Tuesday, June 12, 2007

James White: Former President of the Evangelical Theological Society (Francis Beckwith) Was a Clueless Imbecile Regarding Evangelical Theology (!!!)

James White's alma mater: Columbia Evangelical Seminary, Buckley, Washington, where he received his "doctorate". This is it: the entire "campus"

One can't help but get a huge chuckle over such "arguments." What, for example, does it say about the profound biblical and theological acumen of the members of the ETS (over 4,000 in number), to have voted in (in November 2005) as President a guy (one who recently returned to the Catholic Church) who, according to Bishop White, was utterly ignorant of Protestant and "Reformation" theology? Yet this is the "argument" that White has been making lately [insert laugh track here].

Recently, I documented this overwhelming tendency of anti-Catholic apologists to engage in personal attack against Catholics (and above all, Catholic converts from Protestantism), in highlighting the insults made by Steve Hays against Scott Hahn. White (whose more or less continual folly in relation to Catholics and Catholicism makes it very difficult for me -- as an apologist -- to ignore him, as I have often done in the past) now provides another classic textbook example.

And he does so with his usual hypocrisy and blindness to his own faults, while scathingly criticizing the very same ones in others. So, for example, today on his blog, he criticizes Jehovah's Witness apologist Greg Stafford (with a potshot against yours truly thrown in for good measure):
Over the past two months folks have sent me notes indicating that Stafford was working on a reply. Given how long it was taking, I predicted, to those same folks, a lengthy tome filled with all sorts of irrelevant material (aka, dust and smoke) all designed to "solidify the base" in essence, but not to provide much in the way of substantive interaction. And glancing over what has been posted, I must say my predictions were spot-on.

I confess, replying to Stafford is becoming as unpleasant as dealing with anything said by Dave Armstrong. You know that no matter what you say, or how you say it, your words will be subject to interminable spinning and death by a thousand qualifications. The "cheap shot" quotient is high indeed, and every opportunity to impugn my intentions and character is taken in full.

Just for the sake of background information, Dr. Francis Beckwith (a philosopher by profession) also has had considerable formal theological training. I cite his Wikipedia entry:
. . . Beckwith is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A. in Philosophy), Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim (MA in apologetics), Fordham University (Ph.D. and M.A. in philosophy) and the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis (Master of Juridical Studies).
Beckwith began his training as an academic Christian apologist in the early 1980s as he commenced graduate studies in apologetics at the Simon Greenleaf School of Law (later called Simon Greenleaf University and now merged with Trinity International University [Deerfield, Illinois], and operates under that name as its southern California campus). There he studied under noted Evangelicals such as John Warwick Montgomery and Charles Manske. He was also influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer.
. . . His doctoral studies in philosophy at Fordham University continued the pursuit of apologetic issues, though at Fordham his philosophical horizons were expanded by his study of Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and contemporary philosophy of science and his exposure to Reformed philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. His Ph.D. dissertation comprised an analysis of the sceptical argument of the Scottish empiricist philosopher David Hume concerning miracles. Part of his criticism of Hume's position (chapter 5) involved a discussion of legal reasoning, using technical legal criteria of proof, testimony, documentary evidences and so on in examining the question of how to assess evidence for miracles.
All this, yet Bishop White, a man who has a bogus "doctorate" from a storefront, non-accredited diploma mill, has the gall to criticize the theological knowledge of Dr. Beckwith, simply because he returned to the Catholic Church, and therefore (in his mentality), simply must have been ignorant of true evangelical (read, Calvinist) theology.

In a series of articles on his blog (one / two / three / four), he has launched one salvo after another at Dr. Beckwith's knowledge and education and ability to correctly assess Protestant theology. Sure, he has made some real arguments in between the ubiquitous insults, but then, I would ask, "if he has actual arguments, then why the need to take so many personal, ad hominem shots?"

One might reply that I, too, have taken shots at "Dr." White by bringing up the issue of his "doctorate" degree. But that is an objective matter that is able to be verified by altogether objective criteria. The place where he got the degree is not an accredited educational institution. Furthermore, if one looks into (as I have) the nature of his "dissertation" one discovers that it makes a mockery out of those who have worked their tails off obtaining a real doctorate, by means of a real dissertation. What White did (I discovered, to my amazement) was no different than what I've done for twenty-five years, as a lay apologist, both Protestant and Catholic. If his "doctorate" is legitimate then I should go around calling myself "Dr." too. But since it is not, I don't.

"Dr." White Ad Hominem Flurry Contra Dr. Beckwith #1:

[all line breaks indicate breaks in the text; these are excerpts; all bolded emphases added]

I'm sure Rome's apologists have noted the lack of such an enthusiastic endorsement of their central authority claims as well, and may be hanging back, waiting to see if Beckwith will be just another of the legion of "sorta-Catholic" scholars that currently fill their educational institutions.

. . . one is left wondering just how much study went into this decision on Dr. Beckwith's part. He continually speaks of being "amazed" at reading patristic sources. This is a common element of what you hear from converts to Catholicism. But, you never get much in the way of critical thought as to what is so amazing about what they have read.

But that is where the wheels fall off, for any serious student of history who is not a dogged apologist for modern Rome knows the concept of purgatory took centuries to develop and did not in fact arrive at its modern form until the fifteenth century; . . .

We are also left wondering at what he means by "Real Presence". Does he recognize the difference between the spiritual presence of Christ with His people and the later scholastic development of transubstantiation, or has he bought into the same kind of historical anachronism that plagues almost all of modern Roman Catholic apologetics writings?

