Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My Utter Condemnation of Anti-Protestantism and of Unwarranted Attacks on James White (Also: The Many Compliments I've Paid White)

I had actually been meaning to post this for some time. I wrote (the bulk of) the comments below in a BlogBack thread of 4-5-05. "Inquisitor" mentioned it, and I thought it would be excellent timing to put to rest another lie about me: that I have some kind of double standard about "ad hominem comments" or about anti-Catholicism (over against anti-Protestantism). I oppose ad hominem "argumentation" and delving into folks' motives and judging their hearts, wherever it occurs. That's not a theological issue; it's a matter of elementary Christian charity and ethics. So if James White or anyone else is attacked in this fashion (let alone a whole group of Christians), then it is wrong, and we ought to speak out against it with one voice. I have consistently done so. Here are some other papers of mine along these lines, too:

Protest Against Anti-Protestantism

The Wickedness of Christian Division, Anti-Catholicism, & Anti-Protestantism

I've defended Lutherans against the charge that they are semi-Pelagians:

Confessional Lutheran, Arminian, and Melanchthonian Soteriology Compared (Are Philip Melanchthon and Arminians Semi-Pelagians?)

I've defended Martin Luther against false charges:

Did Martin Luther Believe That Jesus Had Carnal Relations With Mary Magdalene and Others? (Dave Armstrong vs. "BJ Bear" & "Bonnie" + ELHamilton)

In other papers, I have vigorously denied that Luther was the primary or sole cause of the carnage of the Peasants' Revolt, or that he was opposed to all good works.

Recently, readers have seen me defend Billy Graham, his son Franklin, Pat Robertson, and Dr. James Dobson against scurrilous attacks from fellow Protestant Eric Svendsen.

These are but a few of my "ecumenical" papers. So this is one of the most outrageously slanderous, most easily-falsified accusations against me. But when has fact and documentation ever stopped the flapping jaws and slanderous invective of my most vitriolic, anti-Catholic opponents?

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David Fahrenthold (an ecumenical Reformed Protestant) stated on my blog (4-5-05):

In all fairness Mr. Armstrong, I think you should do the same thing to "CatholicDude". The things he said about Protestants were offensive to me, and if you want to be consistent in your "ecumenism", then you need to say something, and say it well. What he said was ridiculous and was just as bad as the others' rhetoric and should be considered intolerable for people who want "peace". That is all.

I agree, and am glad to comply with your wishes, as I have had just as consistent a record of condemning anti-Protestantism, as I have regarding anti-Catholicism. Here were "Catholic Dude's" remarks [in blue], cited by James White in his article that I drew his anti-Catholic comments from ["CatholicDude" was addressing White]. My comments will be in brackets:

————————————-

I dont understand your deep rooted hatred for the pope in such hours of pain and suffering?

[hatred does not follow from White's comments. All we can know for sure is that he has lacked charity and that he is abysmally ignorant of Catholic theology. But we need not and should not attribute motives of "hatred." That's arguably as wrong as his falsehoods about Catholicism. I don't think White's problem lies in hatred (I never have). I believe he is perfectly sincere in his opposition to Catholicism and his desire to save people from the errors he (erroneously) thinks he sees in it. Rather, his problem is his unwillingness to be corrected on anything having to do with Catholicism. It's willful, obstinate ignorance which is his big fault]

There will come a time when your on your death bed, is the pope going to laugh at you, and trash you like you do? When your wife or kids is suffering are Catholic papers going to smile, the way you do at such suffering?

[again, White's remarks were ignorant and "emotionally cruel" and hyper-insensitive from a Catholic perspective, but this is not a charitable or appropriate response, and certainly not how the pope himself would desire us to speak]

The pope speaks to the world, and has done what he could to promote peace. The Catholic Church is the ONLY church screaming about abortion,

[That's not true. We have many Protestant and Orthodox brothers in our fight against abortion. The Orthodox are very firmly against it. When I was in rescues as a Protestant (1988-1990), I sat next to both Orthodox and Catholics at abortuary doors. I was in jail with them. I learned all about the truth of abortion in seminars at my former Protestant non-denominational church, including inspirational materials from Francis Schaeffer. This is the very thing we can unite on, if nothing else, so this kind of rhetoric is quite harmful and regrettable, and I, too, apologize to my Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters, on behalf of my Catholic brother. Don't ("CatholicDude") be like James White, who briefly participated in rescues also, but left when he was in positions where he had to pray with Catholics. And that's a shame, because White has written powerfully and eloquently on the life issue]

and the Pope made that very clear it is one of the gravest evils of our time. Do you guys care? NO!

