Proposed Topic: Theological Definition of “Christian”? / Is Catholicism Properly Called “Christian”?
[originally posted on my blog on 3-6-07; White’s words will be in blue]
Just once, once!, I’d love to see the man defend his highly questionable theological positions in the face of a sustained “cross-examination” and close, socratic scrutiny. Not for a puny ten minutes, but 60 minutes.
My Debate Proposal
1) Whereas James White has failed for almost 12 years to defend his views on this subject in response to my critique, as expressed in our initial encounter through regular mail in 1995: “Is Catholicism Christian or Not?”,
2) And whereas James White clearly prides himself as a live debater, particularly as a cross-examiner, evidenced as of late (among innumerable examples) by his potshots at past debate opponents (such as Fr. Peter Stravinskas), and gloating about supposedly decisive, triumphant debate encounters that he presents in You Tube excerpts on his blog,
3) And whereas I have never even attempted live oral debate, but restrict myself to written debate (of which I have now engaged in nearly 400; almost all posted on my blog), for many and frequently stated reasons (thus this would be a suitable compromise),
4) And whereas James White has privately and publicly challenged me to (oral) debate for years (what must be at least 5-7 times by now), with the repeated implication that those unwilling to do so (for any reason) are “cowards” who “hide behind their keyboards”:
[T]hese guys are sitting behind their keyboards all nice and smug and safe. . . . I wonder if any of these very brave folks who are so tremendously brave behind a keyboard would be willing to press their case out in the open, so to speak, where I can respond and ask them questions as well? (“An open invitation”, 1-6-05 on his blog)
(and I have consistently declined for my stated, perfectly legitimate reasons — none of which are inability or fear –, of which he is well aware),
5) And whereas James White declined a similar offer in early 2001, when I said that he could question me “all night long” if he wanted to, if I could question him and ask him anything I wanted for an hour — all to be recorded on my website,
6) And whereas a few nights ago in my one lengthy nighttime appearance in his chat room (before I was rudely banned by James White, the next day, having violated no rules, and simply for being myself; also from the apologetics forum, where restrictions on dissenting opinions are far less), I was chided by another for simply mentioning the fact noted in #5, and wondering aloud if James White would do such a debate these days, and accused of personally attacking James White in so stating, and informed that White must have had a very good reason to decline in 2001,
7) And whereas James White has consistently refused to defend his positions when I have critiqued them in writing through the years, as copiously, undeniably evidenced by my collection of our “dialogues”,
8) And whereas he has consistently claimed (with innumerable insults) that I am an unsavory character and scared to debate him, and utterly unqualified to be interacted with by anyone, or given any credence as an apologist, let alone bestselling author in my field (though he once discussed my book, The Catholic Verses in many installments on his blog),
9) And whereas I have recently decided to again engage in debates with anti-Catholics, in some circumstances,
10) And whereas Mr. White enjoys a wide reputation among a certain sub-group of Protestants as an anti-Catholic champion, and is regarded as the preeminent debater of Catholics, and virtually unvanquishable,
I do hereby challenge Mr. James White to a live, two-and-a-half hour spontaneous “debate” in his own chat room, Pros Apologian (the same one I was banned from for no reason).
Since Mr. White didn’t care for my extremely generous terms in 2001, it seems that equal time would not be to his liking. On the other hand, he thinks I am a lot more unworthy as a debate opponent than he formerly has through the years (as demonstrated by his numerous challenges to me to do a live oral debate, from as far back as 6 April 1995: “Would you be willing to defend the statements you made in your letter in public debate, Dave? . . . Shall we discuss the possibility?”
In his eyes I seem to have gotten considerably dumber and less educated since 1995.
After all, he only challenges to debate those whom he considers worthy partners: so he often states (though for years he considered Art Sippo an unworthy partner):
There are exactly two Roman Catholic apologists who need not contact us about doing a public debate: Vinney Lewis and Dr. Art Sippo. . . . we have concluded they are not capable of acting in a sufficiently gentlemanly manner. (“About Debating Certain Roman Catholic Apologists”: 4-29-98 [link])
But recently , White practically begged him to do a debate [two links I formerly inserted here have been removed from White’s site; I can see why!]
Therefore — all these things considered –, I will give him an extra half hour, in hopes that he will take me up on my offer. I am willing to give him even more time, if that is what it takes for him to agree to terms and finally defend his viewpoints against close scrutiny and examination, after more than eleven years of fleeing in terror from same where I am concerned.
