Friday, August 03, 2007

James White's Continued Idiotic Opposition to Catholic Use of the Term Anti-Catholic

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Yeah, I know (I'll nip the expected protest in the bud); I used a strong word: idiotic, to describe White's position on this. There are times when a strong word like that is fully justified (another applicable description would be sheer stupidity). This is one such time. White (in this instance, as in others I have noted throughout the years) has left the field of objectivity, reason, and logic, and has entered into downright surreal territory, where logic and reasonable definitions of words are irrelevant. He is in the la-la land of emotional, subjective re-definition of terms to his own liking (sounds quite postmodernistic, doesn't it?), regardless of their etymology or current usage by scholars and apologists alike.

Here is the Merriam-Webster Online entry for idiotic and its cognate idiocy:
Main Entry: id·i·ot·ic
Pronunciation: "i-dE-'ä-tik
Variant(s): also id·i·ot·i·cal /-'ä-ti-k&l/
Function: adjective
1 : characterized by idiocy
2 : showing complete lack of thought or common sense : FOOLISH
- id·i·ot·i·cal·ly /-ti-k(&-)lE/ adverb

Main Entry: id·i·o·cy
Pronunciation: 'i-dE-&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
1 usually offensive : extreme mental retardation
2 : something notably stupid or foolish

[both #2's describe my own understanding and definition in using the word to describe White's present opinions]
Note (one must always note this, to avoid offense and misunderstanding) that I am not calling James White the person an idiot, or saying that his entire character amounts to that of an idiot. Not at all. In fact, I have been on record many times commending White's work in dealing with various cults and false belief-systems (e.g., his recent articles on Mormonism, which are excellent), and link to many of those writings of his. I don't believe that James White is a stupid person or, for that matter, a dishonest one (both descriptions, by the way, that he has often applied to me). I am saying, rather, that this particular opinion of his is idiotic. The definition fits his mentality on this question to a tee.

I've been through this routine, pointing out White's inane inconsistencies about anti-Catholic and equivalent anti- terms that he himself habitually uses, several times. I won't even bother to cite those papers yet again. Anyone interested can seek them out in the lengthy James White section of my Anti-Catholicism web page. Here are James' latest puerile rantings on this topic:
Speaking of which, I will be playing clips from the 7/31 Catholic Answers Live radio program. They are now advertising the Steve Gregg/Tim Staples "debate" (it was a radio program, not a debate) along with the "Bible Answer Man Debate with noted Anti-Catholic James White." Note that I'm an anti-Catholic, but Steve Gregg isn't. Starting to get an idea of just how malleable, and in fact, simply dishonest CA is about its use of such slurs? When your worldview and faith requires you to support godliness in sexual morality, that makes you a "homophobe," right? And if you proclaim the historic Christian faith against the later claims of Islam, you become an "Islamophobe," right? And, if you deny such man-made dogmas as Papal Infallibility or the Bodily Assumption of Mary, beliefs utterly unknown as dogmas to the early centuries of believers, you are now an "anti-Catholic" (I think they'd use "Catholiphobe" if it didn't look so downright silly).

( 8-1-07 )

Then we moved to Tuesday's Catholic Answers Live program, playing some of the commercials and commentary regarding the Steve Gregg/Tim Staples radio discussion (which they like to call a "debate"). We noted that in their commercials, and even in their live discussions, I'm "anti-Catholic" James White, but Steve Gregg is just...Steve Gregg. I wonder...if I'm an anti-Catholic (and the only meaningful use of such a phrase would be to describe someone whose entire faith is defined by its opposition to Rome), why is my next major debate with Shabir Ally? Strange.

( 8-2-07 )
Now, let's look at these statements more closely. To use White's own beloved tactics, let us "cross-examine" White's reasoning and see if it can withstand close scrutiny).

Note that I'm an anti-Catholic, but Steve Gregg isn't. Starting to get an idea of just how malleable, and in fact, simply dishonest CA is about its use of such slurs?

