James White vs. Martin Luther: The Protestant’s Dilemma?

I can think of no better way for a defender of Rome to generate sales for a product than to mention James White. The reason is not hard to figure out. He’s been at the forefront critiquing their current materials, long before most of us joined the battle. It was no surprise then to find Devin Rose posting his recent sales video, “The Protestant’s Dilemma Destroys James White’s Scripture Alone.” This book destroys the work of Dr. White on Roman Catholicism? Well, this I had to see. So, yes, Mr. Rose managed to generate another sale.

Before getting to the book in a future post, there were some things mentioned in Devin’s short sales video. First, he critiques the back cover of Dr. White’s book, Scripture Alone. The back cover has this quote from Luther: “The Word comes first, and with the Word the Spirit breathes upon my heart so that I believe.” Mr. Rose states, “Now on the back he’s got a quote from Martin Luther, right, so he’s got a quote from Martin Luther but, White’s not a Lutheran. Nor does he believe in Lutheran doctrines, nor does he believe in doctrines Martin Luther believed in.” Now I would venture to guess it was probably someone at Bethany House Publishers that actually designed the front and back cover of Scripture Alone (in fact, there is a person credited for the cover design). What typically happens is a person working for the publisher reads the book, and creates the blurb for the back cover. Sure enough, had Mr. Rose read the book carefully, he would have discovered the Luther quote actually comes from the first few pages of the book. There Dr. White explains why the quote was used. The quote was in regard to the basic Biblical issue that caused controversy during the Reformation: the Word of God is preeminent as the sole infallible rule for the church, over against the notion that Rome “was the custodian of sacred tradition” and that “people needed her magisterial authority.” Whatever differences Dr. White may have with Luther, on this point there is agreement.*

Mr. Rose though appears to think Luther vs. White is another clever dilemma. If the paradigm being set forth is that every person one quotes from church history has to be in exact agreement with what someone today believes, Mr. Rose has a lot of editing to do on his next edition of The Protestant’s Dilemma. There are a number of people from Church history he refers to that don’t believe the exact same things he does. For instance Mr. Rose appeals to Origen for sacramental confession to a priest, yet the canon Origen held to isn’t what Rose holds to. Then there are Protestant historians like Alister McGrath utilized to critique Protestantism. Why should Rose cite McGrath? Rose doesn’t believe in the totality of McGrath’s view of Church history.

Second, Mr. Rose mentions that “Martin Luther wanted to remove four books from the New Testament.” The dilemma appears to be that since Dr. White doesn’t want to remove four books from the New Testament, and Luther did, the back cover of Scripture Alone invalidates the material in the book. If anything is invalidated, it’s the credibility of Mr. Rose. It is a simple historical fact that Luther’s translation of the Bible contained all of its books. Luther began translating the New Testament in 1521, and released a finished version in 1522 (some Protestants might be surprised to learn that Luther also translated and included the Old Testament Apocrypha in his German Bible). Mr. Rose appears to have confused Luther’s comments from his prefaces in regard to the canonical status of particular books with wanting to have them physically removed from the Bible.

Third, Mr. Rose mentions, “Martin Luther believed in Marian veneration and in Mary’s perpetual virginity. James White doesn’t believe that, so why is he quoting Luther? Right? It’s the same silly stuff that you see over and over again.” The dilemma appears to be that the book Scripture Alone is “silly stuff” because of Luther’s Marian veneration and Dr. White’s lack thereof. If anything is silly, it’s the arguments Rome’s defenders put forth to prove Luther’s Marian devotion or veneration. While Luther said nice things about Mary, his mature Mariology is not modern-day Roman Catholic Mariology. Saying nice things about Mary is not the same thing as Roman Catholic Marian veneration, both then and now. Luther abandoned the intercessory role of Mary, and saw the idol medieval theology had created. Medieval veneration had its sole purpose of appealing to Mary for daily and ultimate help. Her attributes were worshiped in order to gain her favor. To suggest that Luther held to Marian veneration is to say that Luther sought her as a means to her Son. For Luther though, quite the opposite is the case. Luther did not venerate Mary as Rome’s defenders understand veneration. Luther venerated Christ.

In the last few seconds of his video, Mr. Rose triumphantly claims he’s read the best Protestant books, places Scripture Alone behind him, holds up his book, and makes his final sales pitch:”The Protestant’s Dilemma. You can get it from Amazon, Catholic Answers. It’s a cheap book, uh, you can give it to a Protestant friend, read it yourself, learn good arguments.” He began his video by mentioning that Protestantism has “logical flaws,” but if his Dr. White vs. Dr. Luther argument is any indication of what the book contains, I won’t be abandoning the Scriptures as the sole infallible rule of faith any time soon.

* It’s interesting that in his book, Mr. Rose says, “Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation and formulated the key tenets still held by all Protestants today: sola fide and sola scriptura.” By this admission, it appears that Mr. Rose had no justification to critique the back of Dr. White’s book in the first place. For a further look at this see: When the Defenders of Rome Refute Themselves.

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