I suggest, then, that I be allowed to question (or “cross-examine”) him for 60 minutes on this topic, whereas he can question me for 90 minutes. The entire debate would consist entirely of this “cross-examining”, since Mr. White has repeatedly stressed that this is such a “crucial” element of Catholic-Protestant encounters.
He can choose to question first, or second (I have no preference). As in my terms in 2001, it is a “non-negotiable” that the entire, unedited exchange shall be posted on my blog. If that is not agreed-to beforehand, there will be no debate, because the whole point is to broadcast it (by exposure online) as far and wide as possible.
He can post it on his blog, too, if he so chooses (though, curiously, he never has linked to any of our exchanges that I have posted, even though he claims he has prevailed in every encounter we have ever had). But it will certainly be posted on my blog. Mr. White’s characteristic chiding of debate opponents when they are reluctant to distribute debates (as tacit “admissions” that they “lost”) is no factor here.
Mr. White loves cross-examination. I provide him with 90 or more minutes of that: truly a golden opportunity (even a handicap given to him!) to prove to the world that I am as profoundly ignorant and clueless as he repeatedly claims I am. What does he have to lose?
I also suggest that it take place late enough for those on the west coast to be able to observe it live (9 or 10 PM EST); preferably on a Friday or Saturday night, so that those in the eastern part of the country can stay up later without having to work the next day. There will be no rules, no moderation, no format other than previously agreed-to time limits, and absolute inadmissibility of personal attack.
Both persons can, however, object that a question or line of questions strays too far from the topic proper, and refuse to answer it on the same grounds, or refuse to spend a perceived inordinate amount of time on what they consider a “side” issue.
Should Mr. White be willing (and that is always the hurdle), we could continue on with similarly formatted live chat debates on other mutually-agreed-upon topics.
For those who want a little taste of what might be expected, I have preserved a short, unplanned, informal, spontaneous encounter of the same nature between White and myself, that took place in his chat room on 12-29-00.
This is the only time it ever occurred. And, unfortunately it was cut short (just as it was getting very interesting indeed) by technical problems on White’s end. Ah, the tyranny and inconvenience of computer dysfunctions . . .
Mr. White shall be notified of this challenge by private e-mail. It will also be sent to many other notable anti-Catholics. Any reply (by James White, not any others) will be deemed publishable material, so I suggest to Mr. White that if he doesn’t want a reply of his to appear on my blog, to not make it in the first place.
Lack of any response will be regarded as a “no” answer: declining the challenge or invitation, and this will be duly noted and documented hereafter on my blog, for the record (especially since my previous challenge was not nearly as publicly noted, and therefore has been doubted by some, as if Mr. White would never back down from any such challenge).
* * * * *
Here are the details, for the record, about White’s declining of my challenge. James White has made me a prophet. I wrote in an e-mail to a friend last night (actually early today: 3-6-07):
Watch how he reacts. It’ll be extremely interesting. I don’t think he’ll take me up on it. That’s my prediction. He’ll say I am an imbecile, and not worth anyone’s time.
Sure enough. It took less than a day. I received a letter from anti-Catholic Frank Turk and then a letter from James replying to him and to me. I used the “Contact” page that he provides on his website, to write to White (since he noted that he didn’t receive an e-mail). Here is James White’s reply (note the bizarre paranoid aspects: “stalker,” etc.), that I received at 10:59 AM, 3-6-07:
Frank: Thank you for forwarding this. I do not read Armstrong’s blog, nor any of my other stalkers (well, except the rC guys [“Reformed Catholic”], once in a blue moon), and I have received no e-mails from him, either. Someone likewise quoted his blog in channel this morning. I should have known he would take the ‘martyr’s’ route once he refused to be an adult and leave the channel voluntarily. So predictable.
You have got to be kidding. I gave you your chance in the past. You ducked and ran. We both know it. I challenged you to public debate.
You refused. I reviewed your book and took it apart. You ran.
Nope; it had nothing to do with “running”. I simply stopped participating in the exchange because White had made it almost entirely a vehicle for personal insult. In the early part, when he was actually making some arguments about the book, I replied to everything.
