Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part II
03/30/2007 - James WhiteAugustine and the North African Councils
Since the Bible used by the North African Church was the Old Latin, a translation of the Septuagint which included a number of the books of the Apocrypha, Hippo/Carthage were confirming the traditional canon for the North African Church based on the Septuagint. Philip Schaff confirms the fact that the North African Church followed the Septuagint:
Augustine...firmly followed the Alexandrian canon of the Septuagint, and the preponderant tradition in reference to the disputed Catholic Epistles and the Revelation... (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910), Volume III,§118 Sources of Theology. Scripture and Tradition, p. 609).
The veneration which this Church held for the Septuagint, based on implicit belief in its inspiration, is well represented by Augustine. He believed the myth of the seventy-two Jewish translators who, under Ptolmey, were individually placed in isolation and rendered the same translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.2 The adherence by Augustine and the North African Church to the Septuagint has some significant implications for the whole question of the establishment of the canon. Again, Roman Catholic apologists argue that the canon was authoritatively settled for the universal Church at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. However, the canon decreed by the North African Councils differed from that decreed by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century on this one important point of the book of I Esdras. Hippo and Carthage stated that 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras were canonical, referring to the Septuagint version of 1 and 2 Esdras, the Bible their Latin version was based upon. In that version, 1 Esdras was the apocryphal additions to Ezra and Nehemiah not found in the Hebrew Bible, while 2 Esdras was the canonical Jewish version of Ezra/Nehemiah. The Jews only acknowledged Ezra and Nehemiah which they combined into one book. This was 2 Esdras in the Septuagint version. It was Jerome, who, out of a desire to adhere to the Hebrew canon, separated Ezra and Nehemiah into two books, calling them 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras respectively, thereby replacing the Septuagint I Esdras with the Hebrew Ezra and calling it I Esdras. This became standard for the Vulgate and the basis upon which Trent declared the Septuagint I Esdras to be noncanonical. 1 Esdras in the Septuagint then became 3 Esdras in the Vulgate and the other Apocryphal apocalyptic work of 3 Esdras became 4 Esdras in the Vulgate. In the earliest Septuagint manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus (early 4th century) and Codex Alexandrinus (early 5th century), I Esdras is listed as one book and Ezra/Nehemiah is listed separately as a second book. The New Catholic Encyclopedia confirms these facts:
Four books are attributed to Esdras (Ezra in the Hebrew spelling). The distinction between these books is confusing because of the manuscript and denominational differences:...
Vulgate (Catholic) Septuagint Hebrew Text Protestant/Jewish 1 Esdras (Ezra)* Ezra* Ezra* 2 Esdras (Nehemiah)* 2 Esdras (Ezra/Nehemiah)* Nehemiah* Nehemiah* 3 Esdras 1 Esdras Missing 1 Esdras 4 Esdras 3 Esdras Missing 2 Esdras
III Esdras (I Esdras in the Septuagint) was certainly compiled before A.D. 90, for the Jewish historian Josephus quoted from it (Ant. 11); but its exclusive concern with Jewish interests puts its composition before the Christian era, closer to 100 B.C. Until the 5th century, Christians very frequently ranked 3 Esdras with the Canonical books; it is found in many LXX MSS (Septuagint manuscripts) and in the Latin Vulgate (Vulg) of St. Jerome. Protestants therefore include 3 Esdras with other apocrypha (deuterocanonical) books such as Tobit or Judith. The Council of Trent definitively removed it from the canon (New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), Volume II, Bible, III, pp. 396-397).
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James White: Laid to Rest
03/29/2007 - James WhiteAh, it is a great weight off my shoulders. I am now irrelevant. I can now sit on my porch (if I had one) and rock the rest of my brief life away. At least, that's what a Texas attorney who, to my knowledge anyway, has never taught a seminary class, never been published in book form, in a scholarly article, etc., never been chosen to an academic position of any type in the theological realm, and has never, to my knowledge, engaged in a public debate in defense of his position, has concluded. Yes, the same man who struggled to answer if the Incarnation is a unique event has provided the epitaph to my entire apologetic career! Here are his ever insightful words:
In fact, that's the point in a larger sense. White has made several attempts to revive long-dead confrontations in order to establish some sort of relevance as an anti-Catholic apologist, and it seems appropriate to point out that White is now basically a dried-up old fossil, much like his debate partners John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. He's strictly senior tour material now; he peaked long ago, and his decline has been steady since then. Drying up and blowing away is a pretty good description of what has happened to White's reputation. You kinda have to pity his situation; he's having to bring in guest bloggers (including the equally past-his-prime James Swan) just to keep up with slicker blogs like TeamPyro and Triablogue. It's like watching someone who used to be "famous" hoping to be recognized.
I just wanted to point out that this flurry of activity, rather than re-establishing White as a force in anti-Catholic apologetics, pretty much just bears out the opposite conclusion. He's done; has been for years.
Like I said, I feel so much better now. Of course, I have never wanted to be a force in whatever "anti-Catholic apologetics" is anyway. I'm a Reformed Baptist elder, professor, and apologist, and I'm quite fine staying busy, and active, in that realm.