[This is nonsense (note how it has become a plural criticism now: "you guys" — and is no longer directed at White alone. That's why it is classic anti-Protestantism). I am recently on record saying that the fault for abortion lies on all Christians, because of our laxity: the Catholic Church foremost. I heard the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. make this point many times, in person. It's plain wrong and unjust to act as if Protestants should bear the blame, and that Catholics have been perfect. This is asinine and uncharitable to the extreme. If we hadn't been so weak in 1973, abortion would never have gotten off the ground. I pointed out that it was the Catholic Justice Anthony Kennedy who prevented Roe from being overturned in 1989, and he was the one who led the Court to not save Terri Schiavo's life. Liberal "Catholic" senators like Kerry and Kennedy are in the forefront of the pro-death movement. There is plenty of blame to go around]

Go and clap your hands while the True Church is feeding the hungry, giving housing, schools, running orphanages, disaster reliefe, etc.

[this is ridiculous and now damnable lying and slander. I participated myself in a few of the many Protestant outreach efforts, such as Joy of Jesus in Detroit and other endeavors. Billy Graham's son [Franklin] runs Samaritan's Purse, which has done a huge amount of charity work. Charles Colson founded Prison Fellowship. There is Habitat for Humanity, etc.]

YOU HAVE DONE ZERO TO PROMOTE THE GOSPEL. GREED IS ALL YOU KNOW. All you do is run a company to make money for yourself, all in the name of Jesus. Your nothing but a buisiness man selling your version of Chirstianity, you have no history, no respect. In the end you have no future.

[I absolutely detest and condemn this rhetoric, and I hope many Protestants cite my words. If there was any truth in this, I would be condemning my own past, because I was a committed Protestant in the Protestant world (and have many friends who are converts, too, or still Protestant; I spoke to one such dear Baptist friend on the phone last night), and this isn't what I saw. Sure, there are plenty of sins and faults to go around, but they are universal, not confined to Protestantism. This is Pharisaic judgmentalism of the worst kind]

Who stood up for Terri? THE CATHOLICS, to you Prots she was a nothing, you prots didn't care.

[Plenty of "Prots" cared. At least one poll showed that more evangelicals were opposed to what happened than Catholics. This is more damnable lying]

You Prots are destroying Christianity, every day more and more divisions, look at you how old is your made up self appointed excuse for a church.

[I would say that rhetoric such as this bilge is what will "destroy" Christianity, because it destroys love, unity, and truth: an attitude and goal which comes from the devil, not Jesus Christ]

Read this to your congregation to show how evil us Catholics are, I dare you, read the whole thing in front of them. Highlight the part about spreading the Gospel to the poor, and you spreading the wealth to your pocketbook.

[I pray that White doesn't do so, or act as if this guy represents mainstream Catholicism. He does NOT, I can absolutely assure any reader who thinks or suspects otherwise. Pope John Paul II himself would abhor what he is writing]

In the end who are you…your [sic] a nobody, no voice, you will be forgotten. Catholics are the ONLY group who respect life and stand up for it.

[sheer nonsense . . . as Pope John Paul II himself said to his good friend Billy Graham: "we are brothers." "Catholic Dude" is spitting on the grave of the late great pope with this tripe, because it is absolutely contrary to the Holy Fathers desires and opinions, as expressed in his ecumenical encyclicals Ut Unum Sint and Orientale Lumen. But "Catholic Dude" may also be a so-called Catholic "traditionalist", because that is where most of this anti-Protestant nonsense comes from. That's our equivalent of the anti-Catholic fundamentalism of White, Jack Chick, Bart Brewer, Ian Paisley, et al. But of course they are not adhering to the magisterium's teachings — Vatican II, the Catechism, the above encyclicals, etc.]

———————————————

How's that, David F? Is that agreeable to you?

. . . thank you for that. I agreed with everything you said, and I have seen you go against "anti-Protestantism" before, which is why I asked you to do that :). . . . Anyway, Thanks again.

(4-5-05)

The ecumenical Lutheran "BWL" later added:

. . . White, Svendsen and co. have a long record of making supid comments like this. I've always wondered why they should be taken seriously in light of their own sacramentology. I mean, really, these guys think baptism and communion are just symbols and they don't baptize infants. That, I would argue is a total departure from Reformational soteriology. Luther would be spinning in his grave over these guys claiming to uphold his teachings on salvation. I think it would be funny in a weird way for Catholics to turn the tables on them on this one. Use the old Lutheran polemic against the Baptist and tell them they believe in "works righteousness" and deny original sin for not baptizing babies.

[I did indeed do something very similar to this: "Man-Centered" Sacramentalism: The Remarkable Incoherence of "Dr." (?) James White: How Can Martin Luther and St. Augustine Be Christians According to His Definition?]

