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"Heart speaks to heart" - John Henry Cardinal Newman

James White's Ongoing (Post-Debate) Double Standards: "Hatred of the Church"

Monday, June 13, 2005

As usual, White is now waxing vehemently, in his (YAWN) usual post-debate analyses of how he demolished his opponent yet again (this time, Bill Rutland). I couldn't care less about who "won" and so forth (I never listen to these things), but to be fair to White, it appears that Rutland is engaging in the same sort of post-mortem analysis also. I submit that both sides should simply leave these judgments to the listeners (let their arguments speak for themselves: I know, what a novelty!), and I oppose such rhetoric on both sides.

But I guess that is too much to ask, and the vagaries of human nature apparently trump politeness and propriety in these "[so-called] debate-farces" that try to pass as serious dialogue and disputation. My negative appraisal of such "oral debates" in general is well-known, but that is beside my immediate point, which is to illustrate James White's glaring double standards yet again (as I have done dozens of times through the years).

As usual, he is trying to make out that his behavior and demeanor was entirely above-board and gentlemanly, while that of his opponent was less-than-admirable. It is his ongoing goal, apparently, to make all Catholic dialogue opponents look as ridiculous as possible. He has certainly tried to do that to me, personally, regarding my nine-part reply to his arguments about Moses' Seat, which he recently summarily dismissed, with ridicule and mockery, in the following manner:

The Dave Armstrong Arcade Game

A while back I took the time to engage Dave Armstrong's The Catholic Verses on this blog. The response by Mr. Armstrong was 1) bluster and absurdly silly replies; 2) full-scale retreat and a "promise" (again) to stop interacting with "anti-Catholics" like me. Since then, Mr. Armstrong has returned and, evidently, has healed from his wounds, forgotten his own promises, and is now busily non-responding to me all over again (even producing reverse-color purposefully bad pictures originally taken by Mormons). Remember that cheesey arcade game where the little animal pops up out of a hole and you have to bop it back in to get points? The kind of thing you played just because you only had one token left and the real games took two? Well, I may have played that game once, but found it completely boring and not worth even that last token. Ditto, Mr. Armstrong. There is no reason to even respond to a person who, upon being shown to be in error, will reply, "Oh, I don't have to answer that! That person is anti-me, and I take an oath not to respond to his kind...until this topic has passed, anyway, or I have had more time to come up with a response or something." Such is not apologetics, it is excus-a-getics, and is not worth the time it takes to activate the RSS feed.

(5-26-05 on his blog)

That was White's "pre-debate" dismissal (since we never even got to debate; White having opted out, despite his mockery of me for declining to debate him since January, due to his personal attacks). It's chock-full of substance and intellectual courage, isn't it? Funny, then, that White had written just 22 days earlier:

If you want to see how to deal with Dave Armstrong, look back a few months to what happened when I invested the time to dig into his book. Response? Bluster, sputter, retreat, collapse, invisibility, Lent.

. . . As anyone can see by going back to the records, Armstrong made the most recent version of his "I will not respond to anti-Catholics" promise after and as a direct result of my critiquing his book. In fact, at first, he tried to respond to my articles (here's an example). But it was painfully clear he was in way over his head, so he all of a sudden had a change of heart and issued his "don't respond to anti-Catholics" decree. Now he would have his readers thinking he actually did so before I began my review, so that I was taking the easy road in going after him only after I knew I would be "safe" from his brilliant and awe-inspiring rebuttals, which, sadly, the world cannot now see because he is so consistent in keeping his oaths. Please! Someone fax over some reality to Mr. Armstrong.


Presently, I merely would like to give readers some factual background, and show that White is no different concerning several real or alleged shortcomings that he sees in his current debate opponent. His historical revisionism is too much to take, so I shall briefly scrutinize it. Those of you who are bored by these kinds of papers are hereby urged to stop reading, and to not bother making the same old criticism that I shouldn't write such a paper. I think it is important, because White is considered the leading anti-Catholic debater and critic. If he is a public figure who is lauded in such a way, then he should expect to receive criticism when he is engaged in rank hypocrisy, and there is nothing wrong (nothing "unbiblical" whatsoever) in pointing this out, if the facts can back it up. So if someone doesn't like that, because it is "acrimonious" or whatever and not "warm fuzzy, touchy-feely," then just stop reading! It's simple! I continue to write what I think is necessary and important to the defense of the Catholic faith and proper scrutiny of its most vociferous critics and slanderers.

