Thursday, March 08, 2007

James White on the Glories of Cross-Examination (and His Continued Refusal to Do a Live Chat Debate)

Recently, I challenged James White to a debate in his chat room. He (quite predictably) declined.
[Me] And I still like live chat the best, because it allows live cross-examination (as long as the two parties can stay on the subject)."
This can be done with prearranged conditions in place that are made known to everyone. Folks either abide by them or they don't. If someone ignores a question or dances around it, or gives a dumb, implausible, desperate answer, that will be just as manifest in this sort of debate as an in-person debate. What's the difference? The same propensity for evasion and obfuscation and sophistry (if it is present in a person) is able to be used in writing, every bit as much as in speaking. But (I wold argue) far more substance is possible in writing. It's just two people, taking turns questioning each other: little different from a transcript of a courtroom testimony. If someone is ignorant and can't truly answer questions, this will be readily apparent to anyone who understands the issues at stake.

James White waxes eloquently and passionately about the glories of cross-examination constantly on his blog. He often shows You Tube clips from his debates that are from the cross-examination periods. He loves that. I offered him 90 minutes of cross-examination of me, in return for just 60 minutes to ask him questions. I provided him with a format of complete mutual cross-examination and nothing but. The man knows full well the subject matter where he is weak and can be twisted into a logically tortured pretzel by an informed cross-examiner.

He doesn't dare face me in a situation like that, because his whole reputation is based on this perception he likes to give that he is the All-Wise Debater and Vanquisher of Ignorant Catholics. Plus, we see (in his response and decline, recorded in the above paper) what he thinks of me. Imagine if he didn't do very well against me in a debate! His reputation (already extremely low among Catholics) would be practically shot: an ignoramus, know-nothing like me (according to his estimation) prevailing in a debate? No; that must never happen. He will avoid that terrifying prospect like the plague and stay as far away from it as east is from west. But here is what White says about cross-examination (I was having trouble with the links messing up Blogspot, so I won't link all of them):
Two items about Dr. Sippo's debate challenge: 1) I do not believe he will allow for meaningful cross-examination, which has worked so well with the likes of Mitch Pacwa and Patrick Madrid and Gary Michuta and...well, you get the idea. I believe he knows he could not survive in such a context and hence will bluster about having only a couple of questions with long periods to respond, etc. . . . trial-like cross-examination of Rome's infallible teaching on the existence and necessity of purgatory, with emphasis upon the close examination of such passages as 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. . . . closely moderated formal debate with intensive cross-ex on purgatory.


Here is a side-by-side shot of the cross-examination period.


Well, posting the cross-ex portion on John 6:37 has been such a smash hit that Rich thought it would be fair to provide an equal length portion of the cross-ex where Bill Rutland is asking the questions, so here is a three-minute segment of some of the material from that section of the debate. Enjoy!


I was particularly happy with the interaction between myself and Dr. Crossan during the cross-examination.


Where else on the web can you get a webcast including: half an hour of review of the Crossan debate cross-examination (played clips and discussed) . . .


I've already obtained his materials on the subject. So the cross-examination should be in-depth and to the point.


. . . a pack of lies so inane, so silly, no person could possibly make a meaningful case for them in the face of cross-examination and rebuttal. Which is why, of course, he refuses to put himself in a position of being cross-examined by the very people who would expose his falsehoods without hesitation.


What is not being said is that the very first thing torn out was the cross-examination that we had specifically asked for in the agreement arrived at. I have said it repeatedly in the past, and I'll say it again: in theological debate the truth is normally determined by cross-examination. I know that is not the case in scholastic speed-talking, but it is in this context, a context that is unfamiliar territory for all involved on the other side. So, cross-ex was being diminished to the point of being irrelevant.


I then moved into a review of the Spong debate, playing a section from the cross-ex (well, what was supposed to be cross-examination, but was more generally "White asks a question, Spong talks for a long time on other issues"), . . .


Also played a bit of my cross-examination of Bryson in our debate.


. . . this was the third cross-ex period . . .


During the cross-examination, as is so often the case, the wheels fell off my opponent's wagon. I was pressing him on his utterly untenable reading of Romans 1 and finally, he had to give in.


Here is a clip from the cross-examination portion of my debate with John Sanders at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando a few years ago.


Why Cross Examination is Vital. He [Fr. Peter Stravinskas] taught at two well respected universities. Two earned doctorates. Numerous books authored. Editor of "The Catholic Answer." Ordained priest. The debate was on purgatory. Only a few biblical texts are relevant to the topic. 1 Corinthians 3 is the main one. Watch and listen.


