+ Why He Called Himself a Bishop, According to His Reformed Baptist Beliefs / White Responds, Arguing that Calling Him His Own Title is “Slander”
Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White informed me in a letter dated 10 January 2001 (see the whole thing) that he was a bishop: “I am an elder in the church: hence, I am a bishop, overseer, pastor, of a local body of believers”. Hence (in any case anyone is wondering), that’s why I have called him that ever since. Thus we have the double humorous (but rather pathetic) irony of his not wanting to be called what he claims he is (a bishop), while he falsely calls himself what he clearly isn’t (an academic “Doctor” with an authentic, earned doctorate degree: see my papers dealing with that topic: one / two / three).
[the following is an original exchange from a public Facebook group, then spilling over into my own combox, with Bishop White making an ultra-rare — perhaps the only one ever — appearance on my pages. I have retained the original Facebook thread, for documentation’s sake]
Calla Hattingh [anti-Catholic]: Lol. “Bishop”. And you call me out for name-calling. I guess consistency is not the strong suit of those with a failed argument.
Dave Armstrong: How is it name-calling when White called himself that? I was merely being courteous. In a letter dated 10 January 2001 White informed me that he was a bishop: “I am an elder in the church: hence, I am a bishop, overseer, pastor, of a local body of believers”.
Curious, I went over to the web page for his congregation: Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. In the “History” section it states: “The church adopted the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in 1976.” In the “Elders” section it reads: “Doctor James White has been an elder since 1998, and a member of the church since 1989.”
Then I consulted the section, “The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith”: to learn more about the ecclesiology of this church. Sure enough, we find reference to the belief in the equivalency of elders and bishops (precisely as Mr. White expressed to me in 2001), and also of pastors and bishops, in three sections:
Chapter 26: Of the Church
[ . . .]
8. A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons. ( Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1 )
9. The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands. ( Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:3, 5, 6 )
[. . . ]
11. Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it. ( Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11 ). [my green emphases and bolding]
In this ecclesiology, elder = bishop = pastor. White expressed it to me in 2001, and (since I am courteous in calling people their own chosen or given titles: so, e.g., you see me calling him a “Reformed Baptist” above) I have called him a “bishop” ever since.
[Note: Southern Baptist professor Denny Burk makes exactly the same argument in a 2007 article]
Μαγνυς Νορδλυνδ James R. White I think you are being slandered here.
James R. White [3-14-17] Nothing new about that! It is all DA has, all he’s ever had. The caravan moves on.
ME: See the above added material (since I first put up this post), right from White’s own congregation, and drawn from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, posted on it, which spells out the notion that elders and bishops are the same thing. This, in turn, is the rationale behind White’s self-title, expressed to me in 2001.
Now if Mr. White wishes to claim that it is “slander” to call him exactly what he called himself, in accordance with his own Reformed Baptist beliefs, as expressed on the page for his own church, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, I can do nothing about that. It would make no sense, and would be an extremely curious “argument”: but else is new?
Note that Συνε Βασυν above claims that I was slandering James White simply by calling him “bishop.” That’s what this post was about, and the original was a lot shorter, before I added the documentation material from White’s church’s web page.
White then came in (an ultra-rare appearance on any of my pages) and agreed that it was slander. That’s quite a claim, but not in the least surprising. He’s been saying some variation of this sort of thing about me since 1995. I doubt that White even looked at my post to see what I said. I think he just made a knee-jerk response to his friend alerting him to “slander” and then split, as he always does, without actually discussing the issue intelligently and calmly and rationally.
He’s in a terrible dilemma now, having embarrassed himself yet again. There’s no way out of it, and he can never admit that he made a mistake (which includes lying about another person: me), so I predict that he will ignore this altogether. There’s always a first time, though. Maybe this one will be that for him.
Calla Hattingh Well, according to you, the statement is about someone you refuse to acknowledge as existing, called Doctor James White. So I don’t see what the big hullabaloo is about. You refuse to acknowledge that a doctor James White exists, so you can hardly call anything that anyone says about doctor James White false. You would have to prove a universal negative first. Lol.
