Is Catholicism Christian or Not? (vs. James White): Pt. 5

Is Catholicism Christian or Not? (vs. James White): Pt. 5 November 8, 2017

Part V: My 36-Page Second Counter-Reply (15 May 1995) and Mr. White’s One-Page “Reply” (10 November 1995)

Cover (555 x 838)

My book (2013, 395 pages; available for as low as $2.99).

* * * * *

Complete Debate:

Part I: Introduction and My Initial Form Letter (23 March 1995)

Part II: Mr. White’s 7-Page Initial Reply (6 April 1995)

Part III: My 16-Page First Counter-Reply (22 April 1995)

Part IV: Mr. White’s 17-Page Second Counter-Reply (4 May 1995)

Part V: My 36-Page Second Counter-Reply (15 May 1995) and Mr. White’s One-Page “Reply” (10 November 1995)

15 May 1995

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  (Hamlet, Act III)

“I have to attempt to be balanced.” (James White, letter of May 4, 1995, p.1)

“I’ll make a prediction. This letter will be filled with personal attacks and will accuse me of being scared to debate.”
(Dave Armstrong, to his wife Judy, right before opening James White’s letter of 5-4-95, at the dinner table)

“Answer not an anti-Catholic according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer an anti-Catholic according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

( Proverbs 26:4-5, Armstrong Amplified Paraphrased Version )

Dear James,

Greetings in Christ and His Church! I respond in the paradoxical spirit of Proverbs 26:4-5. Are you sure you’re not a Democratic congressman, James? Rather than desiring to starve children and cut off the elderly from Social Security and health care (and pull the wings off of flies), I stay up late at night at my word processor devising diabolical ways to distort and misrepresent your views. You could be put to work in the Democratic party dreaming up ferocious diatribes against Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Such a prodigious talent for fatuous, vapid rhetoric (who’s a “sophist”?) must not be wasted on rookie Catholic converts, but must be utilized on the grand scale. Maybe Bill Clinton needs a speech writer. Just substitute Catholic apologists for talk show hosts and it’s off to the dog races.

Seriously, though, one wonders and grapples with (as a conscientious Christian) how to deal with your unfortunate and swift descent into the slime-pit of personal invective and ad hominem attacks. I’ve decided to make a few general comments presently. Other than that, I will try (hard as it is) to ignore all individual swipes at my character, integrity, supposed lack of scholarly acumen, etc., as they are not worthy of any attention whatsoever, and because I refuse to be drawn into tit-for-tat catfights which are totally off the subject which I initiated in my first letter (you at least didn’t resort to personal attack in your first letter). The only exceptions will be on those occasions where yet another character attack is so mixed in with your argument that it can’t be totally avoided (kind of like thorns on a weed).

I’ve been through this whole routine before, at least three times. The opposing party started out making some outrageous, sweeping charge against myself or my views (in your case, you read out of the Body of Christ nearly one billion professing Catholics, based on profoundly incoherent and unscriptural arguments). I replied with strong critiques, not without sarcasm and harsh (perhaps overly so at times) criticism of arguments (fully justified by the condescension introduced by the other party). I tried my utmost each time to avoid personal attacks. Being human and fallible I’m sure I usually didn’t altogether succeed. Yet my letters did not approach by any stretch of the imagination the level of ad hominem assault that the next letter I received invariably reached.

In all four cases, the reply was clearly and unmistakably judgmental and beyond the ken of Christian ethics, as far as I’m concerned. They also seemed to contain a great deal of projection. Your forays into this sub-rational territory are far too numerous to respond to, even if I had the desire to do so. I need not give even a single example. Nor is it necessary to quote the many biblical injunctions warning against an unbridled tongue. My other three correspondees ignored them. You give me little reason to believe you’d act any differently. But I hope you’ll prove me wrong.

I’m almost forced to believe as a result of these experiences that there is some almost universal perverse tendency in human beings (whether totally or predominantly depraved) to recoil against strong, rational criticism with such force as to lose all sense of proportion and propriety. So painful is it (for many people) to face the prospect of one’s own fallibility and other shortcomings, that the other person who suggests this possibility must be demonized. His motives must be attacked, his heart judged, and integrity impugned at all costs. This is only my own speculative theory, mind you, but the parallels and the uncanny resemblances must be explained in some fashion.

It couldn’t be — in these instances — that I merely saw something in a different light, that I had a sincere, thought-out disagreement. Animosity never needed to be introduced. It seems as if the other parties suffered down deep (again, sheer guesswork) from a marked lack of confidence, and an existentially troubling insecurity, even though in two out of the four cases (including yours) the opponent outwardly appeared quite confident and ready to take on all comers with a smile and a self-assurance which are the furthest thing from the “ad hominem mentality.”

In light of the above, I conclude with the utmost sincerity and lack of malice, that I must have hit a nerve with you, and you simply can’t deal with the possibility of your wrongness without lashing out like an angry dog cornered and trapped (note here that I use an analogy. Based on what I’ve seen, you’re capable of protesting that I called you a dog — insert smiley face here :-). Your absolutely astonishing habit of repeatedly ignoring my arguments altogether (including several which I felt were the hardest-hitting and best of the bunch) confirms this. Unless and until you show some forthrightness in facing my arguments (out of common courtesy if nothing else), then can you blame me, James, for thinking that you have no answer in those cases? What better hypothesis explains this evasive behavior?

One more thing before I move on to the actual arguments (I would have loved to have skipped all this if you would only have refrained from ad hominem guerrilla warfare). You will get nowhere quick trying to convince me that the use of sarcasm (or even just very pointed, acerbic criticism) is ethically impermissible, and essentially equivalent to arrogance. Again, this happened in every case of my four big run-ins with should-be friends. They all (with you) made a laundry list of my supposedly horrible, inexcusable “invective” or “epithets,” usually not taking into consideration context, style, perhaps justified anger, my constant qualifications and limitations, and oftentimes even plain dictionary meanings of words. Then they immediately launched hypocritically into far-worse invective themselves! For example, right after you do this, you state that I think I am

“…so great, so intelligent, so well-informed and so well-read that there is none who can even begin to respond to your arguments….”

This is not even fit for the bathroom graffiti of an elementary school! You chide me for using phrases which look like love letters compared to this childish outburst of yours (not an isolated example). You are too intelligent and biblically literate to be unaware of the use of such sarcastic “tactics” by Jesus Himself. Perhaps you can add such utterances as the following “Socratic” comments (do you think Socrates himself never used irony either?!) to your list:

“. . . ye devour widow’s houses . . ” (Mt 23:14)
“. . . hypocrites . . . ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Mt 23:15)
“. . . blind guides . . ” (Mt 23:16)
“Ye fools and blind . . ” (Mt 23:17)
“. . . ye . . . have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith . . .” (Mt 23:23)
“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Mt 23:24)
“. . . full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Mt 23:27)
“Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mt 23:28)
“. . . ye are the children of them which killed the prophets” (Mt 23:31)
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Mt 23:33)

Much like the Pharisees, you, too, attempt to bind men to your own “Reformed,” legalistic “criteria” for entrance into the Christian faith, and ignore the “weightier matters” which all Christians believe in common. You, too, can’t see the log in your own eye when you hypocritically banish me (and all real Catholics) from Christianity but don’t have the consistency to treat Luther, Melanchthon, Wesley, C. S. (not Vincent, whoever he is) Lewis, Wycliffe, Hus, even Calvin, in the same fashion, when they fail your various (infallible?) tests of “orthodoxy” miserably too. I am not attacking your character here. Your opposition to Catholicism is no mystery. I am merely offering a scathing attack on the false and, I believe, wicked tenets of anti-Catholicism.

Gerry Matatics notwithstanding — the true Catholic teaching is that you are a Christian, a “separated brother.” But you won’t extend such graciousness to me and millions of other Catholics. Hence my disgust and anger. Just try to imagine for a moment, that you are wrong about the sub-Christian status of Catholicism. Wouldn’t my anger at your schismatic and judgmental attitude towards us be completely justifiable and understandable? I know it must be difficult for you, but try to get inside my head for just a minute on just this one point. My concern is with the sinfulness of the entire anti-Catholic mentality of judgmentalism and a deluded sense of “spiritual superiority,” so to speak, that is exemplified in it. My concern is the unity of the Body, which Jesus valued enough to make it a central theme of His prayer at the Last Supper (Jn 17:21-23). If you’re wrong, you will have an awful lot to account for at the Judgment on this matter. As you say, “think about that, my friend.”

Finally, I can now get to both your actual rational arguments, as well as numerous caricatures and misunderstandings of my positions. I will try, by the way, to keep my pungent, earthy language (a la Muggeridge, Chesterton and, occasionally, Newman) to a minimum, since you are apparently quite insecure about that (1 Cor 8:9 may apply here). But one can only change one’s style so much. I would only ask in return that you please consider my thoughts in their totality and context, rather than getting caught up in isolated words which stun, baffle, or offend you. Perhaps I’m not quite the Philistine and unscholarly barbarian that you make me out to be (often a tactic used by people as a convenient rationalization for ignoring opposing arguments altogether, and terminating correspondence or conversation — again, all too familiar to a battle-scarred Socratic like myself).

Okay, James, so you don’t “exclude people from the kingdom on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of limited atonement.” Very well then, I accept this correction of Akin’s perspective of your belief. But I will call your bluff. Why don’t you now tell me what are your criteria, so we can clear up this misunderstanding once and for all? I’ve already seen how I wasn’t a Protestant according to you because of my rejection of the notion of a predestination to hell without the reprobate sinner’s will being involved at all, and total depravity. So I ask you again, just to make sure, and to avoid being accused for the nth time of dishonesty: this is your position, is it not? If so, then I merely proceeded, on this assumption, to mention other well-known Protestant Christian figures (and whole groups) who were also thereby excluded based on your own litmus test of belief: Melanchthon, Wesley, Finney, Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and, for fun’s sake, cult researcher Keith Tolbert.

I fail to grasp the nature of your complaint here (see the quote from Hamlet). What am I missing? I will restate my arguments in basic syllogistic formulas here and elsewhere, so as to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am (and always was) proceeding logically on the basis of your own stated premises, and using the famous argumentum ad absurdum (which infuriates most people — you apparently being no exception):

P1) Dave Armstrong was never a Protestant because he rejected absolute predestination and total depravity. {White (JW), 4-6-95, pp.1-2}
A1) But Melanchthon rejected absolute predestination and total depravity as well.
A2) Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney & Bonhoeffer also rejected absolute predestination and total depravity.
C1) Therefore, according to James White, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney & Bonhoeffer are not Protestants, nor is Keith Tolbert, author of the Cult Research Directory, on the same grounds.

P2) White says Catholics (and, so it would seem to follow, Orthodox) and cults such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians.
C2) Therefore, Protestants are the only Christians, and since Arminians are not truly Protestants (C1), then only Calvinists are Christians.
C3) Therefore, according to James White, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney, Bonhoeffer, Keith Tolbert, and Dave Armstrong (before and after poping) cannot be Christians.

P3) Calvinists are those who must accept all five points of TULIP (which are all consistent with each other).
A3) One of these five points is limited atonement.
A4) It then follows that anyone denying limited atonement is not a Calvinist.
A5) Anyone who is not a Calvinist is not a Protestant (C2).
A6) And anyone who is not a Protestant is not a Christian (C2).
C4) Therefore, anyone who denies limited atonement is not a Christian.

