Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Bill Rutland Tries to Provide Cover for Rome
06/13/2005 - James WhiteWell, you have to give him some credit. Mr. Rutland did not wait a few months to make his views known, as some in the past have done, but chose to comment on the debate and to go ad-hominem within a few days, joining, it seems, the rest of the cyber-RC apologetics community in throwing sufficient dust in the air to keep the attention off of the real issues for a little while. Given that I am accused of any number of things by Mr. Rutland's post on the Catholic Answers Forums, allow me to once again set the record straight.
Having just completed a debate (Great Debate X, 6/9/05) with Mr. White I feel that I have a unique prospective on the man as a debater. He is a very good debater and knows Catholicism as well as about any Catholic. The problem is that he has a hatred of the Church that borders on obsession.Notice once again the "poison the well" technique. I do not have to start off, "Mr. Rutland, who apostatized from his profession of faith only a few years ago, obviously hates his former faith." I would be more than happy to let anyone simply view the debate for themselves and see if someone is filled with "hate" or whatever. And isn't it odd that if a Roman Catholic is passionate, they "love the Church," but if a Protestant is passionate, they "hate the Church." The double standard, which we have documented for many years now, goes on.
Mr. White and I debated the issue of the Church’s position on salvation of non-believers, “Can a non-Christian enter heaven?” Our focus where sections 841and1260 .
I am thankful to see this, since Mr. Rutland still does not seem to understand that he was in the position of actually defending the Roman Catholic position. By the end of the night his whole argument was that I had failed to prove a "universal negative," i.e., no non-Christian could ever possibly go to heaven. The debate was on the positive assertion being made by Rome and whether it was biblical. Mr. Rutland tried, quite unsuccessfully, to move the burden of proof off of his shoulders onto mine. More on this below.
In our debate he was very aloof and condescending. I am not trying to speak badly of Mr. White, I am simply making observations. When I entered the debate hall he did not acknowledge me in any way, I approached him. Before the debate I mingled and walked off some nervous energy, Mr. White sat at his debate table and basically did not talk to anybody but his inner-circle.I am sorry Mr. Rutland feels I was "aloof and condescending." Sadly, in this entire piece he has posted at the Catholic Answers Forums, he neglects to mention a little item: I was not well Thursday night. At the end of a viral infection, I likewise had (and have at the moment) conjunctivitis, aka, pink eye. I saw a doctor when I got on the Island to get medications, but medical science has only managed to beat the bacteriological version of this stuff, not the viral version. The expensive prescription eye drops did nothing, and hence, I was not shaking hands with anyone that night. I even had to ask the moderator to announce this so that the rumor would not start (and you better believe it would have, and probably will anyway, if this is any indication) that I refuse to shake the hands of Catholics. So I was not "hanging out" with almost anyone since I did not wish to pass my problem on to anyone else, and I was uncomfortable with having to explain it (the moderator did not mention this until the mid-point in the debate). So, I was sick. Rutland knew it. He turns this into an opportunity to accuse me of being aloof.
As to being "condescending," I would assume this would refer to the fact that Mr. Rutland 1) does not know very much about Protestant theology, and hence would ask questions that contained basic errors of fact, which would have to be corrected; 2) Mr. Rutland refused to honestly deal with the meaning of 841 in particular, and hence I had to ask some really obvious questions that he continued to refuse to answer in a forthright manner; and 3) Mr. Rutland evidently chose beforehand to avoid any and all exegetical interaction on the basis of the Greek text of the New Testament. As a result, I'm sure having to ask him the same question repeatedly in different forms in the vain attempt to get him to either deal honestly or accurately with the issue at hand would appear to him to be "condescending."
But the fact of the matter is we spoke very little. He did not pursue conversation with me, nor I with him. I was not happy with Mr. Rutland's behavior back in April when he threatened to pull out after men like Chris Arnzen had already invested thousands of dollars of their own money just so that he could change the format we had been using, without complaint, for years (despite Sippo's outrageous claims otherwise). Further, this was not the first time I had encountered Mr. Rutland, at least in cyber space. A number of years ago he had dropped me a great introduction e-mail:
Dear Dr. White,
I understand from my friend Apolonio that you have taken to picking on kids. It is one thing to trash your own sister, but to set out to make a fool of a high school kid is lower than I even thought that you would go. Why don't you pick on someone your own size. If you want to debate justification I am willing and able.
