Sunday, May 06, 2007

Reply (at His Request) to James White's Aspersions Upon Dr. Francis Beckwith With Regard to the Latter's Return to the Catholic Church

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See my previous related post and the discussion underneath it for background. It seems that Bishop White was itching for some good discussion on this matter and wanting very much to defend his atrocious ethics of announcing someone's conversion before the party in question wanted to announce it. He could have done so here, or he could have on Jimmy Akin's blog, in a discussion that had more than 150 comments.

But that would entail dealing with experienced Catholic apologists: both quite familiar with his methods, and others with such experience, too, such as Jonathan Prejean. That won't do. For that matter, White could have also replied to Dr. Beckwith himself underneath his own first post on his decision (where there are currently 49 comments). But White chose to respond instead to 22-year-old Kacy Sandidge, a brand-new convert herself, who wrote a post about White's annoying behavior in this matter because Dr. Beckwith happens to attend her own parish.

This is where White chose to take his bold stand, in defense of his own outrageous behavior (rather than with Catholic apologists or Dr. Beckwith, who is quite capable of handling James White, I'm sure, though if he wanted to avoid him, I would understand perfectly). He practically begged for someone to give him a reply. I was happy to take up the challenge, and so I posted in the comboxes there, the following response. White's words in this particular combox will be in green, and his words from his original blast against Dr. Beckwith in blue.

* * * * *

May I ask, please, that you take the time to show me where, in my article, I in any way, shape, or form, "slandered" Dr. Beckwith?

I'm more than happy to do so.

May I likewise ask you to please explain to me how you think someone such as myself, committed whole-heartedly to the gospel of the grace of God, should respond to Dr. Beckwith's actions?

By figuring out that Catholics are also fully committed to sola gratia. The assumption that they are not is both a rank insult and a parading of your ignorance and almost cult-like exclusivist mentality.

You exclude, either directly and blatantly, or in a runaround manner, all non-Calvinists from possession in the gospel of grace; you act as if Calvinists have a lock on that characteristic and belief. But by your own foolish criteria, even St. Augustine (whom you laud repeatedly in your writings) and Martin Luther cannot make it as bona fide Christians (as I proved years ago in a paper).

Is there anything I have said in response to this that is in any way, shape, or form, inconsistent with what I have said in writing, in preaching, and in debate, since I first engaged Gerry Matatics in debate in Long Beach in August of 1990?

Nope. You're perfectly consistent: consistently dead-wrong on issues related to Catholicism.

*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***


I never once slandered the man.

You certainly did, as you eventually do virtually all Catholics you come in contact with: except for those who are willing to debate you orally.

When I read the commentary here (I note no one has said word one about the title) I asked some simple questions. I am accustomed to folks reading my words in the worst possible light. Nothing new about that. But I was simply asking for some rational, reasonable responses.

Keep reading.

I have no intention of spending much more time here:

Yeah, I figured you would depart before any real interaction could take place, as you always do.

I have asked a simple question that could be answered very easily from the text of the article I posted.

Here goes (from here on I cite White's original article). My reply as to how I think White has slandered Dr. Beckwith:

I could not help [after reading some of Dr. Beckwith's comments] but think for a moment of how many have splashed their way across the Tiber due to the combination of 1) an out-of-balance view of philosophy's authority in comparison with that of divine revelation, and 2) the influence of direct and regular cooperation in moral/cultural conflicts with members of the Roman communion (i.e., pro-life, pro-family groups).

Already the implication is that Dr. Beckwith converted because of shabby reasoning and associations of things that have no direct bearing on comparative theology. This is demeaning and condescending. It's very subtle, but knowing very well how White reasons in these matters, from much firsthand experience, I think I know exactly what he is driving at here.

First of all, readers must realize that when James white wrote this, Dr. Beckwith had not issued any explanation of his return to the Church. So it is highly presumptuous right off the bat. White feels like he must cast aspersions on the intellect, motives, and even philosophical acumen of Dr. Beckwith (his own academic field, about which White knows next to nothing) before even offering him the courtesy of hearing his side of the story.

The potshot about "out-of-balance view of philosophy's authority in comparison with that of divine revelation" clearly flows from White's extreme presuppositionalism. It's a shot at the more Thomistic, evidentialist school of thought and how it views the relationship between faith and reason. But I agree that in and of itself it is not so much a personal attack as it is a difference in apologetic approach.