P4) But James White says {5-4-95, p.2} that C4, which flows from his premises, is untrue, and is a “caricature” of his position, and “unworthy” of an apologist, a “misrepresentation,” and, in fact, a position which, if used, would “convict” one of “dishonesty.”
C5) Therefore, due to the contradiction of C4 and P4, White must be either illogical, or dishonest, or perhaps wishy-washy and “double-minded.”

A7) We will assume James White is an honest and mentally- and emotionally-stable guy (unlike his treatment of Catholic apologists).
A8) Assuming, then, that he is illogical, he must deny or modify one or more of his premises in order to eliminate the fatal flaw in his reasoning on this point.
Hypothetical C1) If White denies P1 (and A5 logically stands or falls with P1), then Dave Armstrong was indeed formerly a Protestant, and is owed an apology for misrepresentation and slander.
A9) By the same token, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney, Bonhoeffer, and Keith Tolbert are also Protestants.
A10) Yet White wants to have his cake & eat it too, by maintaining implicitly & inconsistently (by an argument from silence) that Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney, Bonhoeffer, and Keith Tolbert are Protestants (hence, Christian) whereas, Dave Armstrong before poping was not.
A11) White also contradicts himself (C2) when he claims {5-4-95, p.2} that equating the terms “Protestant” and “Christian” is an “incredible leap” and “dishonest shifting of terms.”

HC2) If, in order to rectify this contradiction, White overturns P2, he stands his anti-Catholicism on its head, in which case he must repent, and apologize to Patrick Madrid, Robert Fastiggi, James Akin, Art Sippo, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Robert Sungenis, Karl Keating et al (and all his debate and newsletter audiences). He must also renounce his book The Fatal Flaw and take it off the market.

P5) White maintains that Methodists, Lutherans, the majority of Anglicans, Free Will Baptists, most pentecostals and many non-denominationalists are Christians {5-4-95, p.2}, since Dave Armstrong’s argumentum ad absurdum to the contrary {4-22-95, p.4} is rejected as not even “worthy of response,” “a mere wasting of time and effort,” and not “meaningful.”
P6) But P5 contradicts P1, C1, C2, C3, P3, A4, & A5.
C6) Therefore, either P5 or (P1, Cl, C2, C3, P3, A4, A5) is false. If the former, then James White needs to write books which rail against Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans, & other “semi-Pelagian” “Protestant” groups. If the latter, then Dave Armstrong was a Protestant prior to poping, and Calvinists are not the only Christians.

Final Conclusion: James White has severe reasoning disabilities, of which he is apparently blissfully unaware. Yet when Dave Armstrong points this out, his reply is characterized {5-4-95, p.2} as “misrepresentation” and White states in parting that “those who have something meaningful to say don’t waste their time on such things.” Perhaps, then, James White finds basic syllogistic logic neither helpful nor “meaningful.” Whether this is a conscious rejection or not, Dave will not rashly speculate, as it is up to James to sort out this confusion of thought and present to Dave a revised, non-contradictory system, as well as a definitive list of who is and isn’t a Christian, so Dave won’t be forced to make guesses obfuscated by James’ frequently convoluted and inexplicable illogic.

Do I make myself clear this time? Enough to escape more of your derision upon my supposed lack of reasoning ability? One can only hope so. I am most eager to accept any clarification on your part which will explain the above seemingly insurmountable absurdities. The easy way out would be to simply admit that you blew it and have to do some major rearranging of your schema of Christian orthodoxy. I pray that you will recognize the wisdom of that course of action.

The very next paragraph makes it necessary for me to engage in some more step-by-step logic in order to explain my position to you (which was clear enough, I think).

P1) James White believes that: “. . . a communion that replaces the grace of God with sacraments, mediators, and merit,” cannot “be properly called ‘Christian.”‘ {4-6-95, p.2 / 5-4-95, p.2}
A1) Dave merely reverses the order of this sentence, singling out “sacraments” for the sake of argument, time, and space, and deleting one “s”: “sacraments . . . replace the grace of God” {4-22-95, p.7}.

(Dave freely admits that perhaps it would have been more advisable — especially in retrospect, given White’s now manifest propensity to attack opponents’ motives– to not rearrange the phrase in one set of quotation marks, but regards this as a trifling issue, and not “dishonest” whatsoever, certainly not intentionally, as will be demonstrated below).

P2) White calls this rephrasing “silliness,” “in the best style of Gail Riplinger” (whom Dave called a “nut” {4-22-95, p.1}), “dishonesty,” “misrepresent[ation],” so bad that White feels Dave “owe[s] me an apology for such behavior,” and that Dave will “have some serious work to do to restore” his “credibility as an honest apologist and researcher.” {5-4-95, p.2} Wow!!!
A2) Yet Dave’s rephrasing and isolation of “sacraments” doesn’t violate the meaning, logic, or intent of White’s sentence in the least, because, in White’s thinking:
A3) [Catholicism] “replaces the grace of God with sacraments , mediators, and merit,” thus is not Christian.
A4) It follows then that Catholicism replaces grace with mediators.
A5) And that Catholicism replaces grace with merit as well.
A6) And that, as in Dave’s argument, Catholicism replaces grace with sacraments.
A7) One can rephrase A6 as: “sacraments replace grace.”
C1) Thus, A2 and Dave Armstrong’s argument are both true, given White’s premises, and P2 and White’s offense are false and improper.

If you don’t comprehend this, let’s try an analogy:

P3) Calvin replaces the Tradition of Catholic Christianity with sola Scriptura, sola fide, and private judgment.
A8) It follows then that Calvin replaces Catholic Christianity with sola Scriptura.
A9) And that Calvin replaces Catholic Christianity with sola fide as well.
A10) And that Calvin replaces Catholic Christianity with private judgment.
A11) Thus sola Scriptura, sola fide, & private judgment all replace Catholic Christianity.
C2) Therefore, sola Scriptura replaces Catholic Christianity.

A12) But James White would object that C2 is a dishonest distortion of P3.
C3) Therefore, either C2 or P3 or both are false, and Calvin’s views must be presented in an alternative fashion.
C4) But if this is the case, the same reasoning applies to P1 and A7, & a central tenet in White’s beef against Catholic Christianity is false, & sacraments are not contrary to the grace of God.
C5) If this is true, then if other misunderstood doctrines like mediators and merits can be explained as Christian also, Catholicism may indeed be Christian & White’s anti-Catholic worldview collapses in a heap of ashes. Good riddance!

P4) Dave Armstrong, operating from White’s P1, and A7 — which has been shown to logically flow from P1 — then proceeds to make the following argumentum ad absurdum (completely ignored by White):
A13) Calvin believes that sacraments do not “replace” grace, but are a “testimony” of it, citing St. Augustine, who gives the standard Catholic definition of “sacrament.” {DA, 4-22-95, p.7}
A14) Thus Calvin disagrees with White on P1, and agrees with Dave on the worthwhile nature of sacraments.
A15) But Calvin is James White’s mentor, and therefore must be a Christian.
C6) But Calvin cannot be a Christian according to White’s P1 and its corollary A7. Therefore, White is inconsistently following a non-Christian while at the same time railing against Catholics for being non-Christian and believing in a view of sacraments not unlike Calvin’s!
C7) Dave submits as a solution to this dilemma, that Calvin is indeed a Christian, albeit a grossly deficient one, and, rather, that James White is in error concerning the propriety & validity of sacraments.


A16) Luther believes in sacramental, regenerative infant baptism {DA, 4-22-95, p.8}, essentially in agreement with Catholic Christianity:

“We should be even as little children, when they are newly baptized, who engage in no efforts or works, but are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Infants are aided by the faith of others, namely, those who bring them for baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult could be changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same church prayed for and presented him, as we read of the paralytic in the Gospel, who was healed through the faith of others [Mk 2:3-12]. I should be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious in conferring grace, not only to those who do not, but even to those who do most obstinately present an obstacle.” { Babylonian Captivity, Three Treatises, Philadelphia: Fortress, rev. 1970, p.197 }

A17) But sacraments, according to James White, replace grace (P1, A7).
A18) Whoever replaces grace with sacraments or any other “work,” cannot be a Christian.
C8) Therefore, Luther (and Calvin) cannot be Christians, for this reason, as well as Luther’s views on the Real Presence, Adoration of the Host, and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, among other things.
A19) But Luther founded Protestantism and originated almost all of its distinctives (with Calvin putting the icing on the cake).
A20) And only Protestants are Christians (White’s P2 & C2 on p.5 above).
A21) And White is a Protestant, therefore a Calvinist, therefore able to be called a Christian. But how can non-Christians found true Christianity?
C9) Current-day anti-sacramental, “Baptist-type” Protestants have severe logical and historical problems, which are either ignored, minimized, or rationalized away by anti-Catholics such as James White, who, true to form, totally ignored the above argument as presented in Dave’s letter of 4-22-95, pp.7-8. They love to cite Luther & Calvin with evident pride and respect, except where they agree with Catholic Christianity. These instances are usually hidden from the initiate lest the evident double standard and intellectual dishonesty of this position become evident. This allows professional anti-Catholics to rail against Catholic sacramentalism and Marian devotion, but not, e.g., Lutheran (esp. Luther himself) & Anglican sacramentalism and Marian devotion. Catholics like Dave Armstrong, on the other hand, need not hide anything on these scores, & can examine the issues openly & without pretense, fear, and evasiveness.

All of the above nearly five-page treatment of basic logic would have been unnecessary if you had only given my arguments the thought and consideration that they indeed deserved in the first place, rather than taking the easy fool’s course of evasion and name-calling (sorry, but you thoroughly deserve this criticism). It’s your positions which are irreparably contradictory here, rather than my arguments from absurdity from your premises being “dishonest,” etc. You ought to either clarify or modify them.

Well, I’m at all of page 2! I got a big kick out of your fanciful interpretation of my encounter with the editor of the New Treasury. Yet your own commentary precisely proves my point. A little background is in order, as with your “handshaking” incidents. Let me explain: Here’s a guy who edits an extraordinary reference work on Scripture, which book I greatly admire (and say so in my book at one point). We invite him to our ecumenical discussion group to give a presentation, and give him all the time in the world. He ends up talking about himself for far too much of the time, including much about his great debating abilities, honed at his high school’s debating club (arguably the finest high school in Detroit, which I also attended). It so turns out that he is an anti-Catholic, and this can be gleaned from various polemical sections in his book. I thought to myself, “well, if he extols his own debating ability in public, then surely he’ll be willing to engage in a little dialogue with me.”

He did write me a few brief letters, and even later invited me to a talk he gave at a pentecostal church (at which I had worshiped in the past, and even manned the prayer line on one occasion) about his book. I went, and endured more of his “waxing eloquent” about his debating skills. I mingled with the crowd (including his wife) afterwards, not causing a ruckus, nor intending in any way, shape, or form to be “controversial,” etc. (i.e., respecting the surroundings I was in). After some small talk, I did simply mention to a few people that I was a Catholic, and received the usual bemused, dumbfounded responses.

I also met again the amiable assistant pastor whose radio talk show I was on in November 1989, discussing Jehovah’s Witnesses (the only time I’ve been on the radio as an “expert”). He knew that I had converted and expressed great interest in discussing this with me. I also gave him my sola Scriptura treatise. He said he was shortly going to conduct a class on Catholicism and would like to get my input. I was delighted. At last, I thought to myself, friendly, courteous, ecumenical discussion without the usual hostility. I also talked with the speaker briefly, and, so I thought, amiably. Well, I later got drift that the Treasury editor had spread a false rumor about me supposedly deliberately disrupting this gathering, spreading “Romish” propaganda, etc., etc. My heart sank and I was extremely angry, since there was not a shred of truth to this accusation, not one iota by any stretch of the imagination (does this not sound like some of your recounted experiences?).