And in pursuit of that, I notice that Prejean, always the one to be humble and self-effacing, has written an article on his blog, "James White paws at my sleeve for more attention." Yes, it's all about the attorney in Texas. But while he is big on repeating how much of a dullard I am, I found it ironic that he would make the following statement:
Third, White actually called Athanasius a "true Protestant," following (if I recall correctly) a characterization by one of his students, and so White must surely at least argue that Athanasius must have believed what is essential to being a Protestant.
Now, how good a reader is Prejean? How careful is he? Let's find out. Here is the context from the original article. Note what it is actually saying: ...
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For the Serious Minded
03/29/2007 - James WhiteWhen I checked on the link I have used a number of times recently for my Nicea article in the CRI Journal of July/August, 1997, I discovered it had gone dead. So I contacted CRI, and they contacted their webfolks who are busy migrating their website to a new format. They jumped my article to the head of the line and it is now available again, here. The text is there, but if you want to appreciate how well the Journal originally presented the article (art work and the like), you'll have to get the back issue.
I would like to invite Jonathan Prejean, Patrick Madrid, Dave Armstrong, and the rest of that group of RC apologists, to post links to the paper as well. Why? Well, they are all claiming the paper is a glowing example of how unscholarly I am, how ignorant I am, and why no Roman Catholic should ever listen to anything I have to say. So, how about posting this link along with the Envoy article, and my brief response (which was limited, by the way, by publication word limits)? That way, you can let your audience find out if Hugh Barbour was actually dealing with what I wrote, or was doing as I have said, writing nothing but a shameless hit piece that mocks the very nature of sound scholarship? And would it not be a great benefit for Madrid and Prejean and Armstrong to post my article as an example of just how dull I am? I mean, each of them should be able to provide a far superior summary of the main issues at Nicea, Constantine's role, the primary personalities involved, and make it all understandable to the interested layman, and do it all in 4500 words, right? I mean, since I failed so miserably at it, they should be able to pull it off, right? So I look forward to their demonstrating their integrity and honesty by posting the link along with their far superior articles.
In passing, I'm wondering if someone can help me find the in-depth, full refutation of the Talpiot Tomb claims by these Roman Catholic apologists? I mean, I would think the fact that they are so far beyond me in scholarship (especially Mr. Prejean), that they would have been providing information on the Acts of Philip and mitochondrial DNA and the like far faster than I have. So could someone direct me to their rebuttals?
Oh, and I would invite all of them to help us test out our new phone system this afternoon/evening on The Dividing Line? The toll free number is 877-753-3341. I'd love to give you the opportunity of continuing the demonstration of "ethics in defense of Rome," i.e., "As long as you are slandering critics of Mother Church, it's all fair game."
Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented #2
03/29/2007 - James WhiteA few days ago I began presenting clips from the cross-examination section of the sola scriptura debate from 1997 on Long Island. I did so because Phil Porvaznik, a Roman Catholic apologist of sorts, has posted, on the site I believe is maintained by Apolonio Latar, an 18 second clip which he calls my "concession of defeat." That anyone would think a serious minded person would be influenced by an 18 second clip is hard to believe, but, that's the kind of apologetics that exists in defense of the "infallible church" on the net.
This next section is a bit shorter, but I found it interesting. Gerry Matatics was claiming, based upon his assertions regarding 2 Thessalonians 2:15, that I, and the Protestants in the audience, were not obeying the command to hold to the traditions. Obviously, the only way that could be the case is if what is contained in the "oral" component is not, in fact, found in the written, which is the heart of his entire use of that text. Therefore, it would be incumbent upon the defender of the Roman position, in light of his assertions about this text, to be able to demonstrate that the "traditions" he claims are apostolic were, in fact, delivered to the Thessalonians, as per his own claims. But notice especially what he says at the end. He says that this is a debate on sola scriptura, and that I should not ask him, at the drop of a hat, to defend indulgences. First, I did not ask him to defend indulgences. I asked him to defend his own assertion, made in his opening statements, concerning the exegesis of 2 Thess. 2:15, and I gave him a single example, indulgences, of a doctrine based upon the tradition he claims I am ignoring.
But most importantly, keep this in mind. In every debate I have ever been in (unless my recollection is incorrect, it will even happen in a later portion of the cross-examination) on the subject of sola scriptura with the possible exception of the Pacwa debate on that topic, I have been asked, in cross-examination, to define and defend the specifics of the entire doctrine of the canon of Scripture, and that in less than sixty seconds! Matatics had already done so in two preceding debates on this topic, Madrid had pulled the same stunt as well. It is part of their template. "So, how do you know Matthew wrote Matthew?!" So on the one hand Matatics says it is unfair to ask him, at the "drop of a hat," to address indulgences (which I wasn't asking him to do anyway), but he will turn around and ask me to make an entire presentation on the issue of the canon "at the drop of a hat"! The double-standard is, again, striking.