The second strain of thought above is more nefarious in its implications. This is the belittling approach to many Catholic converts taken by anti-Catholics like White. They assume that because some Protestants have some "warm fuzzy" experiences with Catholic pro-lifers, that this can fully explain their conversion, as if that was all there is to it. This demeans the convert and what he or she has gone through in order to get to the place where they would make such a momentous decision. It is a poor attempt at the simplistic explanation of a very complex process indeed (for any thoughtful convert I have ever met).

Here again, I am quite familiar with how White reasons, because he tried the same exact tack with me, in our first exchange in 1995. I was indeed influenced by the pro-life movement to a large extent, to pursue study about Catholicism. But it was by no means the total explanation of my conversion. Yet White was presumptuous enough to write about my conversion in his letter (that has been public as part of our posted "snail mail" debate for many years now, with his permission):
Your story in Surprised by Truth is almost predictable, Dave, no offense intended. Your rejection of Roman theology was not based upon a knowledge of why, and hence was ripe for refutation. You admit you rejected the tenets of the Reformation when you say, "I had always rejected Luther's notions of absolute predestination and the total depravity of mankind." And your involvement in Operation Rescue simply gave you the opportunity of seeing that Roman Catholics can be real nice folks who really believe in the teachings of the Church in Rome. And the feeling of "brotherhood" created by standing against a common evil, joined with the simple fact that you were not truly a Protestant to begin with, is reason enough to explain your swimming the Tiber.

(6 April 1995)
I love the touch of denying that I was ever a Protestant (because I wasn't a Calvinist). I had a field day with that in my 36-page reply that White has now ignored for 12 years. This is clearly the tack that White is insinuating with regard to Dr. Beckwith. I can spot it in a second because of my own experience with White.

I have chronicled my own journey in struggling with cultural cooperation in reference to the matter of the gospel in the past, and will not repeat it here.

Yeah, I know. White actually participated in abortion rescues (as I did), but one day there was to be a prayer with Catholics. White decided that he couldn't do that, so, rather than pray with a Catholic while he was saving babies, so that they could live, he opted out of Operation Rescue.

Suffice it to say that there have been many who, upon forging friendships based upon common moral stands (against abortion, against homosexuality, etc.), have found their commitment to the centrality of justification by faith, or sola scriptura, sliding down the list of "most important life-defining beliefs."

The insinuation is, again, that this explains Dr. Beckwith's move (else why bring it up at all?). But since White had not yet (at the time of this writing) seen Dr. Beckwith's own reasonings (save for some "hints" here and there), it is, in my mind, tantamount to a personal insult (though that point might be arguable), since it is presumptuous and assumes that Dr. Beckwith has no good theological or philosophical reason for his move other than "feel-good" cooperation with others (Catholics) who believe in traditional Christian morality.

It also presumes that his commitment to theological tenets declines in inverse proportion with his ecumenical efforts, which is an insult, especially towards such a scholar as Dr. Beckwith. But how could White know such a thing?

White makes it a general comment rather than a personal one, so he will have an out if confronted and called on this shabby treatment, as I am doing presently, but it is clear what he is implying.

In fact, in Dr. Beckwith's first public statement, he proves that this aspect of White's pseudo-analysis is dead wrong:
I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the church’s historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries.
As we see, in Dr. Beckwith's view, it was not so much a wholesale rejection of his previous soteriology, as it was an expansion to include the historical perspective (much as with many of us converts: I regarded my own conversion as very much a development of my previous beliefs: far more than an outright "rejection").

In any case, I received information today that Dr. Beckwith has, in fact, returned to the Roman Catholic communion (I saw "returned" only because it appears, from his biographical information, that he was raised in the Roman communion). Now, I have searched the web, including Dr. Beckwith's websites/blogs, and have not found any confirmation of this information.

This is not a personal attack, but it is highly unethical and uncharitable behavior on White's part. He knew full well that making this public before Dr. Beckwith wished to do so, would cause problems and put Dr. Beckwith on the defensive and in a very uncomfortable spot. This was a cheap attempt to manipulate a very delicate situation (Dr. Beckwith's first post made it clear that he was proceeding slowly and not wishing to cause confusion of hurt feelings, as much as possible in such a situation).