After all, he invited me in the first place — otherwise I wouldn’t have even known about it! After this he totally ignored me. I wrote him another letter a year or so afterwards, with no response. Furthermore, to my amazement, the assistant pastor, who had formerly respected me, and who I thought was a friendly acquaintance (I was fond of him, too), was never heard from again either! I left him a phone message shortly after the talk, with no reply. About a year later, I wrote him another friendly letter with a few short tracts, asking if he was still interested in dialogue, and if he had perhaps forgotten about his own stated interest in this. Stony silence. Shortly after that I happened to see him by chance at a theology class a good Protestant friend of mine invited me to. He ignored me as if I wasn’t there (I know he saw me). I didn’t go up to him, wishing to spare him embarrassment.

These are but a few of my experiences with “knowledgeable” Protestants, yet you chide me for venting some of my frustration and felt injustice for this asinine treatment with a little sarcasm, and are certain that this is arrogance rather than an implied rebuke of a person who — in light of the above — is far more accurately characterized as “arrogant” than myself. I was gracious and ecumenical at all times, but you see how he treated me. Again, he started, like you, with the assumption that I was not a Christian, and was an apostate from the truth, as you say.

Now, as to your comment, let me show you how it applies much more to him, not me: If the Protestant Bible expert can devour Catholics for lunch (as he constantly implies in his book), wouldn’t that make Dave Armstrong easy work as an hors d’oeuvre, a mere warm-up for the big meals like Pacwa, Akin, Madrid, and Keating, given my obvious (and admitted) inferiority to them as a scholar? Sort of makes his proclamations of being a great debater rather empty, don’t you think? And what about the concern for my eternal soul from these Christian experts? Shouldn’t that be of paramount concern to them, rather than guarding their own (I speculate) pride?

As to your gratuitous swipe at my declining oratorical debate, this is a vapid accusation for the following reason: you falsely assume that public spoken debate is the only (or at least far preferable) kind of debate. Even after I told you that this was not my forte, desire, or preference (what’s wrong with that? Do you demand that everybody be just like you?), you persist in implying that I am scared to debate! As I anticipated { 4-22-95, p.16 / 5-15-95, p.1 } you would take my refusal as a product of fear rather than principle and preference. Well, writing is also debate, James. We are doing it right now (me writing and you reading this). Haven’t you ever heard of Luther’s debate with Erasmus on Free Will? Or Calvin’s famous interchange with Cardinal Sadoleto? Are these not debates, according to you? And were Luther and Calvin “chickens” for not debating their foes publicly and with the spoken word? Pretty silly, wouldn’t you agree, James?

Besides, the comparison falls flat (even apart from my revulsion at unethical anti-Catholic tactics) since my two Protestant former acquaintances are unwilling to engage me in any format whatsoever, whereas I will gladly take you (or them, or Robert Morey, etc.) on by correspondence or in your newsletter on any theological topic (excepting NT Greek grammar!) at any time. I think this is a vast and obvious difference– between my confident, open outlook and their (I dare say) evasive and fearful (?) approach. Remember, both of them initiated the process and sent out signals that they were willing or able to debate, not me. This makes a huge difference. You can interpret my confidence in defending my position and disgust at Protestant braggadocio and “superior” attitudes (yet simultaneous reluctance to dialogue) as my own arrogance if you like.

If so, it is clear that you have profoundly misunderstood me and my motives. To the extent that you keep doing that and keep ignoring my own first-hand accounts and expressions of opinion, we will never engage in true debate– precisely one of the reasons why I will not oratorically debate an anti-Catholic (you refuse to engage Sippo and Lewis for very similar reasons). For in the spur of the moment at one of these (usually farcical) debates, I could never come up with the carefully-and tightly-reasoned responses which I have produced here as a result of hours of thought and work (I can’t think of many who could, not even you yourself). Thus the audience might get the false impression that you have great reasoning at your command, whereas the truth is quite the contrary on major points under discussion, as I’ve clearly demonstrated (and only in your first three pages, yet!).

You claim (p.3) that I “did not even begin to demonstrate that anything [you] said [about Roman theology] was inaccurate.” This is an outright falsehood (a synonym of falsehood is “lie”– it need not be deliberate). You have indeed borne “false witness” (I do not claim deliberately). I showed you that your view of sacraments “replacing” the grace of God is false, according to your own heroes Luther and Calvin. True, this was not so much a theological argument (with which I deal in my Eucharist treatise) as an analogical argumentum ad absurdum, which I love to use (if you haven’t noticed that already). But it still demonstrated that what you said created insuperable problems not only for Catholicism (assuming your correctness) but also for the Christian status of Luther, Calvin, Anglicanism, Wycliffe, Hus, etc. as well.

Likewise, I demonstrated the same thing concerning free will. It is a simple matter of logic once again (I’ve always admired Calvinists for their logic, at least– such frequent lapses on your part are exceedingly curious to me). If you state that the denial of one or more parts of TULIP is non-Christian, then you are indirectly dealing with “Roman” theology, which opposes this in major ways. Ditto also for denominationalism (p.9). In attacking that (and citing four biblical passages among many) I was criticizing your view that this was okay and that the opposite view (the “oneness” of Catholicism) is troublesome, since it supposedly creates clones who parrot back “Roman” infallible teachings by rote, rather than with biblical and patristic support.

Thus I was indirectly demonstrating that what you said about “Roman” theology was indeed inaccurate. My comments on St. Clement (who was, by the way, a bishop. Do you have a bishop? If not, why do you claim St. Clement as one of your own when he himself would say you weren’t- 44:2, 59:1?) also delved into questions of justification, with much scriptural citation (p. 13), thus critiquing your assertions about the bankruptcy of “Roman” theology. Furthermore, I enclosed my critique of Geisler’s article on “sola Scriptura,” (a counter to the Catholic idea of Tradition), and my article on Luther’s devotion to Mary, which is contrary to your assertions as to what is and is not proper for a good Protestant to believe and do.

So your statement at the top of this paragraph is obviously false. Apparently, by all appearances, when you ignore an opponent’s argument (except for rabid pontifications about its “dishonesty,” etc.), you convince yourself that it isn’t there at all (kind of an Orwellian tactic of “doublethink”).

I do not at present have the materials to delve properly into the vexed and complex question of the status of heretics throughout history, and how this might relate to infallibility. I’m sure Catholic apologists have dealt with this in the depth which you are (rightfully so) demanding. Perhaps you can ask your friends Patrick Madrid or Karl Keating for reading suggestions.

I do know that it is current Catholic teaching that all validly-baptized Protestants are indeed “incorporated into Christ,” “Christians,” and “brothers” (VII, Dec Ecumenism, I, 3). You ought to rejoice that this is the case. But I guess, given your anti-ecumenical and schismatic mentality (e.g., rampant denominationalism is no problem– 4-6-95, p.3), it rather saddens you that the Beast regards you as more of a brother than an enemy.

Since this is our official teaching, you can only repeatedly cite people like Gerry Matatics, who, apparently (and sadly) has become a schismatic. For you to insist that separatists and anti-Vatican II types are still Catholic is almost as silly as me saying that The Way International is Protestant since it still operates on the principles of private judgment and sola Scriptura. It just ain’t so. It doesn’t take much for the essence of a position to change. Many outward factors may still remain the same, just as in the Protestant sects. A “Catholic” who rejects a true Ecumenical Council is dishonestly using the name, and ought to become a Protestant, since he has adopted private judgment as his final arbiter.

How can I possibly not read anti-Catholic books since I am a Catholic apologist? Very simple! I employ the same reasoning that you use with regard to Vinney Lewis:

“Might I suggest to you . . . that . . . some of us have standards with reference to the behavior of those with whom we correspond? I will not debate Vinney Lewis either, and there’s a reason for that: he is not worthy of being noticed on that level.” { 5-4-95, p.1 }

You make similar remarks about Art Sippo on p.16 (apparently with some justification). Well, I am merely extending such reluctance to the written page. You yourself say that there are

“…far too many ‘anti-Catholic’ books and works around that show little or no concern for accurate citation or presentation.” { Fatal Flaw, p.20}.

Why should I waste my time in reading such material when you were tempted to cease writing to me and wasting your “limited time” because of my alleged “almost irreparably damaged credibility?” Until you debate Sippo and Lewis again, I will not read Chick, Alamo, Boettner, Hislop, Hunt, Ankerberg, or Brewer. Catholic Answers staff do that because they have made it part of their function (for obvious reasons). But not every Catholic apologist is so constrained (thank God!). I content myself with going back to the roots of Protestantism and reading Calvin and Luther. You surely can’t be asserting that one must read anti-Catholics in order to understand either Protestantism or its disagreements with Catholicism!

Of current writers I will read people like Geisler, Samples and Miller, Pelikan, Tolbert, the Passantinos, Packer, etc. (i.e., on Catholicism) since they are ecumenical and immeasurably more logical than the anti-Catholics. I would certainly eagerly purchase and read their works, with the greatest interest. You are pretty much in a class by yourself (perhaps also Morey & Ankerberg)– anti-Catholics who show some measure of concern for sources and accuracy, and some semblance of respect for the mind and Christian history (even cogent theology). I already stated I would make an exception for your works, since they are obviously far and away the best of a bad lot, and since you were nice enough to send them to me free, provided you’ll interact with my rebuttals.

Again, you should be pleased about that, rather than criticizing me unduly and saying that I may therefore not be an apologist. Tsk, tsk, James. As for Salmon, I read him because he was perfect for my needs at the time as an evangelical Protestant apologist– a scathing attack on infallibility (i.e., I was on his side when I read the book). I would certainly snatch up his book today if I saw it since (like your stuff) it is about the best you guys can come up with and not immediately dismissible as absurd and laughable hogwash. I am still proud today that as a Protestant I did not rely on blithering idiots (i.e., on Catholicism) like Boettner and Chick for my polemics, but rather, the smartest anti-Catholics, Dollinger and Salmon (I would have utilized you, too, if I had been aware of you).

I use the term “anti-Catholic” in a very basic sense -someone who is opposed to the Catholic Church (not its members per se) and does not consider it as Christian. He may or may not regard it as a consciously heinous Beast and Whore (the spectrum runs the gamut from Jack “Jesuits killed Lincoln” Chick to Dave “1 million Reformation martyrs” Hunt to you). There is nothing improper or offensive in this usage whatsoever. It is the objective stating of a fact, such as the term “anti-abortion activist” (I accept that description, though I much prefer “pro-life”). It’s curious that you reject a title which so accurately portrays what you are. But I guess I’d be embarrassed too to be in the fraternity of Catholic-bashers you’re in.

Throughout my book and tracts I argue that anti-Catholicism is almost (but not quite) essential for all Protestants (in order to justify their own very existence). You go on to compare apples and oranges by stating that I should consistently call myself an “anti-Protestant.” C’mon, James, you’re smarter than this (so many pages and hours taken up– for both of us– in all these corrections of fact and logic). I say you’re a Christian; you say I’m not, therefore there is no logical symmetry here. I’m not anti-Protestant by my own criterion above. I’m a seriously ecumenical Catholic who does, however, criticize Protestants as rebellious sons within the family, not enemies.