Jonathan Prejean On Anonymous Hit Pieces
03/28/2007 - James White"Crimson Catholic," Jonathan Prejean, has actually attempted to offer an excuse for Hugh Barbour's refusal in the Envoy article to either name me directly, or even provide meaningful bibliographical references (i.e., so that his readers can do something more than just "trust him" and check things out for themselves). Now, let's remember that Barbour wrote his article in response to a footnote of an article that was on the topic of the Council of Nicea, an article fully referenced to standard works in the field. Barbour did not even touch upon the actual article itself. He created a straw man and beat it senseless without giving his readers any opportunity of checking him out. I have yet to find a single Roman Catholic who has accurately addressed the situation and in a truthful, honest fashion admitted that Barbour's actions were reprehensible, nor have I found one who has taken issue with the substance of the article (they can't, since they would have to reject every major scholarly work on Nicea to do so). And keep in mind as well the fact that in my response, I noted numerous problems with Barbour's own scholarship, including gross misrepresentation of the article he is pretending to review (easy to do when you don't provide any references anyone can follow up on), the presentation of highly questionable theories regarding the role of Sylvester at Nicea, even noting that Barbour used sources that the Westminster Dictionary of Church History describe as "hardly trustworthy." But despite all of this, Prejean writes,
Seems people elsewhere aren't quite getting the point of the article. The whole point was that the author's article was so laughably bad in the first place that it is effectively beneath contempt. It is, to use Wolfgang Pauli's apt phrase, "not even wrong." That's the whole point of not mentioning the author's name in the first place; it is to cast shame on him for having put out such a pathetic effort in the guise of scholarship (akin to the statement "Some have claimed..." without a footnote in a scholarly article, an implicit rebuke of the critic's scholarship). Anybody with access to Google can identify who the target is and locate his "responses" (which are no better), but the purpose of the rebuke is to point out that the quality of the article was so abysmal that the author doesn't even deserve to be mentioned by name. The message sent is one of condemnation for those who can't even rise to the level of reasonable discourse. And it is indeed a perfectly legitimate course of action for the scholar who respects his discipline enough to chastise those who merely pretend to practice it. People with a proper sense of shame and a reasonable estimation of their own competence would ordinarily want to let the issue lie. It is a rare breed indeed who would deliberately keep bringing attention to his having been publicly rebuked for incompetence.
Edit -- By the way, it takes no small degree of nerve for the same author to complain about no one calling in to the Dividing Line after he hung up on me. Evidently, it is a faux pas for anyone to call the author in question out for saying something laughable, as both Fr. Barbour and I did. I suggest that the author actually learn the subject with a sufficient degree of competence not to be considered laughable.
Evidently, for this apologist, it is perfectly alright to avoid providing meaningful bibliographical material as long as you are truly mocking your target in the service of mother Church. So, if your response is completely over the top, filled with invective and straw-men, then it is perfectly acceptable to behave in this manner! Now, if Barbour had actually tried to provide a fair response that was directed to the actual topic of the article, and did not seek to simply mock me, I guess then he would have to have followed standard canons of scholarly exchange and review. But, for those in Rome, as long as you say the article was that bad, then, it was, ipse dixit.
Prejean says my replies "are no better," which means he could easily explain the issues in regards to Sylvester, etc. All of this rhetoric is very hopeful: that is, it is written in the hope that no one will track down the original article and realize just how guilty of gross misrepresentation and a cavalier handling of the truth Hugh Barbour, Patrick Madrid, and the Envoy Magazine staff, really are.
Finally, I did hang up on Prejean. He tries to make this sound nefarious. Only problem is, he was on the air for almost fifteen minutes, and as I noted when he got on the air he had already been far less than charitable to me in his public comments. I wonder if I could get almost fifteen minutes on Catholic Answers Live if I called in? Surely not if I acted the way he did! Here is how I described his call:
First was our sophist, Jonathan Prejean, who actually managed to get me to hang up on him. That's pretty hard to do, but if you want to know how, here's how you do it: when asked simple, basic questions like, "Was the Incarnation a unique event," respond with a lengthy pause, "uuuuhhhh," and then rattle off a non-responsive answer; avoid answering all biblical questions with any biblical material, but always refer to your own (infallible) interpretation of later patristic writings; accuse me of heresy (Nestorianism) simply for not following you down the primrose path of "since the unity of divine and human in Christ does not mean we worship two Christs, but one Christ, that means everything the Bible says about worship can be thrown out, because the created has been joined to the divine," even to the point of claiming that we as the redeemed in some sense "participate" in the hypostatic union; and then, when it is pointed out that you are going backwards (defining the text by your theology rather than your theology by the text), start laughing---that will earn you the instant dialtone every time. A tremendous example of the sophistry of Prejean's form of Romanism.
Now, unlike the folks at Envoy who don't want their readers hearing (or reading) the other side, here's Prejean's call from the DL of 8/22/06.
Go Ahead, Speak Your Mind on Envoy, Just Don't Link to aomin.org (Amazing Update!)
03/28/2007 - James SwanYesterday on the Envoy forums, Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid posted a link to an old article, "Ancient Baptists" and Other Myths. This article appeared in the July/August 1998 issue of Envoy magazine. The article was a hit piece against Dr. White, and he proved it so here.
I am still registered on the Envoy forums, even though I haven't made any comments since my discussion with Art Sippo on Luther biographies some months back. In my only brief encounter with Madrid, he was actually respectful to my work on Luther, and even came to my defense against the constant vitriol from Art Sippo. I decided now would be good opportunity to share Dr. White's article with Madrid.
So I attempted to post Dr. White's link:
But when the post was added to the Envoy discussion, the link was broken. It posted as:
Can you spot what's missing? That's right: aomin.org. It seems Madrid has a link block that stops links to aomin.org. So, I cut and pasted Dr. White's article to my own blog, and posted the link. When I checked the discussion today, my link had been edited out.
Madrid's Envoy forums have the banner, "Speak Your Mind." But it seems they have a problem with certain opinions and information. That is, they fear what they can't refute.