Now, I don't know if Steve Gregg is an anti-Catholic (one who denies that Catholic theology is truly Christian) or not. I just spent a half hour or so Googling his name (even listening to portions of online talks) to try to find some information in this regard, and came up with nothing definitive. He may or may not be. But either way, what White states above does not follow logically.

His basic fallacy lies in assuming that calling someone by a label sums up all that they are. This is untrue. I myself could be called by many labels: Christian, Catholic, Catholic apologist, anti-abortion activist, pro-lifer, political conservative, orthodox Catholic, ecumenical Catholic, evangelical Catholic, Scottish-American, midwesterner, Michigander, Detroiter, nature lover, amateur musician, former Protestant, baby boomer, athlete, history lover, amateur theologian, family man, married man, brother, Romantic (i.e., in the art, literature, and musical sense), friend, son, C.S. Lewis aficionado, uncle, writer, author, etc. I've even been falsely called anti-Lutheran and anti-Protestant. Do any of these sum up all that is Dave Armstrong? Of course not. Nor does anti-Catholic necessarily imply that it is all that a man is.

That is White's fallacy and illogical thinking, bred by pure emotion. Many times, have I referred to him as an anti-Catholic Reformed apologist or anti-Catholic Baptist apologist, or simply as a Baptist apologist. When the anti-Catholic part is thrown in, it is obviously a qualifier or further descriptive term, showing that he is a particular sort of Baptist apologist (as not all Baptists, let alone apologists, are anti-Catholic). This is one of the several things in this regard that White seems not to understand, though it has, no doubt, been explained to him dozens of times by now (several times by yours truly alone).

All this being the case, it is not necessary at all for Catholic Answers or anyone else to describe a person as an anti-Catholic (if indeed he is). Nor is it, by the same token, "dishonest" to use the term for one person and not another (even if the second person actually is one). And the reason for this is that there are no absolute requirements in describing people, along with the fact that it is not summing up all that they are or that they believe in the first place.

Moreover, the term was obviously applied to James White not only because he obviously fits into the category, but because he is known as perhaps the most zealous and influential Protestant apologist doing anti-Catholic analysis today. Therefore, he is sensibly referred to as an anti-Catholic. In Steve Gregg's case, on the other hand, if he is an anti-Catholic, it is certainly not obvious, as shown by the difficulty of my Google search to find out whether he is or not. A similar search for White's opinions on the matter would easily turn up hundreds of proofs.

Therefore, it is not improper at all for Catholic Answers not to use the description anti-Catholic for Steve Gregg in noting a debate. Nor does this prove that the term is "malleable" nor that the use by Catholic Answers is a "slur" or "dishonest". None of this follows at all, and flows simply from White's basic fallacies in understanding how the word is used and applied and the factors that determine the same.
When your worldview and faith requires you to support godliness in sexual morality, that makes you a "homophobe," right?

This is a classic case of a non sequitur, or red herring. It has no bearing on or relevance to the question at hand. The analogy doesn't hold. But White's readers apparently do not take note when he is illogical in this way, and guilty of sophistry, so he keeps doing it. Of course, the general public has no idea how people are reacting to White, judging by his own blog alone, because he allows no comments.

Now, let's look at how illogical White is being in this instance. He cites the secular offense at Christian opposition to homosexuality as automatically equating with a supposed fear (the literal meaning of phobia) or hatred of homosexuals. He is quite right that this does not follow at all. One can simply oppose the sexual morality and practice of homosexuals without either fearing or hating them as people. But we are not (at least I'm not) claiming that White hates or fears Catholics; only that he denies that the Catholic system of theology is truly classified as Christian. That's all anti-Catholic means. It is a doctrinal definition, not an emotional or personal one. I've explained this a hundred times if I've explained it once, and have backed it up from sociological and historiographical academic usage as well.