You might call me a Catholic “polemicist” or “controversialist,” but not an anti-Protestant, at least according to my objective definition of terms. If merely disagreeing with Protestant positions makes me “anti-Protestant,” then the denominations would have so many “anti-Lutherans,” “anti-Arminians,” “anti-pentecostals,” etc. as to be utterly countless. With me, it’s a family squabble and in-house fight, whereas you are taking on the foreign infidels, whose views are well-nigh worthless and contemptible. This leads to two entirely different attitudes, which may explain why you continually rip my character and motives, while I try to stick to the arguments, to the extent that your diatribes against me and my patience allow. I’m quite willing to call you a Protestant apologist too. The two titles are not mutually exclusive.

As for Bart Brewer, I’ve seen his little letters in This Rock, read about him there, heard him on tape, and seen his comically condescending personal letter to a convert friend of mine (questioning his Protestant pedigree, etc., much like you — this guy was a dyed-in-the-wool Baptist who even studied with Francis Schaeffer!). Nothing I’ve seen indicates “humility” or “simple kindness” on his part (although I will not flatly deny it exists, since I don’t know). My impression is quite to the contrary. And his reasoning is by no means compelling. There is only — again, as far as I’ve seen– lightweight, cliched salvos, to the effect that Catholics never hear the gospel, ad nauseam. This type of “argument” is inane, asinine, and insipid (sorry!). So my description stands.

On the surface it might appear arrogant, but when it is understood in the context of being directed at a person who brashly contends that I am an infidel and heaps all kinds of slanderous and unsubstantiated abuse on my Church and, by extension, on me, it is quite justified, just as Jesus’ descriptions of the Pharisees (for much the same attitude) are, and also St. Paul’s hard-hitting descriptions of various wayward individuals.

Being on both sides of any major disagreement is self-evidently a benefit (this was a minor point of mine and I did take pains to qualify it). The very fact that you guys trot out your Bart Brewers (“he was a Catholic priest for xx years,” etc.) proves that you agree with this. Much is made of Luther’s having been a monk and “understanding the Catholic position from the inside” too. Not all of us are so enlightened or blessed with the right upbringing so as to arrive at theological truth at such an early age, and stick with it through thick and thin, as it would appear from your remarks about others, you believe about yourself (a “cradle Calvinist”?). Real or so-called “traitors” are always despised by the groups they leave. That’s why civil wars are the bloodiest. This is human nature, I suppose.

I might add as a parting shot that if anything is “double-minded,” it is your numerous contradictory views and selective double standards of criticism, as painstakingly exhibited throughout this letter (these could rightly be called “wavering” — Jas 1:6). I would never say this unprovoked, but since you stoop to it, I only point out that one might see some hypocrisy in you using this charge. Merely changing positions, even repeatedly, is not necessarily “double-minded,” nor hypocritical nor “unstable,” provided there is a true developmental progression from lesser truth to greater truth, and an increase in knowledge and wisdom. I would say that the phrase “double-minded” refers more to the simultaneous holding of contradictory views, or vacillation, such as in your two letters, as I’ve proven several times already.

Another trivial matter: I referred to my book since I gave you (unless I overlooked this) my list of tracts, which describes it. Obviously, I was speaking in the sense of the potential for you to read various chapters as an answer to your arguments. Why should I reiterate views which I have already expressed elsewhere? Whatever you want to read, I will give to you (several are already enclosed). I didn’t want to bombard you with hundreds of pages– I just wanted you to know that I’ve done this work and that it is at my disposal in manuscript form should it become necessary to refute your assertions. Better yet, if you want, I’ll give you the whole kit and kaboodle on two computer disks (ancient Wordstar 5.00).

By “constructively ecumenical” I mean striving for increased understanding among Christians. I don’t know what apologist told you ecumenism is a “joke” (although I agree much of what passes for ecumenism indeed is). I’d like to hear the context of that remark, and what he thinks of the documents of Vatican II. If the only reason I talked to Protestants (particularly of the anti-Catholic bent) was to convert them, I’d be one frustrated camper indeed, as the only ones I’ve helped to pope were already my friends. No, my immediate, realistic goal (aside from simple, innocent friendliness) is simply to build bridges, and to engage in the ceaseless and almost thankless task of explaining Catholicism and defending it from the ever-present disinformation and prejudice with which we Catholics have to deal as a matter of course. In this, my attitude is little different from my campus evangelist days. I was content to let the Spirit do the work of conversion — it was my privilege to be used in some small way as a vessel of Christian truth.

Likewise, in my attempts at bridge-building, perhaps occasionally someone will convert, which I regard as a great improvement in one’s spiritual status, of course, since more truth is espoused than formerly. This was also the philosophy of my ecumenical discussion group, and it never changed, even though I started it as a Protestant (the dynamic is the same on either side). Lacking that, I would be ecstatic to convince Protestants with obvious zeal and abilities such as yourself that Catholicism is Christian. This would be fulfilling the “mandate” of John 17 — a quite worthwhile endeavor and the primary purpose of ecumenism. Strictly speaking, if I am actively seeking to convert someone (which is rare, anyway) I am functioning as a Catholic evangelist and apologist. When I am seeking to understand others and to explain my views (i.e., almost all the time), I am playing more the ecumenist’s role. This involves no duplicity or contradiction. Anyone with strong views wishes that others could be convinced of them, too. But given inherent divisions, we all have to get to know each other’s opinions also, and charity demands this.

Okay, James, so I took some liberties in speculating on your opinions as to the means and process of my conversion (er, apostasy). Perhaps my acerbic wit got the best of me. But you go beyond that. You must accuse me of (what else?) “misrepresentation.” But this time I was not attempting to quote you directly, and thought that you would realize I was writing “tongue-in-cheek,” being the sharp guy (I mean that sincerely) that you are. Mainly, I was reacting to the condescension of you thinking that you know so much about my theological knowledge (or lack thereof) prior to poping, which was a bit much to take– hence the sarcasm. You’ll note that almost always when I utilize wit, sarcasm, parody, etc. I am either reacting to arrogance, rash presumption, or rank hypocrisy from the other party (again, just like Jesus does). It’s always provoked in some manner. I do not initiate it.

When you read portions of my book, you’ll find that I rarely engage in sarcasm and try to maintain a scholarly tone of understatement (I make no claim to being a scholar, however). The typical instances of my sarcasm are in response to arrogant comments from Luther, Calvin, or some other anti-Catholic which thoroughly deserve a response (“be all things to all people”). Calvin is as arrogant as they come, and I indulge myself a little bit at his expense, as well as Luther’s (how would you expect a Catholic to react to their outrageous accusations?). Now, having accepted your rebuke on this point, why don’t you then elaborate on what you meant by my lack of knowledge of the “why” of “Roman” theology, and the supposed “ripeness” of my views for “refutation.” Since you (quite presumptuously) feel you know so much about this, I’d like to know what you know about me too, then I won’t have to speculate excessively.

I’d be especially delighted to learn that you in fact don’t regard the Catholic Church and its proponents as “clever,” “devious,” and characterized by “Babylonish guile.” These are classic anti-Catholic charges, perfected in our day by Dave Hunt (following Pope Luther — Babylonian Captivity…). If you disagree with this, I wish you’d write to Hunt and set him straight. We could use a guy like you to run interference for us on occasion. If you do accept this description, then where’s the beef with my witticisms?

As for the precise written content of my conversion story, how in the world is that relevant here, or even any business of yours? A conversion story is just that– a conversion story, not a treatise on theology or a library list or pro-Protestant controversialism (my prior stance), just as the Gospels have a specific purpose, and Proverbs and Psalms and Amos all have their own raison d’etre too. This is getting really ridiculous, and you force me to go back to my flow charts:

P1) Dave Armstrong writes a 12-page conversion story in Surprised by Truth (the shortest in the book).
P2) James White apparently thinks that it does or should present an exhaustive survey of Dave’s grasp of Catholic theology prior to his conversion. In so thinking, James assumes that Dave would list all or most of what he has read and studied about Catholicism and Protestant critiques in this 12-page story.
C1) James White thereby concludes that whatever is not listed has not been read or studied by Dave Armstrong.
C2) White further concludes that this means Dave had not read Calvin’s diatribes and defenses, nor Trent, nor even the catechisms of Fr. John Hardon prior to conversion.
C3) White concludes, with little grounds, that Dave Armstrong therefore was quite lacking in his understanding of Protestantism & why it opposes Catholicism, hence was “ripe for refutation” theologically.
C4) In other words, Dave was so lacking in knowledge of his own prior beliefs that his “conversion” is of little significance. In fact, Dave wasn’t Protestant at all, since he was never a five-point Calvinist, which is the litmus test.

So then, what was I, anyway? A Pelagian? A Druid? A Rastafarian? All this based on 12 pages and a few short tracts and letters. You still don’t know what and how much I’ve studied, yet you persist in this fatuous analysis and say things like, “am I to conclude, Dave, that I should not take what Roman apologists say at face value?” Why are you so concerned about this factor, anyway? Is it not simply a diversionary tactic? You can try to poke holes in my conversion odyssey if you like (I rather enjoy these analyses for humor’s sake, much as musicians despise and chuckle at dead-wrong critical reviews of their work), but this won’t get you off the hook of refuting what I know now, regardless of what I knew or didn’t know then.

I didn’t even mention Surprised by Truth in my first letter (strange, if I’m as arrogant as you think). You started this whole line of reasoning. But I fail to see how it is relevant. If you keep trying to prove that you were not presumptuous, I don’t believe it is likely you will succeed. Now, if you’ll pay me labor costs, I’ll write a 300-page autobiography on the precise nature of my theological knowledge and progress at every step of the way from 1977 to 1990, so I can “tell the truth” about my “background” and “experience.” It would make pretty dull reading, I think, to reel off scores of book titles so as to satisfy your strict requirements for self-revelation! But if you paid me, I would do it. C’mon! I wish we’d get to some real issues. I value my time as much as you do yours, I’m sure. I want some real, substantive dialogue.

As for “epistemological leaps” (you must have taken some philosophy, too), Protestantism is replete with them– for starters, sola Scriptura, a-historicism, private judgment, a stultifying tendency of dichotomizing ideas unnecessarily, anti-sacramentalism, anti-materialism, anti-clericalism, paper (without papal) infallibility, perspicuity, assurance of salvation, etc. You keep railing against infallibility, as if it is a totally untenable position. Well, which bucket would you pick: the one with one hole (easily patched up by Catholic apologist handymen), or the one with ten (which are denied by the Protestant apologists, who just keep filling up the bucket regardless of its leaks)?

Yes, I stand by my opposition to how you paint the picture of my being impressed by Catholics in Operation Rescue. It’s not a matter of seeing “nice folks” who are sincere and consistent in their beliefs (big wow; if that was it, I’d surely be either a Mormon or a conservative Methodist!). No, it’s being impressed with godly men and women of great Christian integrity. I dealt with this adequately on p.3. I find another thing very troubling. You would rather insist on evangelizing Catholics at every opportunity rather than standing together with them against the greatest evil of our age (which you admit). You think this “principle” more important than (given the reasonable opportunity at a Rescue) the very saving of babies’ lives (Ecc 3:7 applies, I would say).