White wrote, in reply to Rutland's (I think, unhelpful) assertion that "he has a hatred of the Church that borders on obsession":

Notice once again the "poison the well" technique. I do not have to start off, "Mr. Rutland, who apostatized from his profession of faith only a few years ago, obviously hates his former faith." I would be more than happy to let anyone simply view the debate for themselves and see if someone is filled with "hate" or whatever. And isn't it odd that if a Roman Catholic is passionate, they "love the Church," but if a Protestant is passionate, they "hate the Church." The double standard, which we have documented for many years now, goes on.

Ah, yes: double standards and well-poisoning. Well, Mr. White would know quite a bit about that, since he himself has frequently thrown this charge of "hatred" around for many years now. In fact, in our first "postal debate" (when I first encountered White) in 1995, White made the same charge that he supposedly never makes (the strong implication above), towards yours truly:

I get the distinct feeling, Dave, that you don't like the Reformed gospel. No surprise, given your love for Roman theology. Those who have never realized their own helplessness often hate the gospel, I've discovered. I've seen similar paragraphs from other Roman Catholics, from atheists, from Mormons, and even from some "Protestants," too. I have to really focus my attention just to realize that the authors of such diatribes are actually referring to the gospel of grace, so plainly presented by Paul in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 through 9: . . .

(White's personal reply to me: 5-4-95; emphasis added presently. Later I received his permission to post the entire exchange online)

Seemingly, White has now learned that it is a naughty no-no to call his opponents "apostates" (we all live and learn, after all). He had not yet grasped this in 1995, in our debate:

You noted, "Again, I think I get the edge since I've actually been on both sides of the fence, whereas you haven't." Why do you find this to be an advantage, Mr. Armstrong? Gerry Matatics has often made much of the same concept, yet, I have to wonder why someone would think that way. Obviously, from my perspective, you are, to use the proper term, an apostate. To make one's apostasy a badge of honor, and to say that this gives you an "edge," bewilders me . . .

(Ibid., 5-4-95; emphasis added)

Furthermore, White not only asserted that I was an "apostate" (having departed Christianity for "Romanism"), but that I had never been a Protestant at all (I know, it's inconsistent; what else is new?):

The point that you seem to have missed as a "Protestant," Dave, and now miss as a Roman Catholic, . . .

(letter of 4-6-95)

Since I was an Arminian evangelical Protestant and not a Calvinist, I wasn't a true-blue Protestant, you see, which is made even more clear in the following statement:

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.

(Ibid., 4-6-95; bolding emphasis added)

In other words: the only "real" Protestants are Calvinists: a notion which is offensive to all non-Calvinist Protestants, such as Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Wesleyans, most pentecostals, etc. I later clarified my meaning, but White continued to insist that I was not a real Protestant:

Next you wrote, "Thirdly, it's news to me that belief in supralapsarian double predestination and total depravity (man is a worm on a dunghill) constitutes the quintessence of true Protestantism and hence, Christianity." Of course, what I had said was that since you rejected predestination and total depravity, you were not a true Protestant (speaking in the historical sense -- you connected Luther with the beliefs, as you will recall), and I stand by the statement. Surely you recall Luther's admission to Erasmus that he, above all of Luther's other foes, had focused upon the real issue, that being the concept of "free will" versus the bondage of the will, and that, of course, brings up both predestination and total depravity. Luther was not systematic enough to get into debates about supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism -- such is not the issue.

If you always denied that man's will is bound to sin [I denied only the extreme Calvinist take on the fall, not the fall itself] and that God has predestined a people unto himself [I did no such thing; Catholics wholeheartedly believe in the predestination of the elect], you may have been attending a Protestant church and may have been in the majority of what is called Protestantism today, but the fact remains that as to the Reformation and the heritage thereof, you were a traitor, more at home in Rome's semi-Pelagianism than in Paul's Augustinianism (to create a wonderfully anachronistic phrase that speaks volumes). Not that you were alone: the majority of "Protestantism" today is treading water in the Tiber on that issue. Of course, I said all of that (possibly not with the same colorful terminology) in The Fatal Flaw.