ME: I didn’t write about the “Dr.” thing here; that was only on the Facebook group. That is a completely different argument, and a very strong case can be made against his supposed “doctorate”, and I have made it, repeatedly. This issue was simply whether he called himself “bishop” and whether I have slandered him in calling him that.
Richard Iddings Why is this issue?
ME: Beats me. Ask Bishop White. It was said that I was calling him names when I called him by his own chosen title . . .
Tim Roof [ecumenical Presbyterian: OPC] Dave, I should point out in all fairness that for one to say “I am an elder in the church: hence, I am a bishop, overseer, pastor, of a local body of believers” is not the same thing as “therefore, call me Bishop.” White’s equating of these original Greek words is not intended to be an invitation to call him “Bishop White.” Let me explain.
A Protestant church elder (bishop/overseer) who is not Anglican/Episcopal typically does not refer to himself as “Bishop,” nor would the congregants do so. The word used by Reformed adherents in Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist circles is “elder.” Continuing references to James White as “Bishop White,” therefore, are seen by him and by those who appreciate and follow his ministry as your intentional mocking of him since he is not a member of the Anglican/Episcopal unions and would have considerable theological differences with those. I suspect you are already knowledgeable about these matters, so I have to ask you honestly, are you truly being sincere when you say you are just trying to be courteous to the man?
I’m not making a judgement about who is right and who is wrong between you two regarding mocking each other. I’d say that, in general, Protestants and Catholics shouldn’t mock each other personally. You don’t need to go through your list of all the names he’s called you–I’ve seen it, I get it. I am just trying to clarify for you and for your readers why your use of “Bishop White” is seen as antagonistic and therefore, not in any way helpful to being on a path to improving the relationship between you two, if that is what you want in the end. All I can say is, if you want to antagonize James White purposefully, this is one way to do it. However, my enduring hope is that each one of us is better than that.
ME: Well, it is partly a straightforward acceptance — as regards titles –, of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith use of “bishop”: which is presented as the synonym of both “elder” and “pastor”: precisely how White used it in his letter to me in 2001. In that (“straight”) sense, I’m simply using it as he did, and as his creed does.
On the other hand, there is also an element of Rush Limbaugh-like tweaking humor involved: capitalizing on the tension between (as we believe) this Baptist ecclesiology and biblical episcopal ecclesiology. They refer to “bishop” in the creed (as indeed they would have to, since it is an expressly biblical category and office, that has to be taken into account), yet they are reluctant to use it, as you point out and make the central theme of your friendly critique (which I appreciate, because I can further clarify).
So yes, it’s tweaking, while at the same time being serious, according to his own belief-system, as I have now documented in this paper. This is the nature of sarcastic or parody humor. It has a grounding in reality and facts, but “exploits” certain tensions that may be present therein, which lend themselves to humor: even sometimes pointed humor.
White, of course, does the same exact thing with me. So he constantly, for example, makes fun of how much I write (including two official caricatures of me, by his artist, Angel Contreras). But his mocking has a fundamentally uncharitable, belittling, mean-spirited nature, whereas simply using “Bishop” in this way is, I would say, relatively harmless, and indeed based on actual facts of Baptist ecclesiology (White’s own).
Thus, I would contend that there is no “immoral equivalence” at all. My humor is of a completely different spirit than his; on a different plane altogether. Also, I simply laugh off his mocking of me, whereas White seems incapable of doing that, and takes everything intensely personally. And so White loudly and repeatedly objected to harmless, frivolous things I did, such as merely stretching out a picture of him. He would do well to be able to laugh at himself.
White and I will (almost certainly, barring a miracle) never be personally reconciled. I’ve tried to do that with him over and over. He’s not interested. It takes two. He thinks I’m in darkness, and what fellowship has Christ with Belial, etc.? That being the case, since he slanders me and relentlessly lies and makes out that I am the dumbest person in the history of the world regarding all matters theological and exegetical, I think harmless tweaking humor is quite mild and unobjectionable, especially considered next to what he says about me (like “knowing deception” and what-not).
