Friday, January 08, 2010

Bishop James White's Unbounded Admiration and "Respect" for My Apologetic Work (Particularly in Reply to John Calvin)

It's all in a day's work for the good bishop. In one post (apparently having nothing better to do with his time) he takes sweeping potshots at Patrick Madrid, James Akin, and yours truly (and I'm honored to be on the "list" with my two esteemed colleagues and friends).

Patrick Madrid, in one of his blog entries, linked to my recently completed comprehensive reply to Book IV of Calvin's Institutes (see top of my Calvin and Calvinism web page) as an example of a "quite able" refutation of Calvinist tenets, and that was more than enough to set King James off on one of his fabled, notorious "anti-Dave" tirades. Here is his post in its gloriously polemical entirety:

Roman Unity: If it Promotes Mother Rome, It's All Good

My first moderated, public debate was on the subject of Roman Catholicism. It took place in August of 1990. Since I have a few decades of experience now, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at one particular fact over and over again: Rome's apologists just don't seem driven to work hard in their field. Further, they clearly observe the "throw everything including the kitchen sink in defense of Rome, no matter how objectively bad it is on a scholarly level."

Illustration: today Patrick Madrid took a shot at "Calvinists" in general on his blog. For someone who has yet, to my knowledge, to engage a Calvinist on the relevant subjects (of course I would, Patrick, let's set it up!) in debate, I find his surface-level retorts somewhat amusing. But what is amazing are the three links he provides for, what he calls, "quite able" refutations of Calvinism. Two are ancient articles Jimmy Akin wrote years and years ago, neither of which provide much in the way of substance. And the third is to Dave Armstrong's series on Calvin! Now, with all due respect to ol' Dave Armstrong, he is one of the clearest examples of why past canon law prohibited laymen from engaging in public disputation in defense of Rome. Serious readers in the field realize that while Dave may stumble over a thoughtful argument once in a while, it is always to be found somewhere else. He simply does not produce original argumentation of any kind, and clearly does not understand the responses that have been offered to him over and over again. So, we find Madrid once again pulling out of mothballs surface-level materials that are nearly two decades old, and promoting Dave Armstrong as "quite able" refutations of Reformed theology. One is truly left wondering if these men really think this kind of material has real weight and meaning, or if they are just too bored to do serious work in the field. I will leave it to the reader to decide.

This has been the standard White "playbook" and talking points and spin where I am concerned, for over six years. He just keeps repeating the mantra. Witness, for example his webcast rant from 20 April 2004:

[Y]ou know, in your heart of hearts, that this fella, uh, bless his soul, has no idea what he's talking about. . . . he's clueless . . . This guy [sigh], sadly, there are people who write recommendations of his stuff! I mean, you got Scott Hahn, all these folks, which amazes me. Uh, because you [laughter] look at some of his books, and it's just like "wow! there's just no substance here." It's just rattle rattle rattle rattle, and quote John Henry Cardinal Newman and that's the end of the subject. And there's no meaningful argumentation going on at all.

(you can also listen to the complete audio file, or only the nine-minute portion directed towards me)

Just a few observations, as this sort of inanity is its own refutation. One spoils in a sense the marvelously ridiculous impression that it makes by commenting too much. First of all, did you notice the following contradiction?:

My first moderated, public debate was on the subject of Roman Catholicism. It took place in August of 1990.


Two are ancient articles Jimmy Akin wrote years and years ago, . . .

So, we find Madrid once again pulling out of mothballs surface-level materials that are nearly two decades old . . .

Did you catch that? Double standards are so common in White's rantings, that one almost misses them. It's like not noticing the blue in the sky or the wetness of water or oxygen in the air. Some things just aren't noticed much, from their sheer ubiquity. James' oft-bragged-about oral debates, all the way back to 1990 are, of course, Gospel TRVTH; thus, how old they happen to be is absolutely irrelevant. But let someone dare cite a Catholic apologetics piece from the early 90s and that is "ancient" and "mothballs." Gotta love it! Needless to say, the age of any writing has nothing whatever to do with its truthfulness of lack thereof. So we see a basic fallacy and a glaring double standard as well.