Update: I now appear to be banned on the Envoy forums.
Quick comment from JRW:
Fascinating! Another incredible commentary on the state of Roman Catholic apologetics! I just went by the Envoy site and verified TQ's observations. Despite the fact that Barbour's article is simply false, it is a lie, Madrid not only continues to promote it, but who do we find calling it an "oldie but a goodie" but Phil Porvaznik. Any actual interaction with my rebuttal? No, of course not. Even recognizing the existence of documented rebuttal and refutation would go against the purposes of RC apologetics.
Evidently, the mindset that produced the first article, which refused to name me, refused to give bibliographical information, was filled with sub-standard scholarship, etc., remains alive and well at Envoy. The original hit-piece was embarrassingly bad. The refutation I published in the CRI Journal documented this. So why does Madrid keep promoting the piece? Probably for the same reason he so prominently promotes the only two debates we have done. It is the same reason Porvaznik posts 18 second clips of contextless cross-examination. These "apologists" are seeking merely to maintain faith, not expand it. In other words, they well know that they cannot truly engage the issues at any meaningful level, so, they are content to keep the "home troops happy," stir them up once in a while with some propaganda about how evil and stupid the enemy is, and move on from there. Another amazing example of how authority systems like Rome's maintain themselves in a context where their historical foundations have been washed away. ...
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Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta Part I
03/28/2007 - James WhiteA few days ago I played a clip of my cross-examination of Gary Michuta on the issue of the canon of Scripture. I had noted that Gary had commented elsewhere that he felt "embarrassed" for me at this point in our debate. I personally think the cross-examination went very well, and exposed some very weak replies. In any case, Michuta is putting out a book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger: The Untold Story of the Lost Books of the Protestant Bible from Grotto Press. I'm sure it will be most interesting. I am hoping it will have the citations from Trent about "passing over in silence" the question of the difference between the LXX and the Vulgate and Esdras.
But, while silence may be golden, we aren't really into silence around here. So I am very pleased to introduce our "guest blogger," Bill Webster. You are encouraged to visit Bill's website, here. Despite many other duties, Bill has taken the time to write a full, lengthy discussion in response to Michuta's comments But given how full it is, I will need to break it up. So here is part one, but let's remind ourselves of the context once again:
This DVD available here (#516)
A Response to Gary Michuta
In his debate with Gary Michuta on the canon and the Apocrypha James White brought up an important issue that reveals a discrepancy between the decrees of the North African Councils of Hippo/Carthage (AD 393/397) and the Council of Trent (AD 1546). This issue is important because Roman Catholic apologists have long asserted that the canon of Scripture was authoritatively and definitively defined for the Church by Hippo/Carthage in the 4th century AD. And yet the historical facts reveal that Trent rejected abook received by Hippo/Carthage thus manifesting a contradiction between the North African councils and Trent. ...
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To All Statue-Worshiping Catholics! Beware!
03/27/2007 - James WhiteThis clip from the veneration of saints and angels debate with Patrick Madrid starts out with a humorous incident. I am answering a question from Madrid when the moderator, Bill Shishko, who is sitting behind Patrick, bangs his gavel to mark the end of the time. Patrick almost jumped out of his skin. It got a good chuckle out of everyone. But then we got back to business.
I thought Patrick's "they had a problem with worshiping statues back then that we don't have today" response was especially weak and problematic, and could be used to overthrow the majority of biblical ethics and the use of the law as a foundation for ethics and morality. And, of course, it begs the issue: asking Catholics if they are worshiping a statue is the whole point of the debate: given the latria/dulia distinction does not pass the biblical test, whether they wish to admit it or not, that is what is taking place (even granting the distinction between the physical object and the spiritual "reality"). Saying "God's law relating to images is no longer relevant because we don't have the same temptation to that problem that they had back then" is begging the question, not answering it. Could not a homosexual make the same argument today? In fact, is that not what they do? That the law against homosexual behavior was conditioned by its ancient context, and is hence irrelevant today? Something tells me that if you read Madrid's position on that topic, he will not be consistent with the enunciations he makes here.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After?
03/26/2007 - James SwanIt wasn't that long ago my Roman Catholic friends directed me to the books of Robert Sungenis as the definitive works refuting sola scriptura and sola fide. He was the apologist extraordinaire, a seminary trained ex-protestant; yet another wonder-convert who swam the Tiber. There was such an amazing gathering of ex-Protestants, all living in harmony, zealously defending Rome.
I'm not really sure what's going with Robert Sungenis these days. Consider the rift between Sungenis and Ben Douglass. They are currently engaged in a web-page war. It's not just Douglas, Sungenis is engaged in battle with many others in the Catholic apologetic community. Consider the following from his current 41 page document:
"It is my personal opinion that it has gotten so bad that I think it would be safe to say that much of Catholicism and Catholic apologetics today has been taken over, to a very large extent, by Jewish influence, and I believe it is going to get worse."These are only a few quotes from Sungenis who begins, "I'm mad, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Recall Sungenis wrote the books, Not By Faith alone and Not By Scripture Alone. Perhaps the next title will be Sungenis: All Alone.
"Bill Cork often portrays me as a Nazi sympathizer and claimed in his first essay (2002) that I would have put his kids in a gas chamber!"