White overlooked all that and decided to "out" Dr. Beckwith. I find this to be abominable ethics. It has nothing to do with even what someone converted to. It is a general ethical precept that one shouldn't interfere with a complex, painful personal decision such as this.

However, I have now received multiple, independent attestation to this fact. I would imagine we will, in time, be provided a fairly full apologia of his decision. At that time it would be highly appropriate to once again provide a biblical response.

This assumes that White's own anti-Catholic approach is the only "biblical" approach to such matters, which is an insult.

White then implies that a Catholic could not subscribe to a statement of faith containing the language: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs."

This is simply ludicrous, and requires no reply. If White claims to know Catholic teaching so well, he would know this, so we must conclude that he is either ignorant of Catholic teaching on the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, or else he is aware and is deliberately misrepresenting it. In White's case, it is usually ignorance (as I know full well in my dealings with him through the years).

Now that just such a high-profile conversion has taken place, prepare yourself for the flood of substance-less "Come Home to Rome" articles. Let me make a prediction: as is so often the case, the very act of conversion, not the reasons for so doing, will be the primary focus.

Well, this is utterly fascinating, in light of the fact that White chose to write about Dr. Beckwith's decision even before Beckwith himself wished to publicly announce it and give any "reasons" for it. Having done that, he boldly predicts that others will also make "theology-free" analyses like his own. Who can fail to see the folly and irony in this approach?

I have already announced that I would be more than happy to engage in theological discussion once there is more on the table. It is hardly fair to expect someone newly-returned to the Church to have exhaustive answers to everything that an experienced anti-Catholic apologist might throw at him. I think this is a place where an experienced Catholic apologist might be of some use. I'm not implying at all that Dr. Beckwith couldn't take care of himself in such a dispute, but it is probably not foremost on his mind at the moment.

But White has already shown that he will likely ignore any analysis of mine. This has been his constant modus operandi. He described me yesterday in a post as a "moonbat" and a "stalker". The former he defines as "particularly descriptive of wackos in general, unhinged folks who have no self-control and are utterly controlled by their angry emotions." But of course none of that is a personal attack. We know that because White has made it clear many times, that he does not engage in personal attack.

Rome's modern apologists have learned that it is never to their advantage to give air to the replies offered by the most careful of their critics.

See, White is bringing us apologists into the fracas, whether we want to get involved or not. And so here I am. But it is almost certain that he won't reply to any of this. Mark my words. And he won't see how utterly hypocritical he is being if he wants to claim we don't answer his arguments, while he ignores ours.

In any case, as sad as it always is to read of someone abandoning the gospel for the false pretenses of Rome, it really does not surprise me when it happens.

Again, the assumption is that to become a Catholic is the equivalent of abandoning the gospel. This is untrue, of course, and involves the false assumptions of (in the context of White's screed) sacraments being fundamentally opposed to grace, and that only Protestants (and specifically Calvinists) possess the gospel (which in turn involves an arbitrary and unbiblical definition of the gospel).

If you do not passionately love the truth, God is under no obligation to continue to allow you to possess it.

Definitely a personal attack, since it is directly implying that Dr. Beckwith does not love the truth, and that this is proven by his move to Catholicism. Love of truth is a character trait, prior to particular theological commitment.

But over time, if one is apathetic about the truth of the gospel, God may well bring judgment to bear in causing one to love a lie.

More of the same extremely condescending and insulting charges. I would have rejected this almost as vehemently when I was a Protestant. It is judging someone's hearts and motives. It's bearing false witness and slander, which is, of course, a very serious sin.

anyone who has gazed in awe at the grandeur of the finished work of Christ in the light of the eternal decree of a holy and just God, who can then "trade that in" for the endless treadmill of Rome's sacramental system, the unfinished work of the Mass, and the specter of satispassio in purgatory,

All false and unnecessary dichotomies, but I grant that this is more so sheer stupidity than a personal attack.

to trade in the reality of peace with God for the empty facade of Roman piety.

Now Dr. Beckwith cannot possibly have peace with God. How could any other human being possibly know this with certainty?

This is bone-chilling arrogance and presumption. It flows from White's anti-Catholic intellectually-suicidal views, for sure, but that makes it no more excusable or acceptable. All that shows is that his worldview leads to atrocious, abominable judgments and conclusions and personal ethics.

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