“Moses’ Seat” & Tradition #1 (vs. James White)

“Moses’ Seat” & Tradition #1 (vs. James White) March 16, 2017

Original title: “White House of Cards”: James White’s Critique of My Argument Concerning Moses’ Seat Shall Now be Thoroughly Answered

Moses with the Ten Commandments (1648), by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]



[see all the other installments of this multi-part debate on my James White web page: second section]


As White is fond of saying: “gird up your loins”! Having had enough of White’s falsehoods and tauntings about my supposed cowardice in the face of his first complete, point-by-point response to me in the entire ten years since we’ve known each other, I’ve decided that I will issue a full response to his recent series, critiquing a portion of my latest book, The Catholic Verses.


Let me remind those who never read (and/or never understood) it, of the following passage, that I expressed in early 2005:

Lastly, in order to maintain my unbroken principle of defending anything I write (if critiqued properly), I will continue to operate according to the following rules (listed on my blog):

I am absolutely committed to answering amiable, comprehensive, point-by-point (not scattershot, pick-and-choose “whatever I find easy to answer”) critiques of any of my papers or blog posts. I have made myself available on this blog for all rational, fact-respecting critiques and will place such exchanges (at least the more informative and interesting ones) on my website as well. I’m willing to listen to and interact with the critique, to place my critics’ words on my website, unabridged, and to publicly retract any proven errors and modify or remove papers (and/or apologize, if persons are involved) where necessary. And I’ve done all this many times in the past. My record speaks for itself. A person can do no more in terms of willingness to accept criticism and to be corrected. I don’t run from criticism and ignore it. To me, this involves a matter and principle of intellectual integrity, honesty, duty, and of a crucial openness to other viewpoints, challenges, and critiques.

I do this because it is very important not to insulate oneself from all criticism . . . Either someone (including even anti-Catholics, under these strict conditions) responds point-by-point, or I will not counter-reply at all, per the above. I will only record personal insults, in my ongoing effort to document exactly how anti-Catholics usually “argue” their ludicrous case.

So this “clause” or “loophole” [bolded above] was there all along [in my resolution to avoid arguing theology with anti-Catholics]. Contrary to the White lies we have been hearing for more than four months now, my reason for not fully replying was never fear or inability, but rather (as, of course, I stated) , because I tired of White’s incivility and incessant insults (particularly his charge of “knowing deception” on my part). That’s why I ceased interacting with his critique. He is no more “amiable” and no less insulting now, so I would still have grounds, by my own stated criteria, to continue to avoid him, but under the circumstances, I have decided that the best thing to do is to reply to his argument, and so put an end to this particular stream of untruths (and, I believe, his argument, as well).

I’ve never had the slightest problem refuting him in the past; but he has had plenty of trouble counter-responding, since he never has after I issued a counter-reply to him; that has always been true, without exception, for ten years. Yet he sees no hypocrisy in making this accusation towards me, knowing that I made a resolution (notwithstanding the loophole) to not dialogue with anti-Catholics, and knowing that I ceased because of his behavior, not his intellectual prowess or my alleged lack thereof.

Frankly, I’m fed up with his innuendoes and snide insinuations, and since it doesn’t violate my resolution to reply, I have decided to do so. (I was looking for a big fat new writing project, so the timing is good). White has certainly made an extensive, point-by-point reply in this instance (as will be seen below), and has written many more words than the seven-and-a-half page section in my latest book [The Catholic Verses] (pp. 46-53), concerning Moses’ Seat, where I disposed of an argument of his, from his 1996 book, The Roman Catholic Controversy. That fulfills the criterion, then, for a reply from me: since he dealt with this argument comprehensively in depth, for a change.

Therefore, while I continue to reserve the right to ignore his “scattershot” arguments (which is the nature of most of his critique of my book as a whole, where he scarcely deals with what I wrote and argued at all), per my resolution, I have no principled objection to counter-replying to his argument against the portion of my book where I critiqued an argument from his book.

This is the argument he issued after I made my new resolution (three weeks afterward), even though I informed him of it even before my book was published (and received mostly mockery and insult back, in a private letter). That’s why I’ve been criticizing him for waiting until I said I would no longer debate anti-Catholics, for finally responding with due depth.