"Yes, my interpretation of Leo was incorrect, and I have since corrected it long before Mr. Douglass pointed it out. All he had to do was read my latest essays on the subject. But the point still remains: there is no consensus of the Fathers on the conversion of the Jews, and there wasn't any consensus in the Middle Ages as well, that is, if we define consensus as Church teaching tells us. Moreover, if he believes that the consensus of the Fathers requires us to believe what they taught, then his colleagues (Palm, Forrest, Michael, Shea, et al.) are required to believe in Geocentrism without question, since, as even St. Robert Bellarmine said to Galileo, the Fathers were in consensus that the earth was immobile."
"I've been through Mr. Michael's so-called consensus. There is no consensus, but he is too biased to see it. A consensus is when ALL of the Fathers of a large number of Fathers who wrote on a certain point of doctrine agree on that doctrine, not when, perhaps, a half-dozen or so have similar ideas."
Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented
03/26/2007 - James WhiteThe responses we have been receiving from posting video clips have been truly amazing. Most folks really enjoy them. Those on "the other side" do not.
Recently I noted the words of Gary Michuta over at the Catholic Answers Forums. I did a little search yesterday, and ran across a fascinating thread here. I do find it intriguing to see how folks filter what they see. The bias and prejudice is deep, but then again, they are discussing the Stravinskas clip, and it was at that same debate that a group of young RC apologists had been standing around afterward saying, "Oh, when Father Stravinskas was speaking, you could just feel the truth flowing from his words, but when White got up, you could see the demons dancing around his head." Not much you can do about bias that is that deep, prejudice that is that strong. Thankfully, even that is no match for the Holy Spirit of God, as the number of former Roman Catholics can testify.
In any case, as you read through that thread, you will note a number of interesting items. First is the ever-present, but never able to actually stand up for himself, Phil Porvaznik. Porvaznik's role in life is to assure folks that even when the Roman Catholic loses a debate with me, it really does not mean anything, because all you have to do is go read these five hundred pages of Internet postings on irrelevant topics and you'll see why you should remain a Roman Catholic and forget what you just saw happen when a Catholic priest with two Ph.D.'s could not answer the most basic, pointed exegetical questions about the key text on purgatory. "Oh, Sungenis did better, just go listen to him." Porvaznik knows he could never defend himself in debate, so he doesn't bother. If he thought he could, he knows our toll free number, but alas, we never hear from ol' Phil.
For a while I considered Phil a mainly harmless young fellow who would eventually grow up, get a job, and move on. But that hasn't happened. Instead, we are constantly having to remind Phil about things like copyright laws, pirating video and audio that doesn't belong to him, etc. And then we have this clip, which, of course, he posted as soon as possible in the thread to which I referred above. It is a tiny portion of the cross-examination from the 5/22/1997 sola scriptura debate with Gerry Matatics on Long Island. Phil knows he is being dishonest here, and he simply does not care. He even has the temerity to assert that in this clip "White concedes defeat." Taking twenty seconds out of a 2+ hour debate, isolating it even from the immediate context before and after, and presenting it like this only shows the bankruptcy of the Porvaznik style of "apologetics" which really only exists to do one thing: confirm people in their error. Porvaznik knows that kind of behavior will not impact anyone who is seriously studying the issue. He does not care about those folks anyway. His target audience is the Roman Catholic who is in danger of actually, for the first time, listening to the other side, and hearing the criticisms of Rome's authority claims that he well knows he cannot defend. His task is to shut down the critical thinking process before it begins. Salve the mind, calm the conscience, assure the follower of Rome that all is well, and oh, isn't the Pope a wonderful guy, and oh, look over here, isn't St. Peter's just gorgeous? Distract and derail. ...
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The Infallibility Shuffle
03/24/2007 - James WhiteSometimes you are tempted to feel sorry for those stuck trying to defend the concept of the infallibility of the Church of Rome. You have to slay your mind upon the Altar of a Thousand Qualifications on a regular basis. We saw this with Gary Michuta telling us that when it comes to whether certain Scriptures are inspired and canonical, he will remain "silent," as the church is "silent"---infallible silence! There's an interesting concept.
The 2005 debate with Bill Rutland likewise produced tornadic Roman Catholic apologetic activity. Spin. Fast spin. And that of necessity, since what Rome has taught about Islam, infallibly, has changed so radically of late. Since I make reference to them in this period of cross-examination, here are sections 841 and 1260 of the CCC:
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."  [330 = LG 16; cf. NA 3.]It would be good to note Nostra aetate 3 as well:
1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."  Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known of its necessity.
[62 = GS 22 # 5; cf. LG 16; AG 7]
3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure inlinking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.All of this should be read in light of the Council of Florence from 1442 (Denzinger 714):
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.Yes, yes, I know...I have seen very long papers written to attempt to make all of this hang together, and that is my point. When you have to depend upon all sorts of very fallible, contorted, twisted reasoning to hold the "infallible" stuff together, what good is it?
On How Time Heals All Wounds
03/23/2007 - James WhiteAs most of you know, I have recently gained the knowledge and ability to capture and post video. With very few exceptions, folks have really enjoyed the clips. They do take a while to record, upload, etc., but they seem to be worth the effort.