I can think of many legitimate reasons for not participating in Rescues (I haven’t since 1990 myself), but yours is certainly not one of them. I regard it as an astounding and indefensible instance of tragically blind legalism to the exclusion of the “weightier matters” of love and compassion for both the babies and the state of both a divided Christianity and a decadent civilization. It is as morally contemptible as Corrie Ten Boom saying that she would not assist in saving Jews unless she could convert them, too.

It’s disgusting and abominable that Protestants such as Bill Gotthard, John MacArthur and even Norman Geisler (who said on a talk show that he would not save a five-year-old from a legal death camp down the street unless it was his own), cannot even give sanction to the tactic of Rescue, let alone (God forbid) sit with Catholics in them. MacArthur said on Ankerberg’s anti-Catholic series of broadcasts recently that we should not even participate together in non-Rescue pro-life activities! Perhaps this is your view, too. Divide and conquer.

You didn’t have to compromise or “overlook” anything as a Rescuer. I didn’t compromise my evangelicalism. All you had to do was shut your mouth at the clinic entrances and in the jails. Was that really too much to ask of you for the sake of the babies about to be killed? Couldn’t you just pray for the infidels (and, egads, with them) and be a shining example of a righteous Calvinist? I talked at length with the Catholics in other venues. No one could stop me from engaging in dialogue elsewhere. The leaders only had authority over me at the Rescues, not in my private life. Even in the jails, though, I talked theology, but since I was ecumenical rather than anti-Catholic, this was no hindrance to the movement. I had a Socratic attitude of being willing to learn, not just to share everything I knew with poor, ignorant papists. It’s all in the approach.

If you think that the situation of 23,000 denominations is the equivalent of the “modern state of Roman apologetics in the U.S. today” I would love to see you elaborate on this contention with some real arguments, not just desperate salvos for lack of any real reasoning or response. And please leave out the separatist “Catholic” examples, if you would, for my sake, since I don’t buy it.

I challenge you once again (I am at your p.6): please tell me who is and who isn’t a Christian. Are Arminians Christians? You mention “Protestantism.” Who are these Protestants-in-quotes? It would seem that, at a bare minimum, Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans, pentecostals, some Baptists, and many non-denoms are excluded right off the bat, as I earlier stated. Please tell me for sure so I can know. Surely you know, since you are quick to read others out of the faith (like the early “Reformers,” especially Luther).

And again, I declare to you: if these Protestants-in-quotes are not Christian, then they are far more wicked than us poor papists, under the yoke of Rome, as there is a strong element of deception (from your standpoint) in their position. They are fake Protestants, fatally-compromised, hypocritical and nominal Protestants, “treading water in the Tiber.” And who are those who reject limited atonement yet remain Christians? I’m especially curious as to Melanchthon and Wesley. Finally, St. Paul wasn’t a Calvinist any more than St. Augustine was. This is made clear in my “sola fide” treatise.

Very well, then, James. I’ll call your bluff again. Please send me an example (please pay close attention to what I am requesting) of a sermon intended for evangelization and as a prelude to an altar call whereby people get “saved,” where TULIP is presented as the center and essence of the whole enterprise. If you can produce one (preferably more) of these, I will recant this position (it isn’t as though my whole worldview rests on it, anyway). The key words were “openly presents” and I was referring to missionary-crusade type settings (or sermons, anyway), obviously not to the fact that someone might believe in TULIP. Even if you are correct on the factual point, I would still deny theologically that TULIP is the gospel. I maintain that it is a schema of heavily philosophical theology.

The gospel, as I have always believed, is, as W. E. Vine defines it,

“…the good tidings of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Acts 15:7; 20:24; 1 Pet 4:17.” { Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, under “Gospel” }

As a [“]Protestant[“] evangelist, I located the apostolic proclamation of this gospel in Acts 2:6-11, 3:13-15,18-21,26, 4:8-12, 5:30-32, 10:34-43, 13:23,26-33,38-39, 16:31, 17:22-31, and 22:3-16,21 (my tract, “The Gospel, as Preached by the First Christians”). One can hardly by any stretch find TULIP in these presentations, and this was my point. It’s strange to me that sola Scriptura adherents would redefine the gospel message when it is clearly defined in the pages of Scripture, by example of both preaching and teaching.

In the midst of an extraordinary array of ad hominem, “bombastic” language at the bottom of p.6, you lament my “double standard” of not quoting a source in my jeremiad against the wickedness of Calvinism. I assumed you were quite familiar with my line of argument. I can’t imagine a Calvinist who wouldn’t be, so I thought documentation superfluous. Being, as it was, a purely philosophical and moral observation, I didn’t feel compelled at all by your present demand for citations. As is so often the case, you ignore my argument here with mere rhetoric instead of a substantive reply. Is this not objectionable, when you again and again regard practically every other argument I make (“every other paragraph”– p.2) as too stupid (?) to even be worthy of a reply, and only deserving of insult and obloquy? I submit that this attitude could be far more accurately described as “arrogant” than anything I’ve written to you.

When I don’t know how to respond to (or defend) something, I admit it, as in the Protestant-as-heretic-or-brother issue, as specifically related to infallibility, and below, concerning Joseph Smith and his background and motivations vis-a-vis Calvinism. Nevertheless, as you wish, I will now give you a little documentation (and hope again for you to actually respond rationally to my argument):

The conditional nature of Positive reprobation is demanded by the generality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. This excludes God’s desiring in advance the damnation of certain men (cf. 1 Tim 2:4, Ez 33:11, 2 Pet 3:9). St. Augustine teaches:

“God is good, God is just. He can save a person without good works, because He is good; but He cannot condemn anyone without evil works because He is just” (Contra Jul. III, 18,35)

St. Augustine, to whom the opponents of this doctrine [free will] appeal, never denied the freedom of the will in relation to grace. In defense of the freedom of the will he wrote, in the year 426 or 427, the work, De gratia et libero arbitrio, in which he seeks to instruct . . . those, “who believe that free will is denied, if grace is defended . . .” (I, 1).

Justification is not only a work of grace, but at the same time a work of the free will:

“He who created thee without thy help does not justify thee without thy help…” (Sermo 169, 11,13) . . .

“His mercy comes before us in everything. But to assent to or dissent from the call of God is a matter for one’s own will…” (De spiritu et litt., 34,60). { from Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 1954, pp.246-7 }

So much for Calvinism in St. Augustine, the “proto-Protestant” par excellence, and the mistaken, intellectually-dishonest constant appeal to him in Calvin and Luther (the latter eventually refrained somewhat, realizing the futility of it). Or so it would appear to the unbiased eye, I think. When will you guys stop claiming the “best and brightest” Catholics as your own, when it is clear that they are not? Again, St. Augustine was a bishop, who believed in Ecumenical Councils and the authority of the pope, and, of course, the sacraments, and many other doctrines you find reprehensible and unChristian. Do you have a bishop? Or sacraments? Do you believe in Ecumenical Councils? How could he possibly be a “Protestant,” even one of your fake ones in quotes? To claim him as one of your own is sheer ludicrosity.

And the same is true of all the other Fathers, if the truth be known (with the possible exception of Tertullian in his heretical Montanist period). You might better and more consistently embrace (at least partially) the Donatists, Montanists, Novatianists, Nestorians, Marcionites and even the Orthodox as your forerunners, if someone must be found to fill in the missing links of 1500 years. This constant dishonest recourse to the Fathers (e.g., your implication that you are more “in company” with St. Athanasius, St. Ignatius, and St. Irenaeus than I am– p.7) only goes to show that thoughtful Protestants recognize the incumbent necessity of finding some figment of an historical “church” during the so-called “dark ages” (whenever that began — you don’t want to tell me).

The evolution of Unitarianism in New England is an indisputable fact of history. You can only attempt (legitimately) to deny the direct causal connection. You’re welcome to do so with my blessing. The same thing happened to English Presbyterianism at the same time. As to my “joke” (you miss much of my intended humor) about Puritanism evolving into Unitarianism, I cite in my defense no less a reputable scholar of Puritanism than Perry Miller:

“By the middle of the 18th Century there had proceeded from it [Puritan philosophy] two distinct schools of thought . . . Certain elements were carried into the creeds and practices of the evangelical religious revivals, but others were perpetuated by the rationalists and the forerunners of Unitarianism . . . Unitarianism is as much the child of Puritanism as Methodism . . . Descendants of the Puritans who revolted against what they considered the tyranny and cruelty of Puritan theology . . . substituted taste and reason for dogma and authority.” { The Puritans, New York: Harper & Row, vol.1, rev. 1963, pp.3-4; from Intro. by Perry Miller }

I guess if my views here are a “joke,” then Miller’s are, too (I’ll bet you even have his biography of Jonathan Edwards. I do. Surprised?). So why don’t you write to him (if he’s alive) in the same mocking manner about the same topic? His research couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Warning: another of my arguments from historical implausibility: If Calvinism is so great, and so guided by God’s Providence, why is it so hard to find, both historically in Christian history, and geographically at present? Where are the great numbers of Calvinists today, even in Scotland, the Netherlands (where euthanasia is touted) and Switzerland, its historical “strongholds” (if any areas can be so described)? Are you reduced to western Michigan and Grand Rapids these days, in terms of any significant and palpable strength? If you guys are the only Christians, yours is a miserably and pitifully small “church” indeed, with scarcely little staying power (i.e., as a significant influence). This is hardly a plausible nor convincing evidence of the hand of God, in my opinion. Catholicism, on the other hand, flourishes in full splendor, as it always has (even surviving several bleak periods, humanly speaking). Much more could be said, but you don’t seem to appreciate very much my historical and analogical arguments, so I’ll stop.

Good news and bad news! I concede that I made a (partial) boo-boo, but the bad news is that it is an exceedingly minor point in our overall discussion. You’re right about Joseph Smith not starting out as a Calvinist. I did not phrase this quite as accurately as I should have. In my book, in the “Protestant errors” chapter, I put it this way: “many founders of religious cults had Calvinistic backgrounds.” Stated this way, my remark to you is at least half-true. Brushing up on my research (which wasn’t originally mine on this point, since I first heard and “inherited” the argument from a prominent evangelical Protestant cult researcher friend), I couldn’t confirm that Joseph Smith himself was a card-carrying Calvinist. As it turns out, he may not have even tiptoed through TULIP.

Yet I found some things that likely led to the origin of this whole argument: Four members of Joseph Smith’s family became officially associated with Presbyterianism; his mother, brothers Hyrum and Samuel, and sister Sophronia, according to his own account (as confirmed by documentation: Hoekema, Four Major Cults, p.9 / Millet, Robert L., ed., Joseph Smith: Selected Sermons and Writings, New York: Paulist Press, 1989, p.13 (Introduction) / Hill, Marvin S. & James B. Allen, eds., Mormonism and American Culture, NY: Harper & Row, 1972, p.30). Furthermore, Joseph Smith’s ancestral background was Puritan, according to Kenneth Scott Latourette:

“Joseph Smith was born in Vermont of old New England stock. So far as the family had a religious background it was Puritan.” { The 19th Century Outside Europe, New York: Harper & Row, 1961, p.113 }

As to my whole scenario of his reacting against Calvinism, etc., I will suspend judgment on that until such time as I see some proof (I do recall, however, this being a significant factor in C. T. Russell’s heretical development, so it does happen among the heresiarchs). So, although partially inaccurate, I think this point of mine is a bit more worthy than, again, a “joke,” as you characteristically mock it. I’d like to see you back up many of your contentions with any evidence, let alone as much as I present for even my partial errors.