More from the cross-examination of Peter Stravinskas on vital issues of apologetic import.


This is Why George Bryson Won't Debate Anymore. I have mentioned that last year we attempted to arrange a debate in Utah with George Bryson on Calvinism. He refused to allow for cross-examination in the debate. I think this video explains why. I have honestly never heard anyone spin in tighter circles in the face of basic contextual questioning than in this instance.

I have no interest whatsoever in playing to a crowd or grandstanding. That may be what White thinks is important in a debate. My only concern is with truth and falsity and ideas, and how they can be backed up with reason and fact and history. And that has no relation whatsoever to how many sycophant, fawning fans (on either side) may be out in the audience snickering, making faces, or making rude fools of themselves.

I'm so confident that White can't defend his point of view on this subject that I am happy to give him 90 minutes to cross-examine me. I give him a handicap (the last time I asked I gave him all night long, but he says I am a lot more stupid now than I was in 2000, so I give him only an extra half-hour).

Whether a debate is live or written, there is still confrontation. I happen to think written debate is far, FAR more substantive and educational. I've written at length about why I believe this:

Oral vs. Written Apologetic Debates: Which Format is More Substantive?

What is it With Anti-Catholics & Written Debate? (The Sad Case of Eric Svendsen as a Typical Example)

Interacting With Sophists: Reflections on "Debates" With Anti-Catholic Polemicists
The fact remains that I have many reasons why I refuse to do such live oral debates. One was touched upon above. Another is that it gives anti-Catholics more credibility than they deserve. The latter is exactly the same reasoning that R.C. Sproul gives (from the opposite theological perspective) for why he doesn't debate Catholics (as reported on White's own website: I used to have the quote somewhere, and I could run it down if someone doubts this).

Bishop White has posted at least four transcripts from live chat debates. If he is so opposed to the format, why does he do that? Well, obviously because he thinks he prevailed and made the Catholic(s) look stupid and clueless. So he is in favor of it as long as it helps him look good. But he knows he wouldn't look good debating the definition of Christian with me because we already covered that subject in 1995 and he high-tailed it for the hills after I absolutely annihilated his hopelessly muddled, self-contradictory reasoning in my own "cross-examination" period."

Another funny and curious thing to note is that, if White is so opposed to these live chat debates on principle, then why did he happily agree to host one in his own chat room on 29 December 2000: between a then-associate of his and myself?

Not only that; when this other apologist faltered and literally threw in the towel (he wasn't even able to complete the format that we agreed on), White himself jumped in to rescue the sinking ship and did a go-around with me (which is preserved on my blog -- not his, as usual; our one and only time doing it), before, alas, computer problems (man, the timing of these mishaps!) abruptly ended our little discussion just as it was becoming quite interesting and fun. I hung around for a good 90 minutes afterwards, but White could never figure out how to get back on. 'Tis a pity. Yet now he won't do it at all? He was doing oral debates in 2000 just as he does now. But we heard not one peep of protest that this was an improper form of debate.

David T. King: a published author, was in the chat room for hours when I was there in the past week. All he did was mock me and call me a liar (precisely like the last time I was there six years ago). But he was there. White frequents his own chat room, as I was told by other participants, who regretted he wasn't there to chat with me (he did show up for five minutes to make his standard, ultra-cliched, almost scripted potshots against me, which I have documented also). So anti-Catholics still do this. They just don't want to do it with an experienced Catholic apologist, who has participated in more written debates (over 350) than any other apologist (probably more than the next ten Catholic apologists who have done debates put together) and have it recorded for posterity.

Again, if White is so opposed to such debates, why does he continue to host the "apologetics" channel where "debates" are specifically encouraged? Heaven forbid, though, that we ever get a person in there whom he knows could make mincemeat of worthless anti-Catholic arguments! We mustn't have that! That's why I was banned from both rooms; not just the "in-house" one.

James White challenged me to an oral debate in 1995, again in 2001, and several other times. Yet lately he wants to make out that I am so ignorant that no one whatsoever should take me at all seriously. This is standard anti-Catholic boilerplate and "talking points" towards me now: used by Svendsen, King, Turk, White, et al. Whatever one does, the others soon join in, like a bunch of geese or lost sheep.

It's a sort of herd mentality. They figure that if enough folks say the same thing over and over, then it will be believed. And so it has been. This is how propaganda and disinformation works. But if White truly thought that about me all along, then why in the world would he want to debate me? I've often noted this: who wants to seek out the stupidest, most incompetent, ignorant people on the other side to publicly debate? So he doesn't even believe his own "talking points" falsehoods.

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