So I do not know what Mr. Rutland would have liked me to do to make him feel warm and fuzzy. He sure did not extend any effort to show concern about me, that's for certain. But you won't see me raising it as an issue, either.
Mr. White took the tact that I thought that he would. Mr. White brought up about how the Church had flip-flopped on the issue of no salvation outside the Church. I briefly addressed this but I did not pursue it because I did not want to get distracted from the subject at hand and I did not want to make the debate more continuous then it was getting.
I do not have a clue what it means for the debate to be "more continuous then (sic) it was getting." Yes, I did note the debate within Roman Catholicism over extra ecclesiam nulla salus, but Mr. Rutland forgets to note that I immediately noted that this was not the substance of our debate, and that the actual debate was over the specific, positive teaching of the Roman Catholic Church found in Lumen Gentium and repeated in sections 841 and 1260 of the Catholic Catechism. As to expecting how I would approach the subject, I had openly told anyone who would listen how I was going to approach the subject. It was no secret. But that does make me wonder a bit, since Mr. Rutland's objections to my Reformed soteriology barely rose above bad Arminian argumentation from his Protestant days (at one time he said that in my view God creates some men for nothing more "than to stock the shelves of hell"). If he knew which way I was going to go, why didn't he have something substantive to offer in rebuttal?
I had several comments that there was a lot of animosity in the room from the Protestant crowd, which I felt also. The night before Mr. White had held a seminar on the subject of our debate. I believed then and still believed that many of the Protestants there had been whipped up the night before by Mr. White’s “seminar” and a lot of them came loaded for bear.Mr. Rutland could not be more in error. I spoke at the Massapequa Church of God the night before to a crowd of possibly thirty folks. Not even the pastor of the church, as far as I could see, was at the debate (he's a wonderful man who has been to many of the debates, but was having really bad car problems the night before, so I didn't see him there). If six of those at the church were at the debate I would be surprised. So this theory is inane.
No one needed to "whip up" the crowd. The few times there was applause (once while I was speaking, requiring me to raise my hands to stop it and start my sentence over again, taking from my time) it came as a result of one of two things: 1) Mr. Rutland's questions were, often, "softballs" that showed such a poor grasp of biblical theology and the substance of the debate that they were very easy to answer with clarity and force; and 2) Mr. Rutland's obvious attempts to both shift the burden of proof as well as to avoid the plain meaning of language (for example, in at least seven minutes of effort to get him to deal with the phrase “together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” I finally gave up, though the audience had clearly seen the point by then) was the main thing "whipping up" anyone in the audience. And if Mr. Rutland thinks a few outbursts of applause amounts to a "whipped up audience," he really should have attended the two debates against Tim Staples in Fullerton, California. The audience on Long Island was downright comatose in comparison to Mr. Staples' fans.
In my opening statement I began by giving the dictionary definition of “Christian” :
A believer in Jesus Christ as savior: somebody who believes that Jesus Christ was sent to the world by God to save humanity, and who tries to follow his teachings and example.
At first Mr. White refused to confirm or deny the definition. It was not until the cross examination that he rejected it and even though I asked for it he never gave me his definition.
Untrue. He asked for a definition and I gave him a very full one. The "dictionary" definition of a Christian I found amusing, and trusted the audience to recognize that if you are using a dictionary definition (which included almost no theological content but did mention "trying" to live Jesus' teachings) in a debate that is supposed to be demonstrating the biblical nature of the Roman teaching, you have already demonstrated something less than positive about your understanding, your preparation, or your position, and possibly all three.
I pointed out the impossibility of Mr. White’s position, to say that only a Christian can enter heaven, which is a universal negative. Mr. White tried to ignore this and put me on the defensive, which I did not allow him to do.
This was one of the other reasons folks in general were not impressed with Mr. Rutland's presentation. He was taking the affirmative, but tried to say I was the one who had to prove a negative proposition that night. It was, quite simply, a very lame attempt. The issue was the positive teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in sections 841 and 1260, and whether this teaching is biblical and representative of apostolic teaching. The fact is, Mr. Rutland was unable to mount a defense of that proposition, and as the roadblocks he threw up were dismantled one by one, he became more and more desperate to shift the focus off of the Catechism and his own position and onto my own.