(letter of 5-4-95; bolding emphasis added)

Note the incredibly cynical sophistry here. As made crystal clear, I did not assert that I denied all predestination ("If you always denied that man's will is bound to sin and that God has predestined a people unto himself"), only double (i.e., including to hell) and supralapsarian (folks damned even before the fall occurred) predestination. In other words, I denied the Calvinist slant on these issues (and not even the majority of Calvinists are supralapsarians, as white is fully aware). But Calvinism is not all of Protestant Christianity. White thinks Calvinists are the only true "Reformation" Protestants, though. That would take out even Luther and his follower Melanchthon, and is, thus, an absurd proposition: both historically and theologically.

Note, then, what I was accused of (and remember White's present assertion that he doesn't engage in such smear tactics; only his Catholic opponents do): I was an apostate from Christianity, I supposedly "hate the gospel" (because, of course, only the "real" Calvinist Protestants possess it; lowly Arminians do not) and was never a real Protestant even before my conversion to Catholicism. But none of that is "poisoning the well." All of this was in one debate, with me! Lest anyone think that this has not been an ongoing tendency of White's, here is much more evidence to confirm that it has indeed been a frequent motif in his anti-Catholic apologetic:

God knows, and James Akin knows, that my writings do not contain any kind of material like that produced regularly by Catholic Answers. Every mention of Karl Keating, James Akin, Patrick Madrid, or other Roman Catholic apologists, in my newest book, is based upon issues, not personalities . . .

I don't want to become like my opposition, whether they be hatefilled Fundamentalist KJV Only advocates, or hatefilled Roman Catholic apologists. In either case, I pray God will allow me to not become like them.

. . . I don't have to play the game Catholic Answers is now playing. I don't have to waste my time trying to make Karl Keating or James Akin look "bad" or "mean" or anything else.

It's another example of Catholic Answers becoming a mirror image of the ultra-fundamentalist, Jack Chickian-type groups that you battle so often. Such shallow, knee-jerk reactions, replete with emotionally-laden terms like "anti-Catholic," are marked by their absence from my published comments about Catholic Answers, and speak only to the truth of what I've said: you are becoming just like the groups you decry. Quite simply, James, it seems, in light of recent articles . . . that Catholic Answers is becoming the Jack Chick of Roman Catholic apologetics.

("Mirror Mirror: The Decline of Catholic Answers"; emphasis added)

As I read the article, which struck me as having been written in a very emotional, angry state, I became aware that Mr. Madrid had been smarting over his defeat in the debate ever since September, and this article was his way of "saving face" so to speak.

. . . I can quote Patrick directly in my demonstration of the dishonesty of the men of Catholic Answers.

The nation has been enthralled of late by the OJ Simpson trial. We have all watched as high-priced attorneys do their best to sway the opinion of the jury. I have often commented that apologists are often like attorneys. They attempt to sway the opinion of their listeners or readers, and, all too often, they use the same kind of less-than-honest tactics that we find in the courtroom as well. Sadly, Patrick Madrid would probably do well on OJ's defense team.

. . . Madrid purposefully misleads his readers . . .

(website article, "Catholic Answers: Myth or Reality?")

White has a particular personal disdain for Reformed scholar Paul Owen (whom he regularly refers to as "Alexander the Coppersmith" -- one of the Apostle Paul's stated enemies):

Today Paul Owen showed his utter disregard for truth, honesty, and fairness, . . .

. . . The clear disjunction between truth and Owen's words will be transparent to any fair-minded individual.

. . . Ironically, at the same time Paul Owen has adopted the Michael Moore view of truth and honesty, . . .

("The False Testimony of Paul Owen", 9-9-04 on his blog; further examples documented in my paper: We All Know That James White NEVER Engages in Personal Attacks! (The Case of Dr. Paul Owen) )

White's assertion of the "hatred" of his opponents often spills over into an almost-paranoid accusation of personal hatred towards himself, as I documented in a paper on that subject.

Moreover, according to Mind-Reader White, we Catholic apologists, generally-speaking, are not only apostates who "hate the gospel," but, in fact, all truth whatsoever:

Roman Catholic apologists like Dave Armstrong, who lack any meaningful ability to engage the [biblical] text in a serious manner, have no compunctions about grabbing anything to use as a bludgeon against the truth.