It's true that anti-Catholic can mean movements of hatred and political and physical opposition to catholicism, such as the Know-Nothings and Ku Klux Klan, etc. But it doesn't have to mean that, and in Catholic apologetic usage, it rarely means such a thing. So we have a case where a word can have multiple accepted meanings or definitions, and White refuses to recognize one of them, preferring to pretend that the intended definition from a class of "users" is something that it clearly is not. He's simply thinking illogically and irrationally (well, again, idiotically). As an educated man (Masters degree from Fuller Seminary), he ought to know far better than this.

To offer an analogy, I myself can be accurately called an anti-abortionist. That is, I oppose abortion as immoral and evil. It's a literally correct description (though I prefer pro-lifer). Clearly, this word doesn't contain all that I am, or believe. Yet this was one of White's fallacies noted above, with regard to anti-Catholic. Nor does it imply that I hate or fear those who favor abortion. I don't at all. If anything, I pity them and fear for their spiritual well-being and eternal souls, but I do not hate them.

This is how we apply anti-Catholic to White. He opposes the Catholic Church. And he does so to the extent of reading it out of Christianity altogether. But it doesn't follow that he hates the Church or individual Catholics, nor that all his work is devoted to opposing it and to nothing else.
And it is ridiculous for him to imply that by using this word of him, anyone is necessarily insinuating those things that don't follow at all. Some folks, of course, don't make necessary distinctions, and may go on to accuse White of these other things. And, in fact, White may have those feelings, too (who knows; we are not to judge his heart). But simply using the word anti-Catholic does not imply any of those non-theological factors.
And if you proclaim the historic Christian faith against the later claims of Islam, you become an "Islamophobe," right?

The same fallacy again, that applied to the homosexuality example . . . it's a false analogy from the get-go.
. . . (I think they'd use "Catholiphobe" if it didn't look so downright silly).

Hardly, because that is not the thought that is meant or intended in the first place.

. . .
And, if you deny such man-made dogmas as Papal Infallibility or the Bodily Assumption of Mary, beliefs utterly unknown as dogmas to the early centuries of believers, you are now an "anti-Catholic"

Not at all. That makes you a Protestant, not an anti-Catholic (Protestant). I used to be in such a category myself, but I was never an anti-Catholic. One must deny that Catholicism is Christian to be described as an anti-Catholic. So now White sets up ludicrous straw men to shoot down, thus further proving that he is completely out to sea even in understanding how his opponents define fundamental terms. Needless to say, that betrays atrociously deficient skills in dialogue and debate, as Rule Number One in all constructive, sensible, intelligent debate and dialogue is to correctly understand that which one opposes, so as to avoid altogether this very same mistake, so evident above, of creating straw men that in fact, one's opponent does not himself believe. That only makes the one making the criticism look, well, idiotic . . .
. . . the only meaningful use of such a phrase would be to describe someone whose entire faith is defined by its opposition to Rome

It's absolutely amazing how plain stupid this sort of analysis is! First of all, White doesn't determine the "only meaningful use" of any term or word. That is determined by actual widespread usage (and some would say, by the dictionary, which in turn more or less reflects actual use among a populace). That said, White has this notion that the phrase anti-Catholic must be used in the way he demands that it be used. Well, reality (and the linguistic field) simply doesn't work that way, I'm sad to inform venerable Bishop White.

Who ever claimed that anti-Catholicism must characterize all that a person believes, or (in White's term) their "entire faith"? No one ever claimed this, and it is stupid for White to pretend that this is the only way it can be used. It just ain't so! Further argument would be superfluous, and would make anyone attempting it look as silly as White already does, because his argument is so self-evidently fallacious and illogical and dead-wrong.

Following this shoddy, dumb, wholly erroneous premise that he accepts, we see how White builds upon his foundation of sand, leading to further ridiculous supposed "conclusions" about the imaginary reasoning of his opponents:
I wonder...if I'm an anti-Catholic . . . why is my next major debate with Shabir Ally? Strange.