If Mr. Rutland continues to believe that you can defend Rome's positive teaching by saying, "Well, to say NO non-Christian can enter into heaven is to assert a universal negative and that can't be proven and therefore I win," I can't help him. But I will gladly show folks his effort on DVD and let them decide.
Mr. White put his whole focus on paragraph 841 in the Catechism, which is what I expected. Several times I explained that the Catechism was not saying that the Muslim religion could save and that they do not have the same understanding of God as do we. He ignored this as one would expect.
Two untruths that any review of the debate video will demonstrate. 1) I focused upon both 841 and 1260. My notes are clear, as is the debate. Why seek to mislead folks, unless Rutland assumes that in the Catholic Answers Forums, no one will, in fact, take the time to actually view the debate? And at that point, I confess he might be right: when you read the thread in which this appeared you once again discover that the folks who post there in general are happy to believe anything negative about me while admitting they have never listened to a single debate or read a single book. So, this kind of misleading behavior might work with this small audience. 2) I ignored nothing: it was Rutland who was seeking to avoid the objection to his position. I never once said, or intimated, that the Muslim religion could save. I simply repeated what the Catechism and John Paul II had said: that a Muslim could be saved as a Muslim; i.e., without renouncing Islam, but continuing in that religious belief. Rutland refused to defend the actual statements of the Catechism, Nostra Aetate 3, and John Paul II, but instead chose to try, as best he could, to hide behind the assertion that I was saying Islam would, in and of itself, save. The careful listener knows that he was misrepresenting me and ducking the issue.
During the cross examination I concentrated on demonstrating the flaw in Mr. White’s positive counter-proposition, “A non-Christian cannot enter heaven.” Mr. White evocated and dodged the question for the simple reason that he could not answer it and maintain his position.
I'm sorry, but this is simply silly. Mr. Rutland is very confused if he thinks that to disprove a positive statement of Rome I have to prove a universal negative on the contrary. This kind of illogic was part of what exasperated many in the audience. Beyond this, I made it very clear: since you have universal biblical statements that all have sinned, and that the only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ, I "closed the door" so to speak by then explaining the purpose of God in His self-glorifying act of salvation, whereby He has joined the elect to His Son, and wishes to conform them to the image of Christ. If Rutland thinks he is substantiating what 841 and 1260 actually say by trying to argue for the mere possibility that maybe, somehow, someone, somewhere, might make it to heaven outside of a faith relationship with Christ, once again, I will leave him to his thinking. It got so bad that Rutland had to abandon the Catechism totally and argue that since Abraham was not a Christian, and infants might get to go to heaven, his position was affirmed! It was truly sad to see the utter collapse of his argumentation at this point, and the audience saw it quite clearly as well.
During the debate Mr. White’s people would shout and sometimes jeer at me (this is why I believe that they had some “prep”).Mr. White's people? I heard applause. I heard no shouting or jeering (unlike the Roman Catholic who yelled "The Eucharist!" in the middle of the debate in Fullerton). None of "my" people did any such thing. There were a lot of people at the debate, and only a very small percentage were known to me. "My" people, if by that he means people I know, did no such thing. I cannot control others who came---some who were on my side in the debate, but who would oppose me on many other issues (some of whom came up to me afterward and wanted to argue their pet doctrines). Further, surely none of the six or so folks who had been at the Massapequa Church of God the night before who came to the debate did any such thing. Mr. Rutland is fantasizing at this point.
Sometime during Mr. White’s second rebuttal he just quit debating and started preaching to his people, getting them even more riled up. Linda, my wife, told me afterwards that the comments from the people behind her were so nasty that she was starting to get concerned about the safety.I'm sorry, but this is utterly ridiculous. Doesn't Mr. Rutland know this debate was video taped and audio recorded? Is he so desperate to cover for his poor presentation that he has to paint such a silly view? I assure you, the loudest outburst of applause paled in comparison to the regular outbursts from the Roman Catholic crowd in Fullerton. It is hard to even comment on such rhetoric.
A one point during the cross-examination Mr. White’s people got so loud that I could not continue, I turned to the moderator ( a Protestant) and asked if this outburst was taking away from my time, he simply said, “yes,” I was shocked.