I’m dumbfounded by your apparent utter misunderstanding of my intent and meaning in the bottom paragraph of my p.5. The point was emphatically not to put you down, as if you’re a nobody or something along those lines. I can’t help but suspect once again that you are not seriously reading my letters with an attempt to accept them at face value and an earnest effort to understand and either learn from or refute them. I mean what I say and say what I mean. How many times do I have to point this out? Like any writing, you must place my words and phrases in context. Someone reading your isolated “juicy” quotes of mine out of context in your p.7 (top) would surely think me to be a real scoundrel. But if they read (and grasped) my whole paragraph to which you refer, they would get an entirely different impression.

I feel like Rush Limbaugh (who also loves, as I do, the argumentum ad absurdum, and is a master of it) after reading an article about himself in the Washington Post. The best thing for you to do would be to just read my paragraph again (maybe two times). I’ll give you a big clue as to its meaning: it is one massive argument from absurdity, throwing your infallibility critiques back in your face, showing that your position of everyone-is-his-own-pope is both untenable and unworkable. The “stalwart figures” are Melanchthon, Wesley, Finney, C. S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and pre-conversion Newman, Chesterton, Knox and Neuhaus, who were mentioned a page before.

“Little old” is a figure of speech (for Pete’s sake!). I could tell how old you were from the picture on one of the flyers you sent me! (I also read Madrid’s article where he stated you were “barely out of your twenties”). I deduced that you had a pulpit from the back of Fatal Flaw, where you are described as an “ordained Baptist minister.” What “Baptist minister” worth his salt doesn’t have a pulpit! But one might say you are “preaching” via your books, newsletter and tapes. It’s all the same difference. The fact that I am indeed a “little fellow,” a “novice,” “far too young to have the whole story,” etc. is precisely the point I was making on p.5. I couldn’t have put it any better myself (I admit as much in the Introduction to my book). I won’t give the argument again. Why should I have to? Just read it again, and then perhaps you’ll answer it for a change, instead of either misunderstanding, mocking or trashing it.

Duh, whose this Gerstner guy? Did’nt he start a baby food cumpany? Gee, i did’nt know he dun some theeoligy, too. But i do too know who Jonathan Edwards is! He had a hit song in 1971 called “Sunshine.” So there! And Whitfield is da guy who produced some a da Temptations’ songs (only a Detroit naytiv coulda knowed dat one). Glad to hear your’e a music fan like i is. As for Carp Haddock Sturgeon, that sounds pritty fishy ta me. So i ain’t near as dumm as ya think.

I get the distinct feeling, James, that you don’t like the apostolic, biblical, patristic, historical and Catholic gospel. No surprise, given your love for Calvinist theology. Those who have never realized their own helplessness often hate to submit to the ecclesiastical authority established by Christ, I’ve discovered. I’ve seen similar paragraphs from other “Protestants,” from snake handlers, Shakers, Quakers, Dake-ers, the Bakkers, fakers, tithe-takers, TULIP-makers, Coplandites, Mennonites, Scofieldites, “Israel”-whites, Swaggartites, Church of Christ, Church of God, United Church of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Disciples of Christ, and the Christian Church, and eponymous “Christians,” even from some “Catholics” too.

Your whole diatribe in the bottom paragraph of p.7 has already been dealt with quite adequately by the entirety of my contentions on pp.5-7 and comments on the Catholic Fathers above. I can add nothing substantial to that, and so desist for space and time’s sake. What is this: a Jeopardy game, where I give the answer first and then you ask the question that the answer already answered?

Your second paragraph on p.8 is an absolutely astonishing rapid-fire assault on my (and others’) character. I should ignore it, but I’ll comment due to its incredible nature:

1) You say I wouldn’t have talked (or written) a certain way in 1990 (“that’s for certain”– because you have my 12-page story to prove it, I guess you’d say).
2) You object to my use of epithets, in the midst of your use of countless ones yourself!
3) Then you brag about your abilities in defending a logically indefensible position.
4) You throw in some gratuitous digs at Madrid and Matatics for good measure (I’d love to see your 60 pages of refutation of Madrid’s 5-page article. Gee, I wonder if there are any “epithets” in there? What tedium it must contain!).
5) Then it’s back to my style, which is “tinny” (I’ve been called much worse, thank you).
6) The “scared-to-debate” charge rears its ugly head again. I’ve already disposed of that above.
7) I “hide behind a word-processor” (so asinine that my satirical affinities fail me this time).
8) I “blow smoke” (exactly what you’re doing here).
9) Then it’s back to the “but how can I read your book if I don’t have it?” lament.
10) Then there are multiple views of Catholic “tradition” (how many? 23,000? Why don’t you be precise when you make these wild charges, for once?). Are Kung’s and Dollinger’s and Curran’s and Wilhelm’s and McBrien’s views included in your tally? Is Newman’s view of Tradition mine? Yes, since his is the Catholic view. I really don’t think Patrick Madrid disagrees with Newman, who will in all likelihood be a saint one day and possibly a Doctor of the Church. Again, if Matatics is a schismatic, his view is irrelevant to my work as a Catholic apologist. If 90 to 95% of Protestants-in-quotes don’t speak for you, then don’t make schismatics speak for me and my Church. This is silly. You say there are many views of Tradition. I say there is only one, and you can discover it in the standard Catholic sources. If you think there are “all sorts of different takes” on Tradition, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate this, not just talk about it for rhetoric’s sake alone.

All of this in one paragraph. Yet you wonder why I refuse to engage a person who “argues” in such a way in public debate. You can rail against me all you want about that (it will fall on “deaf ears” from now on), but I’ll tell you one thing. You’re sure gonna get a run for your money in this writing debate. Your constant resort to vilification of me and the ignoring of many of my arguments only proves that your oft-proclaimed debating abilities are already failing you. Call that statement pride if you want. I don’t care.

I’ve only heard one of your debates — with Fr. Pacwa on sola Scriptura, but I don’t have a copy of it. Rather, since you issued the challenge, I will make a similar type of argument to those I utilized earlier with flow charts:

P1) X, Y, & Z are regarded by all as Church Fathers.
P2) James White thinks X, Y, Z are either outright Protestant or more so than Catholic, & therefore are not Catholic, & can’t be “claimed” by Catholics.
A1) But X, Y, & Z’s views on A, B, & C, etc. are contrary to White’s conception of what Christianity is, & ought to be.
C1) Therefore, X, Y, & Z are in fact Catholics, as in Dave Armstrong’s view.
A2) But this contradicts White’s P2.
C2) Therefore, White must either give up citing X, Y, & Z as “his own” & consider them infidels or apostates or else become a Catholic so as to avoid historical contradictions.

We will select (a random choice), the three Fathers you cited on p.7:

“How do you know you are in company with, say, Athanasius or Ignatius or Irenaeus? In the final analysis, is it not because Rome tells you so?”

We will examine some of their “unprotestant” and “Romish” views. Now, if I was out of the fold of Protestantism due to the rejection of just T and U of TULIP, then the multiple errors in the views of these Fathers which I will prove certainly render them infidels all the more so. I’m pleased you want to do this, since I asked for it on p. 7, 2nd paragraph. All emphases will be added. The battle can finally be joined. Amen!

St. Ignatius (c. 110 AD)

1) Denominationalism:

  • “It is, therefore, advantageous for you to be in perfect unity, in order that you may always have a share in God.” (Eph., 4,2)
  • “Let there be nothing among you which is capable of dividing you . . .” (Mag., 6,2)
  • “Flee from divisions, as the beginnings of evils.” (Sm., 8,1)
  • “Focus on unity, for there is nothing better.” (Pol., 1,2)
  • “If anyone follows a schismatic, he will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Ph., 3,3)

2) Bishops:

  • “Whoever does anything without bishop and presbytery and deacons does not have a clean conscience.” (Tr., 7,2)
  • “You must all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father . . .” (Sm., 8,1)
  • “Cling inseparably to Jesus Christ and to the bishop . . .” (Tr., 7,1)
  • “Let everyone respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, just as they should respect the bishop, who is a model of the Father, and the presbyters as God’s council and as the band of the apostles. Without these no group can be called a church.” (Tr., 3,1)
  • “It is good to acknowledge God and the bishop. The one who honors the bishop has been honored by God; the one who does anything without the bishop’s knowledge serves the devil.” (Sm., 9,1)
  • “It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself.” (Eph., 6,1)

3) Real Presence:

  • “I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ.” (Rom., 7,3)
  • “Participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup which leads to unity through his blood. . .).” (Ph., 4,1)
  • “They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Sm., 6,2).

4) Vicarious Atonement (A Species of Penance):

  • “I am a humble sacrifice for you.” (Eph., 8,1)
  • “Grant me nothing more than to be poured out as an offering to God while there is still an altar ready.” (Rom., 2,2)
  • “. . . I might prove to be a sacrifice to God.” (Rom., 4,2)
  • “May my spirit be a ransom on your behalf.” (Sm., 10,2)
  • “May I be a ransom on your behalf in every respect.” (Pol., 2,3)

5) Justification:

  • “Those who profess to be Christ’s will be recognized by their actions. For the Work is not a matter of what one promises now, but of persevering to the end in the power of faith” (Eph., 14,2)

6) Infallibility:

  • “The Lord accepted the ointment upon his head for this reason: that he might breath incorruptibility upon the church.” (Eph., 17,1)

St. Irenaeus (c. 130 – 200)

1) Sola Scriptura / Tradition: see my Sola Scriptura treatise, pp.19-20.

[since James made a great fuss about my not immediately providing him with my manuscripts, I will now cut-and-paste from the cited sections]

  • “The Church . . . has received from the Apostles and from their disciples the faith.” {Against the Heretics, 1,10,1}
  • “The Church, having received this preaching and this faith . . . guarded it . . . She likewise believes these things . . . and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth . . . the authority of the tradition is one and the same.” {Ibid., 1,10,2}
  • “Every Church throughout the whole world has received this tradition from the Apostles.” {Ibid., 2,9,1}
  • “Polycarp . . . was instructed . . . by the Apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ . . . He always taught those things which he had learned from the Apostles, and which the Church had handed down, and which are true.” {Ibid., 3,3,4}
  • “The true gnosis is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world . . . and the very complete tradition of the Scriptures.” {Ibid., 4,33,8}

2) Real Presence:

  • “The bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of (the) Lord, and the cup His Blood.” {Ibid., 4,18,4 / cf. 4,18,5; 4,33,2}

3) Justification: see my Sola Fide treatise, p.42.

  • “[Paul], an able wrestler, urges us on in the struggle for immortality, so that we may receive a crown, and so that we may regard as a precious crown that which we acquire by our own struggle, and which does not grow on us spontaneously. And because it comes to us in a struggle, it is therefore the more precious.” {Ibid., 4,37,7}

4) Penance:

  • Ott cites his mention of backsliders re-accepted after public confession and penance {Ibid., 1,6,3; 1,13,5; 4,40,1).

5) The Blessed Virgin Mary:

  • “Mary . . . by obeying, became the cause of salvation both for herself and the whole human race . . . What the virgin Eve had tied up by unbelief, this the virgin Mary loosened by faith.” {Ibid., 3,21,10}

6) The Preeminence of the Church of Rome (i.e., Catholicism): see “Papacy & Infallibility” treatise, p.53.

