Over the years, though not recently, I’ve had a few tough exchanges (some of them actually a bit testy), including (along with my colleague Bill Hamblin) a broadcast radio debate, with the zealous Calvinist countercult speaker, writer, and debater James White.
Mr. White, who is based in the Phoenix area, has traditionally focused his fire on Mormonism, Catholicism, and (I’m more comfortable with this) King-James-only fundamentalists. More recently, I think he’s added Islam to his list of targets. (Frankly, I haven’t paid any attention to his activities for quite a while.)
Although very often wrong, Mr. White is a bright fellow, and I remember his telling me many years ago that he was working on a doctorate in, I think, Reformation history at — if I remember correctly — Arizona State University. I reckoned that this was good, and actually thought to myself that his fierce take-no-prisoners partisanship might be moderated a bit by exposure to graduate research and academic discussion.
Unfortunately, Mr. White eventually chose to earn his doctorates — he now claims two — at a rather dubious, certainly non-traditional, “seminary” currently located in Buckley, Washington. (I think that, when last I heard of the thing, it was in Portland, Oregon.)
I’m not sure why he decided to do that. I certainly think that he has the intelligence to have done a mainstream academic doctorate. (Perhaps it’s a matter of temperament, or, even more likely, of priorities.) Such behavior follows, though, in the unfortunate footsteps of such earlier countercultists and anti-Mormons as Dr. Deejay Nelson, Dr. Walter Martin, Dr. Richard Fales, Dr. John Ankerberg, and Dr. Dr. John Weldon. (Particularly on the latter two, see my comments here and here).
Anyhow, Mr. White and his degrees come to my mind again because of something sent to me this morning by my friend Stan Barker. It seems that others besides the evil Mormons have also noticed the shaky provenance of James White’s doctorates.
I honestly don’t understand the need for doubtful doctorates. There’s no shame in not having a doctorate, nor even in receiving one from the University of Southern California. (While I was a graduate student at UCLA, somebody carefully installed a small brass plaque above the toilet-paper dispenser in one of the men’s restrooms in the University Research Library. “USC diplomas,” it read. “Free. Take one.”)
But there’s shame in claiming a bogus doctorate. And I just can’t see why people like Mr. White — who are controversial and, by design, very much in the public eye — would want to come within light years of such a thing. It provides critics with a target that’s simply too easy and too tempting.
Posted from Park City, Utah