The cited articles from Akin were from July 1993 and September 1993. Perhaps that would be ancient history for my two older sons (born in 1991 and 1993), but for an old geezer like White (48 or so) it's not really that long ago. My first published apologetics articles happen to have been in that same year: 1993 (in The Catholic Answer and This Rock). It seems like yesterday to me.

The good bishop (as we see again presently) thinks nothing of citing his own "ancient" efforts. Several of his own early books date from 1990 or so (he sent me a few himself). On his Publications page he lists 16 books from 1999 or earlier: six from prior to 1993. He has 13 oral debates listed from 1993 or earlier, and 19 more from the remainder of the 1990s. What does age have to do with anything, pray tell?

He has online, for example, the transcript of his debate with Madrid on sola Scriptura, from way back in the "Iron Age" of September 1993, which is exactly as old as one of Jimmy Akin's article above (I have articles of my own posted, as old as 1982). Why does he continue to present such "ancient / mothball" material? Doesn't he know that the truth or falsity of such decrepit exercises is now entirely questionable?

Moreover, White not only continues to post "ancient" stuff like the 1993 Madrid sola Scriptura debate on his larger website, but also refers to it often. For example:

If Patrick feels he did so well in the debate, I wonder, why did he produce an error-filled "spin" piece on the debate only a matter of weeks afterward that appeared in the pages of This Rock magazine? I would invite anyone who listens to that debate to examine the facts for yourself right here. This is an extensive file---written so long ago [Dave: 1995] now we warned folks about its length because everyone had slow internet connections back then. Anyway, I was just looking over it myself, and was amazed at all the straw men and myths Madrid included in his article. To my knowledge, he has never refuted this material. But hey, twelve years makes facts go away, I guess.
Another debate that is being offered by Madrid is the sola scriptura debate he and Keating had in Denver, Colorado during the Papal visit in 1993. This one is truly a slaughter.
We began listening to the 1993 San Diego debate on sola scriptura with Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid today. We will continue this review over the course of the next few programs, . . .
Then we took a call on the role of presuppositions in the study of Scripture, and then dedicated the last half hour to the 1993 sola scriptura debate with Patrick Madrid.
Today on the DL we got back to the 1993 sola scriptura debate with Patrick Madrid.
We finally finished up the Madrid debate from 1993! Just barely though!
The audio recording speaks for itself as to who responded and interacted politely, and who did not.
Finally, for those who have not listened to the 1993 debate with Patrick (yes, coming up on seventeen years ago), you can not only obtain the mp3 from us, but the transcript has been on line for years, and I went through the errors in Patrick's attempted rebuttal on the DL in a series of programs, starting in the summer of 2008 and concluding in October of 2008. In fact, here's a video clip from one of those programs:

If White can continually bring up his supposed magnificent victory in this 1993 debate, then I'll keep mentioning his fleeing for the hot Arizona hills (on his bicycle, no doubt) and in effect conceding in our 1995 debate by snail mail. Goose and gander. In person he would have been forced to offer some reply to my last 36 single-spaced pages. That is one disadvantage of written debate. The one who is bested or chooses the intellectual cowardly route can never be forced to respond where they have an intellectual duty to do so.

But my Calvin series, on the other hand, is brand new, so a different tack must be taken. It ain't "ancient" (which is how Akin's arguments are "refuted") but its author is said to be an imbecile, ignoramus, and idiot; therefore, no conscious or sane or literate person should read it, no matter how new it is.

My second observation is how these sorts of purely propagandistic / put down posts exemplify the anti-Catholic approach today (and mostly, always: all the way back to Luther and Calvin). I know well from my own experience alone. It has been White's strategy for several years now to name-call and besmirch the character and integrity of those he disagrees with in the Catholic apologetics world.

He decided to do this some years ago with me, after systematically refusing to answer any critiques coming from me (anywhere near adequately, on the rare occasions he offered any reply whatsoever -- and those always peppered with insults). And believe me, there were many such opportunities for him: starting with our original 1995 postal debate, where he fled for the hills and left my final 36-page reply utterly unanswered. Over these past fifteen years, he has consistently refused any live chat debate, even when I offered him (twice) significant handicaps and time advantages (knowing his great fear of a real-time encounter with me). The only one we've ever done was a spontaneous live interaction on Mariology and patristics (12-29-00) in White's chat room. Readers may decide how well each party did.