One can only shake their head . . . the answer is remarkably difficult!: one can believe more than one thing at the same time!!!!!! Man, that was tough to comprehend, wasn't it? Bishop James White can actually be an anti-Catholic (where he is wrong) and can oppose Islamic apologists (where he is right and does very good work). One and the same person can be both right on Topic X and wrong on Topic Y!!! He can wrongly be anti-Catholic and rightly be anti-Islam (as I am myself; i.e., in the analogous theological sense; I critiqued Ally in one of my papers, too). Isn't that an incredible realization? I bet most of you readers had never thought such a thing was possible before, huh? Excuse my sarcasm, but c'mon . . . how much silliness can one take? I don't know how to deal with such inane foolishness without using a bit of sarcasm and humor. I really don't . . .

The saddest thing is that if White reads this at all, he'll (as all my past experience with him dictates) simply mock it and miss the entire point again (as he has scores of times with me) and go on his merry way blithely committing the same fallacies over and over and over. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't write papers such as this, exposing such errors, because the main reason to do so is for my readers to avoid committing the same mistakes. That's why I do what I do.

If White is actually convinced one of these days and retracts his numerous errors and false beliefs, praise God. But I don't expect that to likely happen (anything is possible, of course). If it does, it would be a joyful occasion and "extra bonus" if you will. In the meantime, as an apologist, I seek to expose false thinking and ideas and illogical thought, so that my readers won't fall into the same pattern, and (hopefully) so that even some of White's readers and followers can see that their hero is not always right about everything, and is not infrequently guilty of downright lousy, even idiotic thinking (that they ought not imitate).

* * * * *

See White's "response" to the above original post: which proceeded exactly as I predicted. Some highlights of this hyper-ridiculous piece:

I'm supposedly "melting down" again.

I'm not really ecumenical.

I supposedly get "hurt" by the omnipresent anti-Catholic insults and ad hominem tactics.

I don't do serious research or argumentation.

I allegedly "arbitrarily" define anti-Catholic (never mind that several prominent Protestant sociologists and historians -- e.g., James Davison Hunter -- use it the same way, and that I have noted and documented this till I am blue in the face). Meanwhile, he barges right ahead making the truly arbitrary definition of the word himself, without realizing the manifest hypocritical irony and how foolish this makes him look.

I supposedly wrote my post in "anger" (amusement and amazement most accurately characterize my feeling when I wrote it; one doesn't get angry at a person they pity).

White writes: "Now, I am a Protestant apologist." Of course he is. Who ever denied this? I reiterated it in the current paper. He sez: "I am a Reformed Baptist apologist." Big wow! I said that too. What does it have to do with the topic? The more I deal with White, it becomes clear that he really doesn't comprehend viewpoints other than his own (obviously, he doesn't want to; he chooses not do do so, because he may be many things but he is not dumb), and so he feels it necessary to caricature, misrepresent, and dismiss them.

He sez he does lots of different stuff. I know. That's why I have commended him for those things and link to his works. Again, nothing new. Nothing I need to know. I mentioned it in the post. But he is a foolish hypocrite since he makes this point, as if it is some momentous discovery, whereas I am already quite familiar with his other work, and at the same time he refuses to recognize a single good thing that I have ever done (i.e., he refuses to apply the principle he more or less demands for himself, to other people in the same fashion; to apply the Golden Rule, in other words). Mr. Double Standard, as always. He apparently thinks all I do is fight against anti-Catholics, when it is only a relatively small portion of my overall apologetic work.

"Anyone who would insinuate that my life, my ministry, my writing, my entire ministry, is somehow defined by a negative stance toward a particular religion, or by Roman Catholicism in particular, is engaging in clear and gross falsehood."

I agree! That's why I made this clear in the paper, and why I often call him an "anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist", and indeed, a Bishop, because he called himself that, and I like to recognize ecclesiastical offices. This is the idiotic understanding that I wrote about: White somehow has this notion in his head that mere use of the term "anti-Catholic" -- by its very nature -- sums up a person's entire perspective and work.

