White successfully countered) and as if “making distinctions” was not a plague (if not a blessing) of Catholic as well as Protestant theology (just have a look into the Thomist TULIP suggested by James Akin to get an idea). Sungenis also lost credibility by not understanding basic Reformed concepts and terminology (or not being able to repeat a word like theocentric [not theopocentric]).


In conclusion, I would say that both won in a sense. White won, because the resolution is correct: the Bible does not teach, explicitly, that man has free will to accept or reject the Christian faith, and White was able to show that the Bible teaches that God effectively saves through Christ in the Spirit.

On the other hand, Sungenis won because he could show that the Bible in other places assumes that man does have the freedom to accept or reject the salvific Gospel, and that White’s one-sided theology taken to its logical conclusions leads to absurdities (denominationalism, a very questionable view of God).

To me, the best solution is to keep what is good from both sides. First, stay Catholic – there is no reason to jump into the ocean of denominations and interpretations over these issues. Second, take seriously the sovereignty of God in salvation, give all the glory to him, while working out with fear and trembling what he has given and promised us.

Explore posts in the same categories: James R. White, Robert Sungenis

One Comment on “White vs. Sungenis on Predestination”

  1. Nick Says:

    You might be interested in this article on Romans 9


    Folks like St John Chyrsostom explain texts like Ron 8:29 and Eph 1 as predestination to Adoption. So there is a lot that Sungenis could have said to give himself more exegetical credibility. I don’t like the idea 1 Tim 2:4 is a definitive go-to passage if texts like Rom 9 are totally ignored. Modern Protestant scholarship is going more and more in the direction that Rom 9,10,11 are a unified thought and not about predestination to heaven/hell but rather how the Jews fit in God’s plan of salvation.

    So while White is very good at ‘debating’, that doesn’t mean his arguments are always the best (sometimes they are).

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