Lacking rational argumentation and reply, and an intellectually bankrupt, contra-biblical ideology (anti-Catholicism) there are only so many courses one can take. White chose smearing, propagandizing, and sheer insult: I'm an idiot (so sez the Good Bishop) without the slightest credentials. No one in their right mind (so sez the illustrious Bishop) should read what I write, take it seriously, or consider it for an instant. I am utterly devoid (so sez the All-Wise Bishop) of any insight or ability in apologetics.

He has been followed in this assessment and cynical methodology by virtually all of the online anti-Catholic Protestant apologists (mostly his copycats or parrots), as can be readily observed in their personal attacks, as documented (in my case) on my sidebar (on the bottom: red comments) and on my Anti-Catholicism and James White web pages.

Contrary to what many might expect, I think it's great that our esteemed anti-Catholic brethren in Christ do this: it's a win-win proposition: couldn't be any better than it is. Think about it: if they want to pretend that I am a clueless nitwit and dunce who knows absolutely nothing about theology, and even less about exegesis, then this means, as I have been saying for years, that they will refuse to interact with (let alone refute) anything I write.

Therefore, it's the best-case scenario: I continue to write what I write about, defending the Catholic Church and truly biblical theology, with virtually no opposition at all. Folks continue to be aided by these materials and, by the grace of God, are helped in part by them to become Catholics, or at least to cease being anti-Catholics. I'm personally aware of many scores (if not multiple hundreds by now) of such people: and those are just the ones who took the time to write to me.

The only way to prevent this (on a purely human level) is to oppose and refute my apologetics. But these people refuse to do that in any meaningful way, preferring to stick to mocking and slander and smears. What could be better? If they thought they would cause me to cease doing what I do by their lies about myself and my work, they obviously were sadly mistaken, as here I am, almost 14 years and running on the Internet, with 19 books, 2500 articles, radio interviews (three recently), published magazine pieces (another one coming soon, about my new Chesterton quotes book), etc.

So let them keep lying if they must. Let them see if it stops me from doing what I was called to do way back in the ancient times of 1981. One would think they would learn by now the folly of such methods (already ethically atrocious, as well as counter-productive of their goals). And of course, all of this makes them look ridiculous (whether I make any reply or not), and undermines their own credibility, which in turn helps the Catholic cause, since it allows folks to see the intellectual and methodological bankruptcy of anti-Catholicism and its leading poster boys.

Lastly, one must look at what I hoped to accomplish in my reply to Calvin's Institutes, and what I was claiming for my own part, over against Calvin. I made this very clear in the Introduction:

Calvin, of course, has the big advantage going in, in such a "debate." He's the famous and extremely influential theologian and scholar, with tons of education, rhetorical and literary ability in droves, and a remarkable encyclopedic knowledge in many areas. I'm just a lay Catholic apologist with a degree in sociology, and no formal theological education (but with lots of informal theological education for over thirty years). I rather like that. I love to play David over against a "Goliath." I relish the challenge, and this will assuredly be one that will take a lot of effort and very hard work on my part: with intense research often required.

If it is concluded that I prevail here and there in my replies, then it will bring (all the more) the point home that Calvin is wrong in his arguments, where he opposes the Catholic Church. I'm confident that he can very often plainly be shown to be in error. I have no doubt about that, from what I have seen of his work thus far. I've often noted that one can be the greatest genius of all time, but if the facts and the truth are not on their side, they can be defeated by an infant who knows the truth. So I'll give it my best shot. . . .

I never claimed to have all the answers. But I do claim to have some answers and substantive replies to a wide range of contra-Catholic arguments.

Despite the rather mild claims I made for myself at the outset, nevertheless anti-Catholic Steve Hays took the position that I shouldn't do the project at all; that it was pretentious and absurd on its face. Hays,  sophisticated and obscurantist as always, wrote ludicrously:

. . . consider Armstrong’s running commentary on Calvin’s Institutes. . . . seriously, what are his qualifications to write a commentary on the Institutes? More generally, what qualifications would you need to write a commentary on the Institutes? For one thing, you’d need to know your way around the primary sources. A fluent command of Middle French and Neo-Latin. You’d also need to be conversant with the secondary literature on Calvin and 16C European church history in various modern languages, viz., French, German, Italian, Dutch.