Your credibility rating is 0.0. You are all verbiage, zero substance. What is more, given your obsession with me, your playing with photos, even posting pictures from my blog recently, I consider you a stalker, nothing more. Stay out of the chat channel, as you are not a welcome guest. Your arrogance knows no limitations and your hubris is likewise without bounds. Further, your continual pattern of “promise/vow” followed by “woops, I didn’t mean that” makes your very integrity and honesty highly suspect. I would invite you get some help with your obsessive/compulsive problem. Learn to live your life focused upon positive things rather than upon your obsession with me. I have not said a word about you in ages, because I have no interest in your re-tread Catholic apologetics, and I am focused upon important things.
As it is, I have two weeks to put together an entire presentation on the tomb/resurrection controversy. So please, get some help, find some happiness and move on.
On a humorous note, the whole “photo” trumped-up controversy merely proves White’s hyper-sensitivity and inability to take what he dishes out. He has become almost a self-parodied caricature of the dour, humorless, stuffed-shirt Scottish Calvinist (me being Scottish, I can say that). He gets an artist friend to make caricatures of others and to mock them. I was portrayed twice: as a hateful, spiteful, sadistic person, and then as an outright liar. (he also portrayed Pat Madrid being stoned as an idolater). I simply took a picture of his once and stretched it horizontally. Heaven forbid!!!! Harmless fun.
Another time I posted the caricature that his artist, “Angelz” did of White himself (that White loves!) White told me to take down the caricature, as I did not have permission.
That being the case, I went and got a scowling photograph that has appeared on a Mormon site, taken by someone else, since White had no control over it.
Later, I changed the color for fun, to make it look like a negative,
and I played around with the color of another photo, too.
Just innocent, poking of fun, precisely because James acted in such a pompous, self-important manner. It is his own silliness and legalism about pictures that has brought all this about.
I was looking for serious debate. Obviously that will not take place. I virtually knew that even before I made the challenge. But it is important to note these things for the record, once and for all.
Let all know that White ran once again. He can’t handle the pressure of an extended examination of his goofy, fringe, anti-Catholic beliefs, from a person well-acquainted with all his sophistical tactics in debate. It’s too real; too threatening. His whole reputation would be at stake. He knows full well (at least down deep) how poorly he has fared in our past written exchanges.
I continued on in my e-mail to a friend last night:
I hope I’m wrong, but that [declining my challenge] is the lesser of the two evils for him, because he does not want to be decisively beaten in any debate (last of all, by me, because the man absolutely detests me). That’s the last thing he wants, since he has built his whole persona around his invulnerability schtick. That’s why I think he’ll have to decline, as he has before.
Sure enough. Who’s “predictable”? I laid out exactly what he would do last night, and he did precisely as I predicted, even upping the ante, with his paranoid speculations about “stalking” and charges of virtual mental illness (“obsession” / “please, get some help”, etc.). There is nothing left that he can accuse me of: I am, according to him, an inveterate liar with no apologetic credibility at all, an idiot, a coward, mentally ill, and now a “stalker.” What could he add to that: ax-murderer, wife-beater, child molester, Nazi?
It isn’t as if White has never done a debate in his chat room before. He certainly has, and he even posts them on his site. For example, on his page that one uses to access his chatting rooms, he has a link to an “authority” debate, that goes all the way back to 2-24-98. Then there is the “John 6 study”. And “Chat on John 17:5” (January 1999).
White very often downplays the use of the description “debate” in any context rather than live, in-person, before an audience, yet nevertheless he uses it for the apologetics chat room, in the chat intro-page:
If you are looking to engage in debate, or your topic may involve debate, you may want to join # apologetics. This channel is normally quiet unless a specific conversation begins on a specific topic. We will often ask that certain questions which are raised in # prosapologian move over to # apologetics for further discussion.
But when it comes to a planned live chat debate (intensive mutual cross-examination) with a thoroughly experienced, published (soon to be five books: three of which are bestsellers in my field), professional Catholic apologist like myself, who has participated in more than 375 written and publicly posted debates, with whom he has had many written exchanges dating all the way back to 1995: a person White has challenged to his beloved oral debate multiple times, he runs as if I had the Bubonic Plague or leprosy. He wants no part of that.
Is this not hypocrisy and intellectual cowardice of the most obvious sort? One could go on and on about similar follies, specifically his bragging about how people were scared to debate him (e.g., the Baptist “anti-Calvinist” Ergun Caner).
Let the record show this once and for all.
* * * * *
White has also now stated in e-mails that he would not be willing to even do a live oral debate on the same topic:
Dave (3-8-07: 8:08 PM):
What would you think about doing a live, oral, in-person debate on the same topic (What is a Christian? / Are Catholics Christian?), with the same mutual cross-examination format (and with you getting a half-hour more than I do: 90 minutes to my 60)?