So I use the Rush-like humor (like his “PMSNBC” and “Congressional Black Caucasians” and “MRS. Rodham Rodham Clinton” and “the REVEREND Jackson” [with a William F. Buckley impression] and a host of others). I was doing satire before anyone had ever heard of Rush. I love it.
But there is a theme here. The man called himself (at least once) a “bishop” when he is no such thing. He calls himself “Dr.” when he is no such thing, either, according to the accepted academic norms of what it means to earn a doctorate. I make note of both. I’ve examined in extreme depth (even chatting in a friendly manner with the President of his seminary one day), his own rationale for supposedly having a doctorate and found it severely wanting.
As I wrote in another venue today: if White is a “Dr.” on the basis he says he is, I, too, am a “Dr.” even more so. But I have far too much respect for the standards of academia and friends of mine with this level of education, to pretend that I am something that I am not. If White wants to go around and try to gain for himself a prestige that he doesn’t deserve, he needs to be called on it, and I and others (including some of his fellow Baptists) have done so.
There was also an old debate with White about certain folks’ use of “deacon” as equivalent to “pastor” and “elder” or even “bishop”. I had mentioned something in one of my books (in passing) along those lines, and he latched onto it as if (as usual) I was the stupidest ignoramus who ever walked the face of the earth. I found it, and later re-posted it on Facebook. It was called:
“Does No Protestant Denomination Whatsoever Regard Deacons as the Equivalent of Pastors and Elders? (Reply to James White’s Ad Hominem Extravaganza)”
Well (also as usual) I documented my claim by showing that some Lutherans indeed argued in this way. But that’s how it goes with him. He hoots and hollers and lets out all kinds of gas and writes about how profoundly dumb I am and how I (deliberately) misrepresent Protestants, having supposedly never been one, myself.
Then when I actually document and prove my assertion he has long since departed. He can NEVER EVER admit I am right about ANYTHING. So when I am right (which is very often in debate with him), he ignores it / pretends he never saw it.
In that exchange on deacons and elders, I documented how C. F. W. Walther (1811-1887): the first president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, thought deacons were equivalent to pastors, elders, and bishops. Then I documented how Martin Luther himself taught the same thing:
According to the New Testament Scriptures better names would be ministers, deacons, bishops, stewards, presbyters (a name often used and indicating the older members). For thus Paul writes in I Cor. 4 [:1], “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 40: Church and Minstry II, edited by Conrad Bergendoff, Philadephia: Muhlenberg Press, 1958, p. 35; primary work: Concerning the Ministry, 1523, translated by Conrad Bergendoff; available online)
After that, of course, White was nowhere to be found, after he had said about my argument:
Just who believes this, I wonder? I have never read any work by any Protestant theologian of any note who has ever made this argument. So, is Armstrong just ignorant of Protestant ecclesiology, or, has he run into some tiny sect someplace that has come up with some new wacky viewpoint? Given that he was once non-Catholic, it is hard to believe he could be so ignorant of the reality regarding the fact that bishop and elder refer to the same office and are used interchangeably in the New Testament, but that this office is clearly distinguished from that of the deacon. But, he does not show any knowledge of the biblical arguments in his presentation in this book . . .
Tim Roof Dave, regarding deacons, it is true outside of certain Lutheran circles that deacons are considered a separate office. I, for example, am a deacon in the OPC. My primary function is to see to the physical needs of the congregants and others outside the church who come to us for help. It doesn’t stop there, of course; there is crossover seeing that a person is also a spiritual being as well and may be in need of counsel. We may not automatically pass them onto the elders for that part of it. It depends on the circumstances. We are not considered to be bishops, elders or overseers.
I know most denominations separate deacons. But Martin Luther and Missouri Synod Lutheran founder Walther did not. All I had to prove was that any Protestant sect did this, since White denied that any did, and that I was utterly stupid to claim that any did. But I had never claimed (as he falsely made out) that all Protestants did. [I explained what I originally meant in a separate reply to White] So it was a slam-dunk debate, and a decisive knockout. As usual, he came off looking very badly, and severely embarrassed himself.
(originally 3-14-17 on Facebook)