As a result, I have been seeing some debates on tape or DVD for the first time. I do not sit around reviewing old debates. I suppose I probably should review a debate as soon as the video is available, but I have never gotten into that habit. I figure the debate should stand on its own, and unless there is some very compelling reason to go back and comment on one, I figure those who listen to them, and view them, get to make the final decisions. I don't need to try to prejudice the audience.
Of course, I have my critics who are always spinning things about the debates. One young guy set up a camera in his bedroom recently to record replies to the Sungenis/Mass debate clips I played. Patrick Madrid continues to spin an almost fourteen year old debate on sola scriptura on his website. I saw a comment from someone who had listened to the debate, read Madrid's horrific post-debate article, "The White Man's Burden," and then frankly admitted he could not bring himself to read my reply.
A few days ago TQuid directed me to a comment by Gary Michuta posted on the Catholic Answers Forums. I debated Mr. Michuta on the subject of the Apocrypha back in 2004. To be honest, I have not thought much about that debate since then. I have written next to nothing about it here on the blog. We made the DVD's available, the mp3's, etc., and I have been more than content to just let the debate speak for itself. I do recall Michuta writing something fairly shortly after the debate, but I have no recollection of even responding to it.
In any case, Michuta was commenting on an issue that came up in cross-examination. I had forgotten that Michuta had raised the novel idea that there really is no contradiction between the canon lists promoted by Augustine at Hippo and Carthage and that of Trent. Yes, they differ, but you see, that was because Trent was just being "silent" about the differences. I found no merit in that argument when he presented it, and have no reason to change my conclusion today, either. The idea that Trent was just passing the differences over in silence assumes they even knew the differences in the first place. But the idea that Trent was acting in some restrained manner while not even addressing the topic would require a massive leap of faith that only a...Roman Catholic apologist could make. I would like to see the discussions at Trent over this topic. I would need to see the council members discussing the difference, specifically referring to the differences between the LXX and the Vulgate text, and saying, "We will leave this matter undecided." I am more than open to seeing that documentation, if he would like to provide it. Of course, all that would prove is that Rome has a long history of claiming infallibility without knowing what to do with it, but that's another issue. First things first.
Now, while it is interesting, and useful, to note these things, I found the accompanying commentary by Michuta most interesting. In the clip I am posting below, three issues were addressed. One, the Trent/Hippo topic, next, Leo X's approval of the Complutensian Polyglot (with its comments rejecting the Apocryphal books), and then the issue of the glaring historical errors in Judith. I believe that the majority of folks would find Michuta's replies on all three issues significantly less than compelling. In fact, I can detect laughter at one point. I mean, saying you will not respond to my question in the fashion he did does not comprise a weighty form of argumentation. The facts are the facts, Nebuchadnezzar did not reign in Ninevah, and it is hardly worthwhile to appeal to some kind of presuppositional argument about the inspired nature of a book when you are debating whether the book is inspired or not, and, a good deal of evidence was on the table opposing its inspiration, including the testimony of men from the earliest days of Christian history to the time of the Reformation. Now, I do not need to opine that I was "embarrassed" for Mr. Michuta at this point. That kind of rhetoric I find useless, and besides, it distracts from the real issues. But Michuta has now stated, "I was a little embarassed (sic) for James because it appeared that he didn't really look into the question very closely." Thankfully, there were video cameras and audio recording equipment present at the time. How useful they are in helping us deal with how time warps our memories! I don't know about you, but Gary doesn't look like he's feeling overly embarrassed for me during this exchange. Let the viewer decide:
This DVD available here (#516)
Alister McGrath, Justification, and Theological Novums
03/22/2007 - James SwanAlister McGrath was recently on the Bible Answer Man Show. A caller asked McGrath to clarify his position on justification, because a friend was converting to Eastern Orthodoxy from a Reformed church. This convert was citing McGrath's book, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. McGrath is cited as proof the Reformers invented justification by faith alone.
McGrath clarified his position on the Bible Answer Man show. McGrath states justification has been debated throughout church history. He also stated, "the Reformation represents a rediscovery of what justification is all about."
likewise, Roman Catholics frequenty quote this book as proof Luther introduced a "theological novum" into the history of the Western Church. Using McGrath is supposed to prove the Reformers deviated from the historic and apostolic Catholic understanding of justification, and a Protestant scholar (McGrath) admits it. Implied in this argument is the proposition that the Roman Catholic Church received her understanding of justification from the Apostles, and subsequent Church history records the passing on of its understanding to the Church Fathers, and then ultimately to its dogmatic proclamation at the Council of Trent.
If you have a Roman Catholic or Orthodox friend citing McGrath's book, ask him what McGrath's position is on Augustine. McGrath sees Augustine's view of justification as pivotal to the development of the Western church on this doctrine. McGrath notes, "For the first three hundred and fifty years of the history of the church, her teaching on justification was inchoate and ill-defined (Iustitia Dei, p.23). Augustine's view was similarly a theological novum. Who previous to Augustine understood the term exactly the way he did? So the same thing Roman Catholics accuse Luther and the Reformers of can likewise be applied to Augustine. Using McGrath's book as an argument against the Reformers is an example of a double standard, and also not reading carefully.