  • “. . . Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church . . . the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition.
  • “The blessed Apostles, having founded and built up the Church, they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul makes mention of this Linus in the Epistle to Timothy [2 Tim 4:21]. To him succeeded Anencletus; and after him, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was chosen for the episcopate . . .
  • “In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith.” {Ibid., 3,1,1; 3,3,2-3}

St. Athanasius (c. 296 – 373)

1) Real Presence:

  • “After the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ.” {Sermon to the Newly Baptized}

2) Justification (Arminianism): see Sola Fide Treatise, p.44.

  • “Since we are sons and gods because of the Word in us, so also, because of the Spirit’s being in us,– the Spirit who is in the Word which is in the Father,– we shall be in the Son and in the Father . . .
  • “Therefore, when someone falls from the Spirit through any wickedness– that grace indeed remains irrevocably with those who are willing to repent after such a fall. Otherwise, the one who has fallen is no longer in God, because that Holy Spirit and Advocate who is in God has deserted him.” {Discourses Against the Arians, 3,25}

3) The Papacy: see Papacy Treatise, p.34 (by strong implication).

  • [St. Athanasius repeatedly aligned himself with the Roman See in his struggles for orthodoxy and against heretical rulers in the East]

I rest my case. Is this a “fine” enough “brush” for you? St. Ignatius and St. Irenaeus each fail six of your litmus tests for bona fide Christianity, and St. Athanasius three. All this was found in my limited patristic resources (Lightfoot and Jurgens– I may get the whole set for $300 from CBD one day). This enterprise is so patently unnecessary as to be almost absurd– so self-evident is it that the Fathers were Catholic. When will this ridiculous game of desperate Protestant pretense cease? I don’t look at all kindly on historical revisionism, especially in the cause of schism. I’ll be looking forward eagerly to your Protestant interpretation of the above data. Good luck! You’ll need it.

I wrote much (115 pages) in 1990 against Catholicism (see Surprised by Pelagianism, pp.245-6. For me, a “research project” always involves writing). But I will not show any of this to you for two reasons: 1) you will most likely use it against me (!), and cite it as proof that I — like Newman — am wishy-washy and “unstable” because I had a sincere change of mind. I don’t have the patience for that sort of tactic; 2) I don’t want to further strengthen you in your various errors, especially with regard to the Fathers (my reasoning then is so similar to yours now that this is a distinct possibility). If not for these factors, and if you would just retract the insult that I wasn’t Protestant, I might send some of it to you. I think you’d find it extremely interesting. I was almost your counter-ego (I re-read some of it just now). My blistering attack on the Inquisition and its implications for infallibility could have been part of your two letters, verbatim, and in my letter to Keating in early 1990, I make an extended analogy between Catholicism and Jehovah’s Witnesses (sound familiar?).

I am enclosing my treatise on development in order to deal with that subject. You certainly understand development better than most Protestants and “Protestants,” but given several of your remarks (to which I’ve previously made reference), I suspect you have a great distance to go to achieve a fully developed comprehension (pun intended).

I suppose Newman was dishonest with himself and others, too over the issue of papal infallibility? Not quite, James. He was what is called an “inopportunist” before the definition — one who thought that the time was not right for it. Primarily, he was opposed to the ultramontane faction. The definition was actually a triumph of the center or the moderate viewpoint, so to speak, since it limited infallibility quite a bit and gave it very specific criteria. Newman had full liberty as a Catholic to question the possible future dogma before it was defined, and in so doing, showed great courage, concern for the well-being of the Church, and integrity. In fact, I believe (I’d have to verify this) he questioned only a more sweeping definition, as proposed by the ultramontanes.

He was just as consistent and honest when he submitted (what you call a “collapse”– I used to make the same argument, by the way, after Salmon) to the definition afterwards because this is how Catholicism operates. Those are the rules of the game, and those who can’t abide by them (such as Dollinger and millions of liberals today) ought to get out of the game and play another one where they can avoid being disingenuous, to put it mildly. What Newman did was no different than opposing a proposal for a change in a civil statute but then agreeing to obey it if it becomes law.

I suppose one can never make a square peg fit into a round circle, and it will always be well-nigh impossible for the “free” Protestant, with his “Christian liberty” to grasp the idea of submission to Church authority. This act is regarded as a crutch and wimpish intellectual suicide, when in actuality it is simply the common-sense realization of one’s own clear limitations and the simultaneous acknowledgment of a much greater, corporate, divinely-instituted, Spirit-led Church. I’ve never understood how Protestants can (often slavishly) follow either their own fancies or those of their pastor, oftentimes thoroughly ignorant of, and divorced from Church history, yet excoriate Catholics for showing the same deference to the pope and the whole grand Tradition of the Church. Our view is by no means less plausible, even on the face of it. My “Papacy” paper gets into much more of this.

I referred to your “treatment” of Canon issues in your letter of 4-6-95, p.3. I will refrain from commenting on your computer debate with Akin because it is multi-faceted and nuanced and because I am at 30 pages. Perhaps I’ll take it up later at some time. The validity of Ecumenical Councils is determined by their approval (in entirety or in part) by the pope, not my own particular preferences. Otherwise we do indeed have a certain chaos and indeterminism, as you note (the Orthodox have this very difficulty). Refer to my “Papacy” paper, pp.62-71 for a treatment of the relationship of popes and Councils.

I have a simple suggestion for you to figure out what Catholics are bound to believe: pick up the new Catechism. Whatever you find in there is — you can rest assured — Catholic teaching. As for the various levels of doctrinal certainty, read Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. When he describes a doctrine as “de fide,” it has been infallibly defined, usually by a Council, sometimes by a pope. “How truly wonderful” indeed. By the way, is TULIP infallible? On what grounds? And if it is, along with so many other Protestant dogmas (such as your “epistemological leaps” which I listed on p.19 above), how is your philosophical stance any less “problematic” than ours? If TULIP isn’t infallible, then why did I flunk Protestantism 0101 for not espousing it? Hmmm?

Who are you to be criticizing Matatics for saying someone wasn’t a Catholic, anyway? People in glass houses . . .

If Protestantism isn’t man-centered, why do congregations all too frequently have one heaven of a time coping when one man — the pastor — leaves? At three of the churches with which I had ties: a Lutheran, an Assembly of God, and a non-denominational church, there occurred severe “succession crises” — twice at the latter (I took no part whatsoever in any of these civil wars, in case you’re wondering). Now, why would this be, unless they were man-centered? What’s the big deal about one man moving out and another moving in? All of these instances were typified by great animosity, lack of commitment among many members towards the church (with them leaving), and petty, backbiting politics. And you guys talk about us and our “sacerdotalism,” etc. Also, the mentality of selecting a church based on ear-tickling doctrines (which is so easy to do in Protestantism — the spectrum runs the gamut) — is also man-centered. Pragmatism, experientialism, worldliness, antinomianism, “cheap grace,” materialism, narcissism, public relations, church growth rather than individual growth in spiritual maturity — all these trends are strong.

What would you expect, though, from an outlook that made individualism supreme, even over against truth, when they conflict? All Catholic doctrines which you think detract from Christ do not at all, rightly understood. You are again the unconscious victim of the “dichotomous mentality” which Louis Bouyer talks about with such keen insight.

Funny that you chide me for noting your “mental state” when writing, after constantly accusing me of “dishonesty” and (one suspects, deliberate) “misrepresentation” of your views, and of being “scared” to debate you (I hope 36 hard-fought pages will put that one to rest once and for all).

I noted above that I don’t have the (technical) materials to delve into this obsession you have with Lateran IV and persecution of heretics. But even if I did, I would not answer until you dealt with the same type of persecution within Protestantism, and what it does to your lofty claims of spiritual superiority to us (see enclosed tract on that). You’ve absolutely ignored this thus far (do I detect a pattern here? Might it be called . . . evasion?). As usual, the Protestant has to create a double standard when comparing the rival claims. It’s okay to talk about Catholic historical shortcomings, but not Protestant ones, and conversely, it’s alright to extol the virtues of Protestantism (and there are many), but we must not note anything good about “Romanism.” That’s too dangerous. I agree, you don’t claim infallibility, but you do claim superiority. That being the case, there is good reason to be suspicious of super-pious claims from the Deformers, when one learns about the horrible crimes committed and/or sanctioned by them.

At last! Something with which we can agree and cooperate in opposing: various Jehovah’s Witnesses heretical doctrines of the Godhead. What a breath of fresh air. God’s Omnipresence is denied in Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, p.665:

“The true God is not omnipresent, for he is spoken of as having a location. His throne is in Heaven.”

Judge Rutherford even went so far as to state that the Pleiades is the place of the eternal throne of God. {Reconciliation, 1928, p.14}

As for “Jehovah’s” body:

God is a person with a spiritual body . . . They will then see God . . . and also be like him (1 Jn 3:2). This, too, shows that God is a person, and that he has a body. { You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982, pp.36-7 }

The bodies of spiritual persons (God, Christ, the angels) are glorious. {Aid . . ., 1971, p.247}

They deny God’s omniscience as well: Aid, p.595; Watchtower, 7-15-84, pp.4-5. But they’ll contradict themselves elsewhere, too, as I’m sure you’re well aware.

“I’m not going to be referring people to a source they can’t even read.” Well now you can read it! You had to wait all of a month or so (I know how excited you are to receive my arguments, which are fatal to your position). Your comments on the “98 pages” are the hysterically funny ones, if you ask me. If you’ll go back to my p.11 you’ll find that I make a simple, unadorned statement of fact, i.e., that I have written extensively on the papacy, and that this will provide my answer to your arguments on that subject. There is neither pride, nor any implication that thereby the debate is “finished,” as you comically reply. I merely make reference to my paper. Eight lines are obviously not “all [I] can come up with.” Get real! This is the whole point: that if you want to delve into the papacy and infallibility (which is probable), you can read my paper (the longest in my book). Did you think I would keep it from you?! I’m trying to save space (and my eyes and fingers) by referring to completed works.

[Note: an abridged 293-page version of my original 750-page manuscript, entitled A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, has been accepted for publication by Basilica Press] [2017 note: it was actually published in 2003 by Sophia Institute Press]

You, on the other hand — it must regrettably be pointed out — constantly drone on about all the people you’ve debated and how they were all beaten, etc., and how much you know about sola Scriptura (“a recognized expert”) as, e.g., in your raving paragraph on p.8.

It could only be your apparent unfounded assumption that practically every critical comment I make is motivated by conceit, ignorance, or an intention of sophistry, that makes you construct an elaborate scenario of my mindset out of a reference (much like a footnote) to an existing paper. I belabor this minor point because I think it illustrates well the difference in how you regard me versus how I view you. I think you’re sincerely misinformed and wrong about Catholicism, with a considerable bias against it which often blinds you, and that you have many (I believe unconsciously held) contradictory views.

I make no negative judgments as to your motivations, intelligence (which I have praised several times), honesty (excepting intellectual dishonesty, which I consider, again, largely unconscious anyway), or character. If it ever appears that I do, please be assured this is not my intention and interpret overly harsh words in light of this statement of belief and purpose. I try my utmost to critique your ideas, not you (and these observations can be quite scathing, as you know). You, on the other hand, indisputably question my character and competence, in terms of intellectual ability, deliberate (I believe this is your view) misrepresentation of your opinions, a supposed marked arrogance, a false charge of cowardice, and many other personal descriptions and slander which have no place in a reasoned debate. As I dealt with these elements early on I will leave it at that and plead for more detached, “scholarly” objectivity from you in the future.