[Note: White made his own resolution in 2001 to completely avoid me. Hypocritically, he didn’t abide by his own words, whereas I am simply following a sensible exception “loophole” that I allowed myself]

For the interest of a re-cap of the record, let’s revisit the many James White potshots that have occurred since January (all implying that his argument is so unvanquishable that I must be fleeing in terror. No other explanation could ever possibly be true, because, well, White doesn’t want it to be true . . .). His words below will be in blue:

Armstrong simply doesn’t understand the process of scholarly examination of a text, and as a result, runs headlong into walls trying to act like he does.

(The Catholic Verses: Luke 1:28 [Part II], 1-1-05)

This kind of utterly amazing mishandling of Scripture is sad to observe, let alone to realize it has appeared in publication. But to see how easily refuted it is should cause one to wonder at the power of tradition: . . . he doesn’t even seem to understand what would be necessary for him to establish such a claim, . . .

(The Catholic Verses: Luke 1:28 [Part III], 1-2-05)

. . . in reality, Dave Armstrong does not understand the basics of how to respond to sound, simple scholarly observations regarding the subject.

(The Catholic Verses: Luke 1:28 [Part IV], 1-3-05)

It is hard to find words to describe the response of Dave Armstrong to the review of his own published work. I mean, when you publish a book, do you expect that no one will respond to it, review it, check it for accuracy, examine it for apologetic coherence? . . . But I never dreamed that a total and complete melt-down would take place, resulting in Mr. Armstrong pulling the material off his blog and going into hiding! . . . We are asked to believe this was a “long time coming,” etc., but let’s face it: DA isn’t up to defending his published works. . . . DA can’t do meaningful exegesis, . . . fair-minded, serious folks can tell when you simply have given it your best and have failed at your task.

(James White: Meanest of the Mean, 1-3-05) [currently removed from his site; this is the archived version]

. . . yesterday, when Dave Armstrong first posted his “I’m done with critics” stuff . . .

(Desperation of Armstrong Fans: Patrick, 1-4-05)

. . . it is hard to take what Mr. Armstrong says seriously . . .

(The Catholic Verses: The Papacy, 1-4-05)

At the moment a fairly small group of folks are filling up the blogosphere with the constant assertion that I have engaged in ad hominem argumentation in my reviews of Armstrong’s book, mainly because I have concluded sections by noting Armstrong’s inability to seriously engage the topic at hand (i.e., provide meaningful exegesis). Now, Mr. Armstrong may not like that I have pointed this out. Evidently, it is not allowable in our society to point out when someone provides shallow, errant, and generally worthless argumentation in a written form . . . when he is forced to attempt to deal with specifically exegetical material, he is out of his depth. . . . To call this a “melt-down” is to engage inunderstatement to an absurd degree.

(Ad Hominem Argumentation, 1-4-05)

Quite honestly, I just don’t see that he follows an argument really well. . . . The man does not know how to do exegesis. It’s a fact. . . . there is a consistent pattern of eisegetical misunderstanding, and an inability to deal with the text . . . It’s fascinating to read the comments . . . basically, Mr. Armstrong melted down . . . . . . the reason that Dave Armstrong is doing this [ceasing discussion with anti-Catholics] is pretty much the same reason that Dave Hunt won’t debate me. He can’t. He can’t . . . the facts are not on Dave Armstrong’s side. He can’t respond! . . . Dave Armstrong has gone into hiding . . . because he can’t respond anymore . . . . . . the argumentation is so basic and so clearly fallacious . . . clear, obvious, logical errors. . . Armstrong could throw his hands up in the air and say, “look, I’m not a scholar; I have no scholarly training. I can’t read the original languages.” But he won’t do that. [No? That’s news to me. I did just that on 1-4-05, on my blog, and many times before. Bizarre claim . . .] . . . . . . . If Mr. Armstrong can’t defend his material, then so much the worse for Mr. Armstrong. Maybe he will move on to doing something else. Maybe he’ll recognize this isn’t something he should be doing. Maybe he’ll think twice before putting himself in that situation again.