There is also a further problem of Catholic apologetic double standards. The Catholic apologists assume Trent was following the tradition of the church, and there was no teaching of faith alone previous to Luther. In other words, Luther invented justification by faith alone. It didn't exist until Luther. It can't be verified in church history. It cant be true. On the other hand, when the same historical standard is applied to certain Roman Catholic dogmas like Mary's bodily assumption, Purgatory, or indulgences, this same historical standard is swept under the rug and hidden. One has to seriously question why a standard Catholic apologists hold Protestants to is not likewise applied to their own beliefs. Wade through the corridors of church history and search for the threads of all Roman Catholic dogma. One falls flat linking many of them back to the early church and then to the ultimate rule of faith, the Bible.
Priesthood Debate with Mitch Pacwa
03/22/2007 - James WhiteI have done five debates with Mitch Pacwa over the years (starting in January, 1991--those two debates were video recorded, and I'd love to show you clips, but the Roman Catholic side--not Mitch Pacwa personally--have the tapes and have never made them available). Each one has been very useful, respectful, and focused, unlike...the Sungenis debate on the Mass. Here is a portion of the cross-examination portion of the debate. Note that Pacwa refers to himself as an "alter Christus," "another Christ," and says he is "married" to the Church. Also notice the amazing statement that the biblical evidence for the priesthood is equal in clarity to that for the Trinity itself. This truly took me by surprise, especially given the character of the biblical evidence that was offered. You will note the little vocal Catholic ladies in the front row decided to get involved in the debate at that point. They were vocally participating all along. I will post more from this debate soon.
This debate is available in mp3 format (#453), but the DVD still needs to be produced.
Some of the future debate clips represented by the tapes and DVDs on my desk at the moment include the debates on Inclusivism, the Apocrypha, and the Madrid debate on the veneration of saints and angels.
Finally, you will note that I posted this on "GodTube.com" rather than "YouTube." I had never heard of the website, and am testing it for reliability. Obviously, I figure I have a slightly better chance to not get bounced from this website than from YouTube, given the controversial nature of what I post. But, you never know. :-)
Why the Mass Matters to the Gospel
03/19/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#583)
Art Sippo Judges a Debate...Which Will Take Place in May
03/17/2007 - James WhiteI truly love how fair and unbiased folks can be. An announcement has been made regarding the upcoming debate between Eric Svendsen and Mitch Pacwa. I happened to run across this post from Art Sippo:
Svendsen has already lost the debate. Sola Scriptura is pure Pelagianism. It reduces religious authority to mere human opinion. Sola Ecclesia Romana means that we depend on the Church as THE source of revelation and frankly that is correct. Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium can only be found in the Church and interpreted by the Holy Spirit which superintends the Church especially through the Petrine ministry.Well, there you go! The debate is settled before it takes place! Don't you just love it?
Update: For some reason, a bunch of folks have read this blog article as if I have announced that Art Sippo is moderating the debate. I confess I have a hard time seeing how anyone could come to that conclusion, but for those who have become confused, a clarification. Sippo is not involved with the debate. He has just demonstrated that it would not matter what evidence was presented to him: he believes in sola ecclesia, and nothing will change that.
James White is Infallible!
03/17/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#583)
When Your Opponent Gets Nasty #2
03/16/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#583)
Parallel Methodology: The Tomb of Jesus and Roman Catholic Apologetics
03/14/2007 - James SwanAfter the Discovery Channel aired The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a follow-up show was presented, The Tomb of Jesus: A Critical Look. Hosted by Ted Koppel, two guests were brought on to challenge the conclusions of Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor. Archaeologist William Dever was asked what he thought of the documentary. Dever replied, "For me it represents the worst kind of Biblical archaeology, even if it is anti-biblical, because it seems to me, the conclusions are already drawn in the beginning." Dever nailed it. A tomb was found, Jacobovici began concluding it was Jesus and his wife Mary Magdalene. Then evidence from Gnostic writings, statistics, and DNA all testified to the necessary conclusion.
A non-Christian, Simcha Jacobovici notes he was only interested in finding ossuaries with the inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph." I dare say he found exactly what he was looking for, and it could not have been otherwise. I sometimes make the joke that humans are masters of selective perception. That is, we see only what we want to. That which doesn't fit gets filtered out. While his documentary was being cross-examined on the Koppel show, it was obvious Jacobovici was being forced to see the reality he had filtered out. He was noticeably upset. He commented more than a few times that he was just a filmmaker. He was simply presenting his findings as an introduction for others to scrutinize. In other words, he had no meaningful response to the reality he had filtered out.
As I thought about the methodology that went into the Jesus Tomb production, I couldn't help but think how similar this approach is to that used by modern Roman Catholic apologetics. It begins with a conclusion: The Roman Church is the true church established by Jesus. Then evidence from the Bible and history are brought in to testify to this truth.
Catholic apologist Marcus Grodi had initially been vexed by doctrinal differences within Protestantism. Commenting on his conversion, Marcus Grodi has said, "The more I read church history and Scripture the less I could comfortably remain a Protestant. I saw that it was the Catholic Church- the Roman Catholic Church- that was established by Jesus Christ, and all other claimants to the title 'true Church' had to step aside. It was the Bible and Church history that made a Catholic out of me, against my will (at least at first) and to my immense surprise" [Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), 12]. Only a page or two before, Grodi mentions that it was a lecture and a subsequent meeting with Scott Hahn that led him to wonder if God was calling him to the Catholic Church. Grodi admits he immediately read through Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, and then launched into seriously reading Catholic books and the early Church Fathers. Grodi admits, "After listening to dozens of tapes and digesting several dozen books, I knew I could no longer remain a Protestant" (p.51). In other words, Grodi immersed himself into the writings of the Catholic worldview. It was Roman Catholic glasses that magnified certain facts he was already predisposed to. He saw only what he wanted to. ...