Of course, if he would actually interact with the reasoning I gave, maybe we could get somewhere and arrive at a mutually-agreeable understanding. But that would never do. It would be too sensible and normal. I asked, for instance, in one of our numerous "exchanges" on this issue, what term we Catholics should use to differentiate Protestants who think we are Christians from those who think we are not. I was willing to use a term that was agreeable to both parties. But I never received any suggestions. Instead we are down at the schoolyard level of making fun of a photo where my wife Judy and I liked the background of bare trees for a portrait, and shooting down straw men and projecting nonexistent attitudes and motivations such as "melting down" and "anger" and deliberate dishonesty and so forth.

That is James White's standard methodology. If it weren't for the fact that he is adversely affecting people, I certainly wouldn't spend my valuable time dealing with him at all. I would have been through with him for good after our first "debate" in 1995, when he ran without answering the necessary hard questions I asked, in order to critique his absurd position on Catholicism. But because he has some influence on people who read his stuff about Catholicism, with his falsehoods, it is my duty as an apologist to make some reply occasionally, no matter how distasteful (plain boring at that) and insulting to the intelligence I personally consider his anti-Catholic work (not all his work) to be.

* * * * *

White wrote in his "reply":

[J]ust as I refer to Roman Catholic apologists, Mormon apologists, Islamic apologists, etc., the honest person will refer to me as a Reformed Baptist apologist. As soon as you hear a person, or group, doing the "let's define our critics by our own theology" routine, you need to consider that they may well be using such language not to aid in understanding, but to diminish it through poisoning the well, prejudicing the thinking of especially their own supporters and followers. That is what Catholic Answers is up to. That is what Dave Armstrong is up to. And this activity says much about their motivations and the truthfulness of their teachings.

I was curious about what exactly I have called James White title-wise. I will go through my many papers about White and take account of how I referred to him the very first time in each paper (i.e., the first time I used any description besides just "James White"):
Baptist apologist and anti-Catholic champion 1

anti-Catholic Baptist apologist 4

Reformed Baptist 4

Reformed Baptist apologist 1

anti-Catholic luminary 1

Bishop White 5

Baptist anti-Catholic luminary 1

Bishop James White 3

Christian apologist (Reformed Baptist) 1

anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist apologist 4

Reformed apologist 1

Baptist anti-Catholic apologist 1

Professional anti-Catholic 1

Baptist apologist 1

Baptist bishop 1
So we see that of the fifteen different ways I have referred to Mr. White in my papers, anti-Catholic was present in the titles a minority of the time (7), and indeed, five of those seven times it was accompanied by a further description (Baptist - 4 / Reformed Baptist - 1), meaning that I referred to him as an anti-Catholic without the notice that he was also a Baptist only two times out of fifteen different titles.

This hardly complies with White's complaints in the paragraph immediately above, where I am portrayed as dishonest and with unsavory motivations for supposedly doing what I clearly have not done. White says the honest thing to do is call him a Reformed Baptist apologist. Readers can see that I refer to him (out of 29 instances in many papers, and fifteen different descriptions) as follows:
Baptist 7 (6 times also in the same context as an anti-Catholic)

Reformed Baptist 10 (4 times also in the same context as an anti-Catholic)

Reformed 1
So that is 10 times out of 29 where I called him exactly what he wants to be called, seven more times simply as Baptist without the "Reformed" and once as Reformed, for a total of 18 times out of 29 instances. I also use the term apologist in 8 of 15 titles. If anti-Catholic is also present it is clearly a qualifying term of Baptist or Reformed Baptist, which remain the primary identifiers.

Therefore, White is flat-out lying about me in his paragraph above and engaging in cynical misrepresentations. I think he should ask himself (or others should ask him) why he feels a need to do this.

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