At one point Mr. Rutland asked a question of me during cross-ex. My reply prompted a round of applause, just as a statement later in my closing, as I recall, did so. I stopped it in the latter instance because I was at the podium and could do so. But the cross-ex was done sitting down, and when seated there was a section of the audience you could not even see beyond the podium. I do not have the recording yet, and would be very interested in knowing what the question was and what my answer was. As I recall, quite honestly, Mr. Rutland had asked a question that yet again demonstrated a simple lack of understanding on his part of what the entire debate was supposed to be about and the position he was supposed to be responding to. I no more encouraged applause than I had at any point: it is a lie to say otherwise. When he asked Pastor Shishko about whether this was taking time, Pastor Shishko said, "Yes, it is." I think what happened was that Bill Shishko was reading the audience questions and preparing them and so when he heard the applause (which he had warned the audience about at the beginning, saying it would only take away from your own speaker's time) he assumed it had something to do with what Rutland had said, and hence it was Rutland's job to indicate that it should stop. I don't believe he was aware the applause was in response to an answer to one of his questions. In any case, we are talking about a grand total of five to ten seconds, despite Mr. Rutland's exaggerated claims otherwise. Again, have videos, will provide as quickly as possible.
Before the debate Mr. White and I had both agree not to bring up any new arguments in the closing statements. I honored that agreement, Mr. White did not, bringing up numinous new arguments to which he knew I could not respond, again the moderator let it happen.Another untruth. I did not have a pre-written closing statement, and instead I went from my notes, replying to the claims Rutland had made, refocusing upon the thesis of the debate, nothing more. I suppose he might be referring to my citation of Nostra Aetate 3, but I only cited that in support of my own reading of the Catechism which he had claimed was a "twisting" of its original intention. Is Rutland going to argue I cannot refute his assertion that I was twisting the words of the central source of the debate thesis? How is this "new" argumentation?
After the debate, as is proper debate etiquette, I walked over to thank my opponent. Mr. White did not even get up but dismissed me.I "dismissed" him? What? Again, why do people have to pull this kind of stunt? I got up, acknowledged both he and Bill Shishko, but did not shake their hands for reasons I had already stated. Immediately there was an entire crowd of folks in front of my table, and so I began talking to them, just as Rutland did to those who gathered to speak to him. Nothing more. I sat down at my table, once again due to the fact that I did not want to get overly close to anyone, signed books, answered questions, had a few mini-debates, etc., for quite some time. I knew there was no reason to get moving very fast, since we had so much to do after the debate. We not only had to pack up a book table, but we had done all the house sound as well as the video taping, and Rich Pierce and our volunteers had to do a tremendous amount of breaking down and packing up. So I was in no hurry. I knew it was going to be a late night.
So how do I think the debate went? Well I had many good comments and some even from Protestants. Some thanked me that I stuck around after the debate to talk to them, Mr. White signed some books and left.Again, who does Mr. Rutland think he is fooling here? This is simply a lie. When we finally left, there was almost no one left in the room. I do not recall the time, but it had to be around 12:30am or 1am or so, since I got back to my hotel a little before 3am, and we had stopped at a diner to eat dinner for about an hour. When I left I did so with Chris Arnzen, Rich Pierce, and about three other folks. We all said goodnight to Mr. Rutland. So why on earth he would lie and say I "signed some books and left" I cannot say. But a lie it is, and I have many witnesses. It seems he is trying again to create a completely fictitious view of the debate, but I cannot allow such falsehoods to go unchallenged. This is truly sad behavior.
I am quite sure that Mr. White and his people thought that he won, which is to be expected. But I hope they saw a Catholic that loved Jesus and His Church and who treated his opponent with dignity even if that dignity was not returned. I feel that I expressed the truth of the Catholic position and that any unbiased person could see the contrast between Mr. White’s showboating and my reasoned argument. In short I feel very good about the debate and the outcome.
I am sorry Mr. Rutland has chosen to follow up a poor effort on his part (which, thankfully, only served to make the issues clearer rather than obscuring them, which is why I found the debate so useful) by taking the low road of dishonesty and ad-hominem. His behavior before the debate regarding the format should have indicated this might happen. But in any case, unlike Mr. Rutland, I can simply direct you to the video for your own viewing. They will tell the truth without hesitation.