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When Your Opponent Gets Nasty #1
03/14/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#583)
Origen the Child Author
03/10/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#583)
The Mass Debate: 1999
03/08/2007 - James WhiteA few days after this debate a young lady, maybe 14 or so, came up to me after I spoke at a local church. "Dr. White, why did Mr. Sungenis hate you so much?"
Yes, it was a pretty nasty debate. It led, for a brief period of time, to a bit of a "truce," meaning that at least the 2000 debate on justification between myself and Sungenis was mild in comparison. But this was back before Sungenis combined geocentrism with some odd form of Jewish conspiracy theory and ushered himself unceremoniously out of the Roman Catholic apologetics picture. I still get a note about him once in a while, but for all intents and purposes, he has fulfilled the constant element of the titles of his own books: he is now alone.
In any case, here is a discussion of various historical truths regarding the development, over the centuries, of the concept of transubstantiation in the Mass.
DVD available here (#583)
On the Perspicuity of Catholic Apologist Gary Michuta
03/07/2007 - James SwanWhatever happened to Catholic apologist Gary Michuta? Recall, Dr. White debated Gary on the apocrypha a few years ago (MP3's of the debate can be found here). Well, Gary has put together a large website and a blog with occasional entries. A recent entry stated,
"Christians often fool themselves into believing that the bible is guiding them into all truth and that the truth of the bible is so clear that any unbiased person can determine its true meaning. The fact of the matter is even the clearest texts have multiple possible meanings."
The irony of this statement is my recent purchase of Patrick Madrid's A Pocket Guide to Catholic Apologetics[Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006]. This handy little guide consists of nothing more than Scripture references designed for Roman Catholics feeling "flat-footed and ignorant about how Scripture supports Catholic beliefs and practices" (p.9). You would expect Madrid to tell his readers to keep the Catholic Catechism handy for interpretation, but he simply recommends purchasing an RSV (Catholic Edition) and highlighting all the prooftexts he lists.
Early on, Madrid lists those texts establishing the authority of the papacy. But I wonder why, since of the fifty or so texts cited, an infallible interpretation has yet to be given from Rome. The Catholic scholar Raymond Brown has actually said the Roman Catholic Church "...has never defined the literal sense of a single passage of the Bible" [The Critical Meaning of the Bible (New York: Paulist, 1981), p.40]. I'd like to ask Gary Michuta if he would recommend Madrid's book. It appears to operate on the assumption "the bible is so clear that any unbiased person can determine its true meaning."
What of Michuta's charges against the perspicuity of Scripture? One wonders if Michuta thinks the Bereans were fooling themselves when they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). Paul assumes his words were clear: "For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end." I'd like to ask Michuta how it was that even an unbeliever was able to read the Law and interpret it correctly (Luke 10:26-28).
Michuta is implying the Bible needs an infallible interpreter or else it can't be understood. But the infallible interpreter appears to be asleep at the job, or more precisely, sleeping for centuries. There is no infallible committee or pontiff I'm aware of diligently pouring over the Scriptures and infallibly interpreting them for the Roman church. I've yet to see the RSV (Catholic infallible interpretive edition) at my local Catholic bookstore.
Michuta goes on to present an example of one his clearest texts of scripture, "This is my body" (Matthew 26:26), and posits Protestants have at least 200 interpretations of these words. No examples are given, but a link to a document in Latin is put forward as evidence. One must press Michuta to put forth the goods. Does Gary really want to imply that unless one joins the Roman Catholic Church, one is left with interpretive chaos? How can his position explain the papal encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu that states there are very few instances of unanimous patristic exegesis? In other words, Gary should not put forth a standard he himself cannot meet. The alleged infallible church couldn't even decide on the number of sacraments for quite some time, but yet they are to be looked to for clarity and certainty!
The Reformers held Scripture interprets Scripture. "This means quite simply, that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture" [R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Illinois: Intervaristy Press, 1977), 46]. This principle was at work before the Reformation. Even Catholic apologist Steve Ray notes, "The Protestant principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, is not a Protestant innovation at all. It has been taught and practiced from the earliest years in the Catholic Church, as a short review of the Church Fathers writings and the subsequent teachings of the Church clearly demonstrates" [Stephen Ray, Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999) pp. 263-264]. Thus, the Reformers were in unity with those who preceded them.
We are called to be diligent students of God's word. It is that which thoroughly equips Christians for every good work. The words of God make one wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:14-17). They were written so that we may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Michuta would have you believe you are fooling yourself by relying on Scripture, but Scripture is the very word of God. The Psalmist says, "The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple." If the Bible is the very word of God, how could I not be being guided into the truth by reading its words? If Gary wants me to think I'm fooling myself, I must simply ask who's words are really unclear, his or those found in the Bible?
The Early Church and Papal Primacy
03/04/2007 - James WhiteIt's been almost a decade but nothing has changed about the historical realities regarding papal primacy. This is my rebuttal period from the debate with Mitch Pacwa on the Papacy from Long Island in 1998, illustrating once again how Rome's claim to virtual ownership of church history is simply indefensible.
The DVD of this debate is available here (#581).