+ + +
3-8-07: 11:32 PM
Mr. Armstrong, even if I were to take your sudden change of mind seriously, given that you have done about-faces so many times those observing you are dizzy, what would keep you from doing yet another “I pledge to never talk to James White/anti-Catholics ever again” routine a month before, or a week before, such a debate?
Please do not be so utterly arrogant as to offer me more time. Do you seriously think yourself a better debater than Matatics or Sungenis or Madrid or Pacwa, etc.? Amazing!
The thesis statement you suggest is so vague as to defy examination. We debate specifics. You know, like Papal Infallibility, Marian dogmas, the Mass, that kind of thing.
But, of course, there were, at one point, many pages of “why public debate is silly” articles on your website. Are they still there? In any case, it is hard to take your e-mail seriously. I suspect ulterior, and less-than-useful, motives.
+ + +
Dave (3-9-07: 12:39 AM)
So am I to take this to mean that you wouldn’t be willing to do such a debate?
Your brother in Christ & His Church,
+ + +
3-10-07: 11:10 AM
I do not have time for your childish games, Mr. Armstrong. You just ignored numerous reasons why even investing the time to try to get you to act in an adult manner in the issue would be next to impossible, and by so doing, only demonstrated the truthfulness of each of the objections you ignored.
I debate adults, sir, who can be expected to keep their word long enough to make the investment of time and money worthwhile. I believe you are pulling this stunt only to attempt to rehabilitate yourself from the embarrassing behavior you have exhibited in the past, nothing more. I see no reason, whatsoever, in your words or behavior, to think you have developed past the verbosity-laden man who runs from direct challenges and posts distorted pictures of those he knows he cannot refute.
The Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit.
What you win them with is what you win them to.
>> Jesus Christ: able to save to the uttermost <<< ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^ Sola Scriptura: A Fundamental Truth ^ ^ James White, D.Min., Th.D. [Dave: alleged] | www.aomin.org ^
__o | Do not close your eyes to the holocaust
_`\<, | of abortion: God hates the murder of the …(*)/(*) | unborn. ————-
3-10-07: 11:53 AM
Thanks for your colorful but (as always) charitably and courteously expressed opinions. It’s wonderful to observe a Christian apologist who fully abides by the injunctions of 1 Peter 3:15. I have duly recorded your thoughts in my blog post about this challenge, per my words earlier in the post (that you were made aware of):
Any reply (by James White, not any others) will be deemed publishable material, so I suggest to Mr. White that if he doesn’t want a reply of his to appear on my blog, to not make it in the first place.
May God bless you in your apologetics ministry (i.e., insofar as you are not warring against the One True Church). I love the critiques you are presently doing about the ludicrous “Jesus Tomb” nonsense.
I have many links to your non-Catholic-related writings, and encourage you to concentrate more on those, since the truth is actually on your side in those instances.
Affectionately, your brother in Christ,
3-10-07: 5:51 PM
While you play games focused solely upon your monumental ego, Mr. Armstrong, I am collecting original sources so as to complete, in the space of three weeks, an in-depth response to Jacobovici, Pellagrino, and Cameron, including discussions of mitochondrial DNA analysis, the Acts of Philip, and first-hand exchanges with the leading scholars in both fields. I cannot imagine what it is like to do what you do, to live like you live, to view yourself as you view yourself. I can only be thankful I will not be in your shoes when God judges the thoughts and intents of the heart.
3-10-07: 6:40 PM
Thanks for the opportunity to grow in grace (Matthew 5:11-12). I appreciate it.
. . . I am collecting original sources so as to complete, in the space of three weeks, an in-depth response to Jacobovici, Pellagrino, and Cameron, including discussions of mitochondrial DNA analysis, the Acts of Philip, and first-hand exchanges with the leading scholars in both fields.
Yes, I complimented you on that in my last letter. God bless you. I don’t need to spend time on that particular nonsense because you are doing a thorough job. Kudos! I can simply refer people to your refutation if they want something on that.
I do have extensive critiques on my blog, of course, of atheists and theological liberals (a page devoted to each), along with other work, such as against homosexual activists, pro-aborts, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, scientific materialism, etc. So you’re not the only one out there fighting the forces of evil and falsehood. There are plenty more in the apologetic trenches.