(Dividing Line webcast, 1-4-05 [my transcript]; no longer available on his site, as far as I can tell)

. . . what we find in The Catholic Verses. No exegesis is offered. No argument from context appears . . . But nowhere does Armstrong do the one thing he must do to be taken seriously: he never exegetes the passage. He never makes the connections that would be absolutely necessary to prove his point. He just assumes his position, nothing more. . . . the “Catholic Verses” are, in fact, “Badly Chosen Catholic Prooftexts Devoid of Exegetical Meaning.” But we must be ready to explain why and hope and pray the Spirit will open hearts and minds that have been blinded by a false gospel and a false hope.

(The Catholic Verses: The Pillar and Foundation, 1-5-05)

. . . it seems Dave Armstrong is not up to providing a positive defense of his own published work, . . .

(An Open Invitation, 1-6-05)

If Armstrong is going to respond to some of the work, but then leave clear refutation of his own position untouched elsewhere, how can anyone take him seriously?

(An uber-brief response to the Crimson Catholic, 1-10-05)

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.

(Quick and Stupid Note, 5-4-05)

I think this one takes the cake: the man is so shameless and desperate that he even goes after my much-needed Lenten break, as if it was an excuse to avoid him. On the one hand, White and others have been mocking me for some time, about how much I write. But let me dare take a four-week break from my voluminous writing (and routine 70-80 hour work weeks, with ten days of vacation all year), and it has to be because I’m trying to avoid the man who had run from my arguments for ten years. Unbelievable . . .

I’m sorry, but anyone in DA’s position, who is constantly throwing stuff out there, is simply playing games if he then decides on some arbitrary standard as to who is an “anti-Catholic,” and then on that basis, says he will not interact with them (though, of course, he can make comments about them all he wants, he just doesn’t have to actually respond to refutations).

. . . 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. 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. . . . 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.


So that’s the extraordinary ad hominem background. Now let’s get to substance and rational, biblical argument, and see how well White fares, when he is taking on an opponent who is actually engaging him and not under the constraints of his own biblically based resolution not to engage in vain discussion. White did at least provide a rare comprehensive response, so we’ll relax the “amiability” portion of the loophole and emphasize the “point-by-point” portion, so both the argumentative fallacies and condescending, mindless insults can be put to rest, once and for all. I think that’s more than enough cause and justification to relax a loophole in a resolution (which is different from an oath, for those who suffer from dictionaryphobia, as Eric Svendsen seemingly does).

Here are the papers I already wrote in response to White’s critique of my book, The Catholic Verses (with links):

James White Takes Up a Critical Review of My Book, The Catholic Verses (!!!)
James White’s Critique of My Book The Catholic Verses: Part I: The Binding Authority of Tradition
Part II: Rabbit Trail Diversion
Part III: Massive Ad Hominem Tactics
Part IV: Shots at My Former Protestant Knowledge and Reading
Part V: White’s Befuddlement and My “Knowing Deception”
Part VI: Penance and Redemptive Suffering

Those papers of mine were in reply to the following papers of James White:

The Catholic Verses: Introit (12-29-05)
The Catholic Verses: 95 Reduced to 91 (12-30-05)
The Protestant Verses: Can Dave Armstrong Exegete This Passage? (12-30-05)
Interesting Replies (12-30-05) [currently removed from his site; this is the archived version]
The Catholic Verses: 91 Reduced to 87 (Part I) (12-30-05) [currently removed from his site; this is the archived version]
Quick Thought Regarding DA and Exegesis (12-31-05)
Armstrong’s Reading List (12-31-05)
The Catholic Verses: 91 Reduced to 87 (Part II) (12-31-05)
The Catholic Verses: 91 Reduced to 87 (Part III) (12-31-05)

And here are his papers regarding Moses’ Seat and the larger issue of Bible and Tradition / sola Scriptura that I will respond to, presently:

The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part I) (1-22-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part II) (1-24-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part III) (1-31-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part IV) (2-8-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part V) (2-10-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part VI) (2-15-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part VII) (2-17-05)
The Catholic Verses: Matthew 23:1-3 (Part VIII–Finale!) (2-18-05)

May the truth win out! That’s the only “victory” I’m interested in. If I am not fighting for the truth on this issue or any other, by all means, I ought to lose the debate, so that truth can be the victor, not me (or White or anyone else) at all costs, even at the expense of truth.

Browse Our Archives