Regarding Robert Sungenis’ “Debate Challenge” – Vintage

While traveling in New York I have been informed that CAI and Robert Sungenis simply must have the last word, which always includes some kind of allegation that it is everyone else who just doesn’t get it rather than Robert “Alone” Sungenis.  Now Sungenis is accusing me of dishonesty based upon a very brief private message session with a 14-year old Catholic kid!  It is rather ironic: a young kid, with whom I have talked off and on in our chat channel for a few months, pops in and asks a question.  I give him a very brief response since I was in the middle of other projects and I had already addressed the issue on The Dividing Line.  This then becomes the basis of accusations of dishonesty on Sungenis’ part.  Disappearing 23 year old “historical assistants” and 14 year old chat moles….what is next?  Perhaps Mr. Sungenis will begin to promote the idea that the Donation of Constantine really was genuine, that on the basis of an epiphany to a 12-year old in AOL Instant Messenger perhaps?  We shall let Mr. Sungenis have the last word, since we can’t possibly imagine how he can self-destruct any more fully than this, but we are certain he will do his best.


Recently an article appeared on the main page of Catholic Apologetics International (CAI), the “apostolate” of Robert Sungenis.  It read:

Challenge to James White to Debate:
Recently, CAI challenged James White to a debate on the topic of Predestination. Unfortunately, Dr. White has not responded to our invitation. Thus, we make this public notice. For those in contact with Dr. White and who would like to see such a debate take place, please contact us at cairomeo@aol.com

The “challenge” referenced was actually contained in an e-mail from Jacob Michael, who is no longer with CAI.  He suggested a three-way debate with Dave Hunt.  Now given that we have not been successful in getting Mr. Hunt to agree to debate even one-on-one, and may not be successful in arranging such an encounter, it was grossly premature to even suggest a three-way debate.  Further, this e-mail arrived during the “MrX” fiasco.  I ignored it, knowing that the near future was going to be focused upon the false accusations being presented by CAI, not about any future debates.  Sungenis simply replied to Jacob Michael’s e-mail with an acknowledgement.  Again, given how close we were to exposing the falsehoods being posted by CAI regarding the MrX debacle, I barely gave it a second thought.

I have often commented that it would be useful, in a sense, to have such a debate, just to show Arminian evangelicals that their arguments against the sovereignty of God’s grace are identical to those used by Rome.  I have pointed out the direct parallel to Dave Hunt.  Such a debate would not really be a three-way debate, but two against one! Be that as it may, I have never been in a position to speak for Dave Hunt, let alone arrange such a debate.  Our first priority is to arrange the one-on-one debate with Mr. Hunt relevant to his book, and the upcoming publication from Multnomah wherein he and I debate Calvinism.  It would be foolish to speak of anything beyond that as far as debates are concerned.

But beyond all of this the main issue comes down to credibility.  That is something CAI is lacking.  Over the recent months CAI has purposefully removed itself from the mainstream of Catholic apologetics.  Not only has Sungenis embraced a traditionalistic stance, but his writings on geocentrism, combined with his comments on Israel and the Jews, along with the appearance of a litany of articles criticizing such notables as Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Tim Staples, and (irony of ironies), Art Sippo, have made it clear that CAI is off on its own when it comes to the apologetic realm.  In fact, we have received criticism for “seeking out” the “fringe element” by debating Sungenis and Matatics.  It should be noted that in reference to the Salt Lake City debates, we did not seek these men out: those sponsoring the debates sought out these individuals due to their former Protestant confessions.  We simply agreed to present the truth in that context.  [Further, I did write to Mr. Matatics in reference to an appearance he made on the grounds of a liberal Baptist University and challenged him to return there for a debate so that the students could hear both sides.]  But we are fully aware that neither Sungenis nor Matatics any longer represent mainstream Roman Catholic apologetics as both have embraced forms of traditionalism.

On April 29th, 2003, we aired a Dividing Line webcast featuring David King, William Webster, and Rich Pierce.  During this program we documented the errors in the accusations leveled in an article posted on the CAI website.  During that program I made the direct statement that we would no longer be engaging in debates with Robert Sungenis as a result not only of the slanderous article posted on the website, but also due to the previously mentioned marginalization of Sungenis as a representative of Roman Catholicism.  The combination of these events, along with the response by Sungenis in e-mails sent to Eric Svendsen, made it clear that there was no reason to engage in further debates and, in so doing, help prop up (through the production of new materials) an “apostolate” that was dwindling very quickly.  Despite the “apology” that was posted, we have seen no reason to change that course.

Update: 5/24/03

We can only assume Mr. Sungenis does not have time to look over the above article, for on his website he has posted a “response” that does not cite this article, but seemingly is based upon someone’s second-hand accounting of comments made on The Dividing Line.  As a result, Sungenis’ rather rambling response completely misses the point made above: that his marginalization of himself was capped off by his behavior in the “MrX” debacle.  This fact does not appear in his reply, rendering it rather useless.  He goes on and on about points that are utterly irrelevant.  He would know this if he would check his sources rather than depend on what he “hears through the grapevine.”  He writes in his article:

In the end, however, James White is fooling only those who want to be fooled. As it stands, the challenge to debate him on his views of Predestination will remain open. We hope that White will be honest and courageous enough to accept the invitation and cease giving false excuses.

Well, perhaps Mr. Sungenis should again check his facts.  This article was linked from our main page.  He could have accessed it if he was interested in accuracy.  Recent events have demonstrated a deep problem with the accuracy of Mr. Sungenis’ statements and research, and here is just another example.  He also said in his article, “The proof is in the putting.”  Yes, well, I admit I’m not much of a golfer.  Oh, you meant “pudding” Mr. Sungenis?  Indeed it is. As my article notes, I would welcome a debate on the subject from a Roman Catholic apologist who has not marginalized himself and destroyed his credibility with such actions as the MrX debacle and now this second-hand knee-jerk reaction.  Such would be most useful in demonstrating the compelling biblical truth of God-honoring monergism.  Perhaps Mr. Sungenis will go back and listen to the Dividing Line where I made my announcement concerning him, as noted above?  Probably not.  Who has time to invest in that kind of research when you are so busy perfecting your putting?

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