I wonder if Beckwith read Salmon's Infallibility of the Church during his studies? Whitaker? Goode? I'd be quite interested in seeing his reading list for "the other side," for surely he did, in fact, do that kind of study, did he not?

Ironically, one book he does mention, is that by Geisler and MacKenzie. . . . We shouldn't be too hard on Norm and Ralph: both Geisler and Beckwith graduated from Jesuit schools to begin with, and Geisler ran his book by Jimmy Akin for editing purposes, so there is little reason for feigning too much shock here.

"Dr." White Ad Hominem Flurry Contra Dr. Beckwith #2:

But I wonder what kind of "charitable" reading of Rome's teachings today allow Beckwith to insist he is still an "evangelical"?

It is hard for me to believe Beckwith was unaware of the fact that many would see his act as one of apostasy.

I truly wonder: given his background and education, was it a matter of assimilating this after a knowing, purposeful rejection of Rome, or did such a break with Rome's fundamental views of man and grace and knowledge ever actually take place at all? Is Beckwith a revert, or a life-long Catholic who took a hiatus in post-evangelicalism for a while?

Surely I realize that a large portion of post-evangelicalism would stutter at such a question, in any context, and sadly, most would only give an answer that boils down to taste, or their own traditions, not a knowing conviction based upon serious consideration of the facts. That is why post-evangelicalism is such a wonderfully easy field for the gleaning of Catholic converts...and Mormon converts, Jehovah's Witness converts, even Muslim converts. Given the truth of the statement, "What you win them with is what you win them too," the bubble-gum level gospel found in so many venues today is hardly going to ground believers so that they will not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

Beckwith has bought into the "Rome is the church of the councils" argument that is simply not tenable in any meaningful manner. . . . I do not expect Roman Catholic reporters to ask tough questions, but I wonder if Beckwith is even aware of these issues? I have seen little evidence that he is.

"Dr." White Ad Hominem Flurry Contra Dr. Beckwith #3:

Yes, I'm sure Geisler's work has functioned that way for more than one person, as I warned when it first came out long ago. That's what happens when your primary author is Jesuit trained, and you run it by Jimmy Akin for editorial suggestions and corrections. Nothing shocking here, to be sure. In this long, in-depth and intensive study of patristic sources, Beckwith concludes, "Then when I read the Fathers, those closest to the Apostles, the Reformation doctrine was just not there." Really? Maybe it was next to the discussion of purgatory, indulgences, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, Papal infallibility, the immaculate conception of Mary, and the bodily assumption of Mary, which are all not to be found in any reading of the early writings of the Christian faith?

. . . they are only demonstrating that they, like Beckwith, have not done their homework on Rome's teachings.

Clearly, Beckwith is suffering from "recent conversion memory trauma syndrome," a very common ailment I have discovered. Either that, or he never read Calvin or Luther's polemic works from the time of the Reformation anyway (a very strong possibility as well).

. . . we recognize the whole spectrum of Roman teachings, not just the nuanced, modernized, Hahnitized ones.

. . . if your understanding of the biblical text turns the authors upon themselves, well, you've obviously gone astray.

"Dr." White Ad Hominem Flurry Contra Dr. Beckwith #4:

Of course, such an article cannot provide an exhaustive accounting, but so far we have seen indications that the foundations of this move were rather hastily constructed, or, more accurately, the actual foundations went back a long way (i.e., his non-Catholic standing had long been less than informed), and this reversion seems to have more to do with that long-standing consistency of theological and philosophical viewpoint than it does a brief four-month run through selected works of certain early Christian writers. What has become quite clear is that Dr. Beckwith was representative of a very large portion of what was once called evangelicalism: he was a non-Catholic who did not know why he was a non-Catholic, though, in his case, he was a former Catholic as well. His confusion in answering the question "Why are you not a Catholic" reveals a major problem with many "evangelical leaders" today who likewise can only give an answer to that question that is surface level at best.

Again, any "Protestant" leader . . .

[White is now mocking even the title of "Protestant" applied to Dr. Beckwith prior to his reversion to the Catholic Church]

How could anyone who has read even a smattering of Calvin or Luther or any of the relevant Reformation literature think that saying "none of these causes is the work of the individual Christian" is even slightly relevant? Once again, no one was arguing the necessity of grace. They were arguing the sufficiency of grace. As far as numbers go, Rome has won, since, obviously, the majority of "Protestants," in ignorance, agree with Rome on the matter.

I wonder why Beckwith, as a scholar, chooses to focus upon "anti-Catholic fundamentalist literature" rather than serious historical and theological works reflecting a Reformed critique of Roman Catholicism? Is it because all he is familiar with is, in fact, "fundamentalist" literature of the Jack Chick variety? I would truly like to ask Beckwith if he has seriously read and studied Calvin's Institutes, and if so, when?

Sure, you can always do the Newman thing, but if you do that, why bother with history at all? Why say, "Well, I can find part of these teachings in early writers, and for the rest, I can do the acorn/tree thing ala Newman"? How is this kind of argumentation compelling?
This again makes one wonder, very strongly, just what Beckwith's views were about church history as a "non-Catholic." Comments like these do not cause us to think his was a very deep-seated study of the Reformation and the literature produced therein.

More information will probably come out, slowly, over time. But so far, I, for one, am left wondering just how "non-Catholic" this Catholic revert ever was, and I am once again forced to recognize how many post-evangelicals are non-Catholic only by tradition or taste, not by conviction.

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