You go on to assert that I am hypocritical since I supposedly avoided your argument but accuse you of the same tactic. You are again making a false analogy. I referred you to the longest chapter of my book, which you now possess on paper. This is no avoidance whatsoever; quite the contrary. If anything, it is overkill! You, conversely, did indeed “blithely dismiss my points 7 and 8” of my first letter. True, for #7 you (like me) referred me to your book for an answer, but I replied that the specific question I raised was not dealt with there (the inconsistent Protestant appeal to Councils). Since you have not answered #7 to the slightest degree in this letter, it remains unanswered, like so many other of my challenges to you. #8 was conveniently dismissed as irrelevant with, as I noted, a 14-word sentence. I clarified my intent in my last letter (p.13, top) but to no avail. It, too, awaits a real answer, and I submit that some kind of reply, however short, would be a requirement of both courtesy and a healthy, self-confident intellect (which you do possess).

You think that my query is answered by an attack on Catholic popular morals and the bad popes, and a mention of Packer’s A Quest for Godliness, as if any of this has the slightest relevance to the original question #8. To parody you, I do think you have no answer, and that is indeed to my advantage in this debate, since it confirms my opinion on this matter. Yet you accuse me of hypocrisy. How many examples of this sort of thing do I have to point out to you? They are the primary reason why this letter is 36 pages! (I pray that I am near the end. I’m trying — I really am).

If you have a good patristic library and know Greek and history, all the more pathetic are your claims that the Fathers were Protestant (or perhaps “Protestant” in some cases; but I know for sure you don’t consider them papists). My examples of the three fathers you brought up above are a case-in-point. I literally can’t wait to see what you do with that information.

I don’t know Greek, so what am I to do with your lengthy Greek quote? Stay up all night with my Englishman’s Greek Concordance deciphering its literal meaning? Maybe I’ll have my friend, who teaches Latin, transcribe my next letter, so you can do some similar work. Fair is fair, after all. Uh oh! St. Clement used the term elect?! Really?! Egads! Now, I’ll have to rethink my whole position! This is a classic case of your Protestantism (and Calvinism in this case) blinding you to objective truth. You think that Catholics must somehow avoid and rationalize away the very word “elect” in order to prevent grave danger to our doctrine. This is sheer nonsense and foolishness, and ought to embarrass you. Obviously — eklektos being a prominent NT word — it has been dealt with by Catholic scholars down through the ages, believe it or not. We don’t have to ignore biblical words and entire biblical sub-strata, as Protestants constantly do.

The cogent point here is whether or not free will is wiped out by the concept of divine election, since that’s the primary bone of contention, as Luther himself states. I think it is not, and St. Augustine agrees with me on that point, not you and Calvinism (I’m eagerly awaiting your reply to those quotes above, too). “St. Paul and St. Augustine and Melanchthon and Wesley and C. S. Lewis I know, but who is this White guy?”

Next (3rd par., p.15), you counter my substantive arguments of pp.13-14 with banalities, non sequiturs, a personal insult of my intelligence, and a failed attempt at humor. I await with a severely-tested patience a reasoned reply to those arguments (the list is getting longer and longer).

Oh, the tedium! Have mercy on me! And, may the Lord grant me the forbearance to answer these questions. St. Ignatius is referring to the desertion of God, not the bishop (the parallels to Eph 6:10-18 are pretty unmistakable, I think). Jurgens uses the Divine pronoun in 6:2: “Be pleasing to Him whose soldiers you are . . .” Now, I think my original point was clear enough. But that’s only my opinion. Maybe it wasn’t. Since the context is the use of military metaphor, as in St. Paul, desertion, it would seem to me, is a metaphor here for falling away from the faith. Since Calvinists presuppose the impossibility of this, they can only postulate that such a soldier was never really in the ranks to begin with (i.e., never among the elect). But this is clearly nonsensical and does violence to the metaphor. A soldier is a soldier. The notion of military desertion assumes that the soldier had to desert from something.

Likewise with the many scriptural admonitions warming against “falling away,” etc. This is why I said, “so much for Calvinism,” since St. Ignatius’ word-picture seems to me to run counter to U, I, and P of TULIP. I think this is as sensible an interpretation as any. How is context “an inconvenient problem” for me here? Lacking a lucid response, you instead again resort to tired insults of my intellect, and employ a diversionary tactic of switching the subject to the papacy, whereas my point clearly had to do with justification and perseverance. But you are welcome, as always, to give me your alternate explanation. If you can’t give me anything else, you’re no better in this instance than the Democrats squawking about the Republican budget while offering nothing themselves. It’s always pretty easy to run down the other guy’s position; something else again to produce a better one.

How ironic that your next sentence contains the statement: “I’ve put far too much time into this already.” I believe I am about to close, too, if you don’t come up with anything else outrageous (hence requiring a rebuttal) in your last 1.3 pages.

I will postpone any reply to your additional materials, as I want to get this out and have to do some other things (painting, for one) before I can devote more time to that endeavor. I’d appreciate it if you don’t accuse me of ignoring that stuff because I am merely putting off my reply!

I didn’t make “blanket accusations against Protestant apologists” but against “anti-Catholic debaters,” which is quite different and a vastly smaller fraternity. I came up with three examples, plus an unremembered individual or group. How many anti-Catholic debaters can there be? So this is justification enough, I think, for the description “widespread,” referring to the “dishonesty, evasiveness, and uncharitability” (the last two being much in evidence in your letter of 5-4-95). After all, I haven’t made a study of the same (as you recall, I won’t even read these books), but have noted this tendency in the normal course of my studies in apologetics and reading of This Rock, etc.

I went over the “anti-Catholic” terminology bit already. If the “Catholic” debaters are separatists, then they are “anti-Protestant” in the same sense in which I use “anti-Catholic.” If they are true and consistent Catholics (who accept Vatican II, including its Decree on Ecumenism), they are not “anti-Protestant,” any more than ecumenical Protestants are “anti-Catholic.”

I accept your version of the incident with Art Sippo (not having any other information). I can’t resist adding, though, that you yourself exhibit many of the traits that so offend you with regard to Sippo. Your repeated ignoring of, and snide remarks about my arguments might be compared to “walking off the stage while I was speaking” and being “rude” and “making mocking gestures.” Do you think you were very “kind and gracious” to me in your last letter? You object to him saying you are “boasting” about your own “righteousness,” yet turn right around and make blanket, unqualified statements about my alleged “arrogance,” call my entire letter “sophistry,” and accuse me of “an inability to honestly face the issues.” I’ve seen how you describe other Catholic apologists, too. Forgive me if I suggest a diagnosis of at least the beginning stages of log-in-the-eye-disease in your case. There is still time to get cured.

I disagree with you about the “Lord’s Prayer” incident. I don’t accept your first reason. I think, rather, that communion requires, and is the sign of, unity, and don’t think any pretense is involved here. But then, again I am an ecumenist and you’re not. I would hesitate only in praying with someone who was invoking an entirely different God or some lesser entity, as in eastern religion. I guess that’s how you see Catholics, so, given this premise, I suppose you couldn’t pray with them. Your third objection is legalistic and proves too much (do you object to invocations at graduations and in the Senate, and grace at family reunions, too?). But I’ll grant you the consistency of your convictions, even though, at bottom, I find the premises and attitude reprehensible, as I do anti-Catholicism in general.

I don’t know what to make of your interpretation of the Madrid debate. Perhaps there was a subjective misinterpretation on his part as to your willingness to shake hands. I even considered that possibility when reading the account. This is a plausible enough scenario, all things being equal. But knowing Pat a little bit, and your reasoning and general negative attitude towards Catholic apologists pretty well by now, I would have to defer to his account if all the evidence I have is your word versus his. One thing I’m absolutely sure of: he is not the compulsive liar and buffoon you make him out to be, with your “20 pages of small-print, triple-column text” (to refute his errors) remark concerning his article. This is a very low blow, and, having experienced your venom towards myself, I would not be at all surprised if much of your objection consists of non sequiturs there as well.

Sure, I’ll listen to your debate, but I fully expect to find exactly what was described by Madrid and Akin because I’ve observed how you often ignore or irrationally misunderstand my challenges and how Protestants in general have a massive blind spot with regard to sola Scriptura, and, indeed, almost all of their serious deficiencies (a fish doesn’t know it’s in water, either). I also watched Dave Hunt make an ass of himself in “debate.” He wrote to me and said he didn’t have to quote the Fathers to show what the early Church was like, but only the Bible!!!!!

I will ignore your cheap shots at my honesty (twice), courage, and scholarly abilities. I told you who Gary Michuta is, so your remarks about him are plain silly. Why should you care what Catholic you debate if we’re all idiots, idolaters, Pelagians, and fools, anyway?

You also completely ignored my arguments about Wycliffe and Hus on pp.14-15. I’ll accept in good faith your word on p.15: “There is more I’d like to get to . . .” and assume that you do have some sort of answer to this contention of mine as well as the twenty or so other unanswered ones to be dealt with, and will respond in due course.

You are also silent with reference to my question concerning why you felt compelled to send your letter and mine to Eric Pement. Why bother? Very few are answering anyway (which fits into my stated theory as to why Protestants will not correspond with Catholics or talk seriously with them — because of the bankruptcy of their case). Morey sent a form for possible debaters which is to be considered by his board (no personal letter). Wessels sent a friendly, preliminary note, saying he might want to do something in the future. One more said he was too busy right now (he didn’t seem anti-Catholic). Other than that, zilch. Par for the course.

In Christ & His Church, with Scripture & Tradition, Faith that Works, Grace & Sacraments, Mary & the Saints, Penance & Purgatory, Pope & Bishops, Peace & Truth, Love & Mercy,

Dave Armstrong

* * * * *

Mr. White’s One-Page “Reply” (10 November 1995)


To: Dave Armstrong

“Catholic Apologist and Free-Lance Writer”

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I am in receipt of yet another of your letters [I couldn’t locate these in my files, but as I recall I did become overly agitated by White’s continual refusal to respond] designed to distract and goad me into investing time in answering your letter of 5-15-95. I confess, you have me. I have never figured out how to answer letters that are filled with whining, crying, complaining, and general substanceless meandering. And sadly, I can’t suggest anyone else who would be willing to invest their time in responding to such materials, either. Most folks I know are too busy doing constructive things with their lives. Personally, I’m busy teaching for Golden Gate and Grand Canyon, writing a book on Roman Catholicism for one of the largest Christian publishers in the U.S., and producing chapters like the one I am attaching for you that will appear in the upcoming Soli Deo Gloria publication on sola scriptura, along with chapters by John MacArthur, John Gerstner, and R.C. Sproul. My travels will soon be taking me to British Columbia, and hopefully, to New York to debate Gerry Matatics yet once again, sometime early next year. So, Dave, I’m sorry to have to inform you that I have far more pressing issues to address than your letter and its extensive flights in illogic and personal attack. I hope you enjoy the chapter.


James White

The entire exchange was initially uploaded on 4 February 2000, with express permission from James White.


"Mr Dave....I am A white privileged retired Catholic who fears for my grandchildren growing up ..."

Orange Beast Gone. Who Will Dems ..."
"Yes, they prostrate before the golden Donald idol which was made in China"

Orange Beast Gone. Who Will Dems ..."
"Mr. Lawler wrote a good book titled “The Faithful Departed” about the decline of the ..."

Marshall, Keating, & Lawler: Exchanges Re ..."

Browse Our Archives