("Blog Wars II? The Sequel is Never as Good as the Original," 3-27-04)

Now, in charity, we should always allow that all of us fly off the handle sometimes, and say stupid, uncharitable things. But White not only didn't renounce this incredible charge: he reiterated it, the next day:

Be that as it may, what I said was 1) DA lacks the ability to engage the text of the Scriptures in a meaningful fashion, and 2) DA will use anything to attack the truth. Unwittingly he has proven the second proposition true in his lengthy response and the argumentation it contains.

("Dave Armstrong," 3-28-04)

None of this drivel, of course, is what White has criticized in Bill Rutland: "the 'poison the well' technique," or charges of some so-and-so "who apostatized from his profession of faith only a few years ago, [and] obviously hates his former faith," or a "double standard," which White has "documented for many years now," where it concerns his dialogical opponents. We all know that White rises above personal attack and is always charitable and above-board.

Here are more White remarks implying that Catholics hate the gospel or that any Protestant who agrees that Catholics are Christian is doing the same:

I just listened to Pat Robertson throw the gospel in the trash heap. The stampede to make sure the gospel is utterly irrelevant to salvation is on. Watch as evangelicals go on record as non-Protestants.

(Pat Robertson Lauds the Pope, 4-1-05)

In any case, the gospel of grace has been anathematized by Rome---and thrown under the bus by pseudo-evangelicals, . . .

(Dancing in Mid Air, 4-25-05)

What Dr. Dobson did by raising the "theological disagreements" between "Protestants" and Roman Catholics in the context he did was to remove the gospel from the definition of Christianity. How so? Well, he referred to our "Catholic brothers and sisters." There's the issue. If they are our brothers and sisters, then the gospel does not define who our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith are.

(How to Remove the Gospel from the Center, 4-7-05)

I hadn't yet realized that not only would the gospel be ignored, it would be thrown under the bus. Well, maybe I should rephrase that. You can't throw something under the bus that you don't possess, and evidently, a very, very large portion of "evangelicalism" surely does not count the cross, the resurrection, justification, faith, atonement, substitution---sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria---as something "precious." In fact, they act as if they've never even heard of it.

(Documenting the Apostasy, 4-8-05)

If I might just say, Mr. Enloe is not in my "ranks," nor is Paul Owen or all the others who have decided that compromise and a gospel without substance is all they have to offer to the world. I openly, if with sadness, draw the line where it must be drawn. He went out from us so that it might be demonstrated he was not of us. I still love the gospel more than the approval of men. No compromise.

(What "Reformed Catholicism" Does, 4-5-05)

Rome is as aggressive as ever, but now she is joined by so many who have given in to her on the "grand turning point of the cause" (as Luther put it to Erasmus) and in fact have traded the gospel itself for a pittance. Every day pressure is placed upon anyone who still believes the Bible to be the living, powerful, accurate, inspired, understandable Word of God to be quiet, to stop applying God's truth to the arena of ideas.

(NO COMPROMISE: A Call To Faithfulness In the Midst of Apostasy, 4-18-05)

But, back to White's current blog entry: Bill Rutland Tries to Provide Cover for Rome (6-13-05):

I was not well Thursday night. At the end of a viral infection, I likewise had (and have at the moment) conjunctivitis, aka, pink eye. I saw a doctor when I got on the Island to get medications, but medical science has only managed to beat the bacteriological version of this stuff, not the viral version. The expensive prescription eye drops did nothing, and hence, I was not shaking hands with anyone that night. I even had to ask the moderator to announce this so that the rumor would not start (and you better believe it would have, and probably will anyway, if this is any indication) that I refuse to shake the hands of Catholics.

I accept White's illness and his explanation here; no problem. I only wish to point out that there is a legitimate reason why some folks believe that White is the kind of person who (at least sometimes) refuses to shake hands with Catholics. He engaged in this behavior in his 1991 debate with Art Sippo. Pat Madrid (who was the moderator) recounts the scene:

In May 1991 White traveled to Toledo, Ohio and was beaten in a debate on justification by lay-Catholic apologist Dr. Art Sippo--a debate which I moderated. (Regrettably, the audio tapes of the debate were defective and so are not available.) Since then White has repeatedly declined Sippo's invitations to engage in further debates, complaining that Sippo was "not a gentleman." At the conclusion of the debate, White refused to shake hands with Sippo and snarled, "Do you realize that you are under the wrath of God?" He accused Sippo of misrepresenting him--a curious complaint, given that White had ample opportunity to rectify any misconceptions, that being, after all, the purpose of a debate. He claimed Sippo "didn't understand" the Protestant position. This is a common response from Evangelical apologists when their arguments are refuted and they have nothing else to say.