So on the one hand, we see these two luminaries of Right Reason try to prevent me from writing at all, by claiming that I am so over my head that my project is ridiculous in its very concept. White takes a different tack and says after the fact that I am profoundly stupid and a dumbbell, which precludes any serious thinker reading my critique (or anything else of my writing, for that matter).

Again, this is a wonderful, fabulous state of affairs, since it means that the critique (soon to be abridged into book form as well) will basically be read unopposed. Calvinists (i.e., any of them open-minded to dare read a critique of their system's founder) can see the errors of Calvinism, as elucidated by my critique (one that cited every word of Calvin's in the entire Book IV), without reading any counter-replies from Calvinists, since the ones most hostile to Catholicism (if they follow the White Playbook) think I am too stupid to waste time on dealing with my critique. And so that many more Calvinists will become Catholics, if I offer a critique and no one (or virtually no one, as it were, in the event that some lone Calvinist soul takes up the challenge) has any answer to it, to show where my reasoning went astray. Sounds excellent to me.

Therefore, I couldn't be more delighted than I am to be mocked and insulted and ignored by folks like Bishop White. May it continue and even multiply! That's of less than no concern to me. My mission is to promulgate Catholic truth and to oppose theological error, and it is not hindered in the slightest by a bunch of slanderers who have nothing better to do than throw mud pies and rotten tomatoes. The sad thing is that these people: anti-Catholics and contra-Catholics (White, Hays and several of a host of comrades-in-arms and wannabes) often do have considerable intellectual abilities. But they prefer to be Don Rickles / Joan Rivers hybrids than to write as intellectually cogent and courageous disputants and Defenders of their own theological system.

They prefer to attack others personally as their main preoccupation, rather than offer their readers a proactive, positive presentation of their own worldview, minus the potshots at individuals who have honest differences with them. Beware when anyone does that! It should make the red flags go up immediately.


Adomnan said...

Dave: But let someone dare cite a Catholic apologetics piece from the early 90s and that is "ancient" and "mothballs."

Adomnan: And where would that leave Calvin himself, who wrote almost 500 years ago? Totally irrelevant, it would seem. So why do they bother with him?

Steve Hays: A fluent command of Middle French and Neo-Latin.

Adomnan: Pseudo-intellectual claptrap. Calvin wrote in early modern French. Anyone who knows modern French can read him with ease. And what is "Neo-Latin"? Calvin was a Renaissance Humanist in his Latin style. He strove to write in good classical Latin. He didn't use some odd "Neo-Latin" dialect. Anyone who can read Cicero or Seneca, on whom Calvin wrote a commentary, can read Calvin with no problem.

Generally on White: It is amusing how this two-bit sophist and charlatan is hailed as such a logician by the fundamentalists. Perhaps he does seek logical consistency in his tedious lucubrations; but any fanatic can be consistent, given his mad presuppositions. A madman's world is perfectly round -- only it's the size of a billiard ball.

Dave Armstrong said...

Both are awful entertaining, though. You gotta give 'em that much.

Teófilo de Jesús said...

After all these years, Rev. White's most towering achievement has been his transmogrification into a Calvinistic version of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris blended: pompous, empty, florid, and in love with himself. I pay White the same attention I pay Dawkins and Harris, which is none.


ecclesiaprimus said...

I totally agree with Teofilo de Jesus...I mean, just a very sad case...

Nick said...

Quote of White: He simply does not produce original argumentation of any kind, and clearly does not understand the responses that have been offered to him over and over again.

This is actually pretty true...but not for the reasons White thinks.

Dave's work is (often) NOT original in that he doesn't need to come up with 'new' arguments when he knows Catholics in the past have offered beautiful arguments. Why re-invent the wheel?

Next, Dave often does NOT understand the responses given by White, but not because Dave is being obstinate. He doesn't understand them in so far as the 'rebuttals' are unintelligible (logically speaking).