I'm not being entirely serious on this, but it would be interesting to see them react to all this, though maybe they would only start to squirm if a Lutheran (who I assume they would consider to be a christian) was making this accusation. But then again, maybe it's best just not to take them seriously at all.

(4-6-05)

BWL later wrote:

You wrote on Luther: "We have very good reason to believe that he would have a more favorable opinion of Catholics such as myself than he would of what he called a "sacramentarian" like White."

Despite real differences between Lutherans and Catholics I think you are probably right. I for one would, like Luther rather drink blood with the pope than wine (or more than likely grape juice!) with folks like White. White, unlike Luther, doesn't seem to realize that sacramentology goes hand and hand with soteriology. Ironically, his symbolic view of the sacraments turns God's means of grace into works of men. That and denying infant baptism as you note is tantamount to denying original sin and lapsing into a form of Pelagianism. Moreover, one can't separate sacramentology from the doctrine of the Incarnation as Martin Chemnitz so clearly shows. I find folks like Svendsen and White scary because they seem so downright sloppy, or in Svendsen's case Nestorian, in their christology.

But somehow I doubt White and friends will ever get any of this. Oh well. Maybe you're right simply not to engage them.

(4-6-05)

I've defended or said nice stuff about James White several times before, too (and it is rarely if ever reciprocated). On 9 March 2000 (that's over five years ago, folks), I wrote on my website (and sent it to James White by e-mail):

I also call equally upon Catholic apologists to repent of any slanderous remarks about Protestant polemical opponents, such as those casting aspersions upon motives, honesty, basic reasoning ability, supposed hidden sins, deliberate "twisting of Scriptures," etc. We are not faultless in this matter, either, and I certainly include myself in this -- very much so. I have seen many instances of pitiable rhetoric in looking over some exchanges of Catholic apologists and Dr. White.

Looking back at some of my own remarks about him in private correspondence (and on lists), I can see that they were indeed reprehensible and wicked, and that he was understandably angered and upset by their unpleasant and overly-extreme and at times arrogant nature (and was right to rebuke me at the time). It is with shame that I openly confess that I have done my share to contribute to the alienation and ill will between Dr. White and myself. I have not always acted with love and compassion and patience, as I should have, as a Christian. I have failed far too often, as a man and as an apologist. May God help me do better in the future.

On the other hand, I have apologized to Dr. White on several occasions -- oftentimes on public lists . . . we had two particularly intense conflicts, and I am sure I did not conduct myself in a Christlike fashion at those times, either. But I did ask for forgiveness, and presently I sincerely ask Dr. White's forgiveness once again for all that I may have written which misrepresented or hurt him or caused undue harm in any way, shape, form, or fashion.

It was never my intention to utter any deliberate falsehoods or slanders against Dr. White (or anyone else, for that matter). In the heat of "apologetic battle," unkind things are often said (and that's putting it mildly!). I am sure that this present paper contains some unfair or false accusations as well. If any false allegation can be shown to be just that, I will immediately apologize and retract it.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that this paper can accomplish its purpose: to minimize unworthy, destructive rhetoric in theological and apologetic discourse, and to convict us all of falling short in taming our tongues. We all fail in this; the difference lies in those who allow the grace of God to enable them to improve in this area and to learn more and more to avoid "foolish talk."
I cited this in my Friendly Open Letter and Proposal for James White (October 2004), in which I asked if he would like to chat at length on his show, to better get to know each other (not to debate theology). I was inspired to do this after White stated that he was so misunderstood, and encouraged catholics to call in (my friend Jonathan Prejean had a long, amiable conversation with White on one Dividing Line show). I wrote many other complimentary, conciliatory things in this letter, too:

I couldn't agree more with your impassioned complaint about people not getting to know you, and rather, resorting to childishly attacking you personally when they know next to nothing about you. I have also tried to simply talk with folks who are some of my severest critics, but they were not willing (I have had very similar experiences to yours on the Internet, though not on the scale you have gone through, no doubt). I agree with Jonathan that you seem to be a good family man and committed Christian. I have never stated or believed otherwise. You mentioned, for example, that no one tries to get to know anything about your family. Your daughter Summer is extremely impressive (I've read some of her writing, posted on your blog). I can only hope my four children (all 13 and younger) turn out nearly as wonderfully.

. . . You said that you get along fine with Fr. Mitch Pacwa. Yes, we all get along better with some people than with others. I have that experience, too. I was so impressed with the conversation [with Jonathan Prejean] that I got the idea that you and I ought to try something similar, rather than always fighting with each other about theology and apologetics (and sometimes descending into personal material, or something close to it -- on both sides). If you want people to get to know you better personally, I am completely willing to do so, and always have been.