( "The White Man's Burden," recently reprinted at Envy Encore; this appears -- without reading this long article to double check -- to be a recent editorial addition; the original remark is reproduced below)

Now, as I am always an advocate of open dialogue, free speech, and letting people hear both sides of a story, I'm happy to be able to cite White's own report of yet another "hand-shaking controversy": his debate with Pat Madrid, from his paper, Catholic Answers: Myth or Reality?A Refutation of Patrick Madrid's Article, "The White Man's Burden,"and a Defense of Sola Scriptura:

I do not recall if we shook hands or not.

Madrid, however, recalls that White did not do so:
In most debates, after the closing remarks and the final prayer, the participants shake hands. Not so in this case. White was visibly upset with the outcome of the debate and did not offer his hand.

White returns the favor of "post-debate psychological analysis" by stating:

Now, if I wanted to try to "make myself look good" I'd assert something about how Patrick looked, and what this must have meant. Instead, I will give you my own personal opinion of the situation. When I looked at Patrick he looked rather disheveled. Then again, I probably did to some extent, too, by that time. But the thought that crossed my mind was that Patrick looked embarrassed, upset, and rather angry at the whole situation. He struck me as a person who had been defeated, and he knew it. Now, that was my impression at the time. Whether it has any validity I leave up to those who hear the debate and read the transcript. One thing is for certain: it never crossed my mind to run home and write an article about how Patrick Madrid "was visibly upset with the outcome of the debate." I never felt any need to make such a proclamation in print. I will allow the reader to decide why Patrick felt such a need.

In any event, White is not denying that he didn't shake Pat Madrid's hand at the end of their debate (as is customary, just as in, e.g., presidential debates), and Madrid asserts it. Since this is now two times that White refused to shake hands with a debate opponent, there is grounds to believe in what he describes as a "rumor." Nor is this isolated behavior, in terms of how White deals with Catholics. He left Operation Rescue because (by his own report, not my speculation) he would be in situations where he would have to pray with Catholics (which he does not do in any such situation, as I recall him stating more than once). We see how he treated his own sister, Patty Bonds, publicly, when she converted to Catholicism. So even family vcannot overcome a certain, shall we say, "coldness" in him towards Catholics.

It is also rather well-known (at least in my circles) that White repeatedly refused Catholic apologist Steve Ray's gracious offer to buy him lunch if he was ever in Phoenix. He didn't want to even eat with him. White refused to have me on his webcast for a strictly friendly, non-theological chat, after repeatedly challenging Catholics to call in and get to know him better. Things like this have a cumulative effect, so it is altogether plausible and rational to think that White may not shake an opponents' hand, since this has happened at least twice (Pat Madrid being an eyewitness in both cases), and given similar uncharitable behavior.

White closes by writing:

I am sorry Mr. Rutland has chosen to follow up a poor effort on his part (which, thankfully, only served to make the issues clearer rather than obscuring them, which is why I found the debate so useful) by taking the low road of dishonesty and ad-hominem.

That may or not be. I have not taken a position on Rutland's post-debate observations (frankly, I don't care for such self-interested, self-justifying opinions on either side; I find them both distasteful and boorish), and I don't need to in order for my present argument to stand: what I have done is to show that if Rutland is guilty of these things, that it is nothing that White has not been doing himself for many years, so that it is a cynically selective, revisionist (and hypocritical) tactic trying to make out that these kinds of behaviors and attitudes characterize his Catholic opponents, but not his own behavior. White has tried to capitalize on the post-debate rhetoric and discussion (which, I agree, is often of very low quality and edification, on both sides) to once again mock and deride Catholic apologists and Catholics, period (anything to divert from the real theological issues, I reckon . . .). That being the case, I thought that a little "setting the record straight" was in order and quite appropriate and relevant.

Aren't free speech and a written record wonderful things?