Does White really need an example? Take one of White's right hand men, TurretinFan (surely giving the 'standard Reformed response') to the question of "Judged according to Works":

TF: Dave Armstrong has a new post (at least it seems to be new, perhaps it is just an old post he has redated) of Scriptural pretexting (I'd say prooftexting, but Dave is not an advocate of Sola Scriptura) for the idea that "Final Judgment" will be on the basis of works and not faith.
In some ways it is an interesting post. You see, he analyzes thirty (count 'em) passages to arrive at the conclusion that Scripture "always" associate works and Final Judgment, never faith and final judgment.
You see, it seems that Dave has misunderstood the Christian position. The Christian position is that Christ is our substitute. Thus, we too will be judged on the last day according to works. But it will not be according to our own works, but according to His works.

Now, was Dave's argument 'original'? No, the Bible repeatedly teaches the Christian will be judged based on how they lived, their works.
Ok, but did Dave not understand the "response" that's been given over and over? Of course, because the "response" is absurd! How can anyone 'understand' and unintelligible (logically speaking) response that shifts the teaching "A Christian is judged by his works" to "A Christian is judged by Christ's works"? That's not what the Scripture is even saying, yet that's the 'textbook' Protestant response to the 'unoriginal' Catholic objection.

This is prime example of White's claim that the Protestant side has repeatedly "responded" to Dave's "unoriginal" arguments.

Dave Armstrong said...

That's a brilliant, impressive exercise of turning the tables, Nick. Thanks!

Adomnan said...

Turretinfan: Thus, we too will be judged on the last day according to works. But it will not be according to our own works, but according to His works.

Adomnan: What contempt TF shows for the word of God. His esteemed Turretin would be appalled.

Paul Hoffer said...

As I said a couple of years ago, Professor White argues like a lawyer. First it was his cross-examination style in debates and here he shows that he follows the old trial lawyer maxim: When the facts are against you, you argue the law; when the law is against you, you argue the facts; when they are both against you, abuse and demean the opposing counsel.

When I read articles like Professor White's latest one, I must wonder if he even knows what the word "apologetics" mean. I thought it was all about defending the faith, not auditioning for a spot on a late-late-night comedy show taking half-baked pot-shots at people he doesn't like.

And given how he goes on about his debates, hawks his debates on his website, puts them on you-tube, etc, it seems at times that he renders more honor to them than Catholics show the Blessed Virgin. He refers to himself more than President Obama does. Couldn't such self-adulation be seen as a form of idolatry or perhaps at least a mild case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Adomnan: it's my view that you don't even have to know French or Latin to understand Calvin-he thinks, argues, and writes like a lawyer does. As Dave's articles have shown, a good portion of Calvin's writings are what we refer to in the trade as meaningless boilerplate.

Moreover, it seems that most modern day Protestant apologists are not interested in what Luther or Calvin wrote 500 years ago. They are not even interested in what folks like Spurgeon, Barth, Bonhoeffer or Lewis wrote in the last two centuries. And why would they? They don't feel bound to accept what Luther or Calvin wrote anymore than they feel compelled to accept what their pastor preached from the pulpit last Sunday. The notion of private judgment allows anyone with a concordance with a Greek or Hebrew lexicon and a NASB to interpret the bible anyway they want and disregard whatever doctrine or historical teaching they don't happen to like. Doctrine and dogma are reduced to ala carte menu choices. If you don't like what is on the Reformed Baptist bill of fare, you can always go to the Presbyterian, Methodist or Lutheran restaurants across the street or if one's palate is not satisfied, one can always start their own restaurant and call themselves a Protestant-heck they protesting against something, aren't they?

The bottom line to all of this is that Professor White's article would have been a bit more edifying (to say the least) if he had actually attempted to provide us with an actual critique besides the dressed-up equivalent of opining that Dave's writing is bad because he is bad. Why doesn't he actually attempt to show us all why Dave is wrong about attorney Calvin instead of merely editorializing? Or in the words of Clara Peller, "Where's the beef?"

God bless!

Dave Armstrong said...

The CathApol site has a right-on analysis of Bishop White and his latest nefarious smear tactics:

"What is Wrong With White?"

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CathApol said...

Hi Dave,
Thanks for pointing me to your article and the comments following it. Yes, you and I are quite on the same page here (though [grin] you covered a few more "pages" than me here!)