. . . Well, I could (and would) make the same complaint that you make: we have never really gotten to know each other as men; as human beings with feelings and a "real life" outside the Internet; as guys who love to have fun and joke around (you obviously possess that trait, too, as I do); as family men who are in ministry. You don't know me personally any more than I know you on that level. I can only get hints of it here and there, such as your show yesterday. I always knew you were a "human being", you can rest assured (since you said some critics of yours seem to not know that). Hopefully, you know that about me, too. :-)

It's not like I haven't tried something alone these lines in the past. I've apologized to you some dozen or more times now, for past statements of mine. I've tried (in vain) to achieve reconciliation through a mutual friend (Catholic) who was getting along better with you, and attaining some level of personal communication beyond the outward polemics. I've said nice things about you on many occasions and urged others to refrain from personal attacks and to stick to the subject. I've defended you publicly when others were far more critical of you than I have ever been, even accusing you of being demon-possessed (!) in some instances. I've publicly praised your work on defense of the Holy Trinity, against Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, and King James-Only advocates, and in the areas of pro-life and opposition to homosexual "marriage." I was willing to engage in a lengthy question-and-answer session with you in your chat room [White declined, even though my proposal was completely "stacked" in his favor]. Perhaps you have apologized and said nice things about me, too, but if so, I am not aware of it; maybe you can direct my attention to a writing where you have done so.

. . . I believe it is possible for us to get along much better than we do now. You
mentioned Fr. Pacwa as a clear example of what is indeed possible. My friend Steve Ray said that you were a nice (and funny) guy when you two met at the debate on Long Island earlier this year. I say that we should cut through all the nonsense and make an effort to get to know each other personally, too. My complaint is very similar to yours. I think people don't make the effort to become at least personally acquainted with each other as fellow human beings, before launching into rhetoric and disagreeing. I have made that criticism of the Internet for years. In fact, I have become so fed up with Internet discussion boards (including Catholic ones) that I no longer participate on them (or lists) at all. Without the personal element as a foundation, those exchanges often (and quickly) become ugly.

My proposal, then, is this: You often state how you want people to come onto your Dividing Line webcast and simply talk. I heard a great example of that last night. I think it is possible to do this, even in our case. So I am proposing this: how about if I come on and we talk for the whole hour, in a similar manner to your almost half-hour long discussion yesterday with Jonathan (amiable, cordial, good-natured, conciliatory, non-polemical)? It would not be about things where we disagree. We would actually be on the same side.

This is true, of course, in many areas: fighting the cults (Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons: I have opposed the former as an expert of sorts for 23 years now, and have debated Mormon elder Dr. Barry Bickmore), pro-life, defense of the Trinity, conservative politics, opposition to theological liberalism and higher criticism of the Bible, defense of the Resurrection and the Bible, responses to Islam (I have done a debate on that, too, now), other areas of general Christian apologetics (I write about all kinds of things), etc., etc. We could talk about our family lives and about the difficulty of life in ministry, and of how frustrating it is to deal with personal attacks from folks who know next to nothing about us. We have a lot of things in common. Why not truly get to know each other better; doing something edifying for listeners (and readers)? You were calling for that yesterday on your show. I couldn't agree more that it is a great need today with all the impersonal and ad hominem material on the Internet.

So why don't we agree to do something positive like that for a change, that people on
discussion boards on both sides can try to emulate? Let's set a good example together, and show that it can be done. I think it would be wonderful and very constructive and helpful for apologetics and Protestant-Catholic relations in general. You have wanted me to come on your webcast for years. I would be happy to, but I want to get to know each other first. After that groundwork is laid, perhaps eventually (after some trust is built up) we can also talk about things where we disagree and do some apologetics.

What do you say?

Sincerely, in Christ,

Dave Armstrong

P.S. I would even extend this proposal to other well-known figures in apologetics and severe critics of mine, such as your friends David T. King and Eric Svendsen. If they are up to it, by all means, I would invite them to engage in conversation with me (on your webcast, if you are agreeable).
White responded, in his Quick response to Dave Armstrong’s “Open Letter” (10-14-04 on his blog):

I don’t believe that would be a proper investment of an hour of our webcast . . . the caller, aside from having said I was yellow-bellied, had no “history” with me that goes back for years and is less than pleasant, including, in just the past few months, illegally altered and utilized copyrighted materials. One does not simply sweep such history under the rug and “make nice.”

. . . Unless you could suggest a topic that would truly offer something widely useful and helpful that is not covered elsewhere, I do not see how I would be wise to invest time in such an adventure.


One can only try. I think people who don't have an axe to grind against me beforehand, can see my "heart" and my true desires in the above, and can see how false and slanderous all the present accusations are.

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