Also, Bishop “Dr.” [???] White’s 2001 Debate Proposal vs. My Various (Declined) Debate Proposals
I refuted James White’s paper on the Council of Nicaea after he had practically dared and begged any Catholic apologist to do that, in his article, “For the Serious Minded” (3-29-07). White wrote (his words in blue as throughout):
When I checked on the link I have used a number of times recently for my Nicea article in the CRI Journal of July/August, 1997, I discovered it had gone dead. So I contacted CRI, and they contacted their webfolks who are busy migrating their website to a new format. They jumped my article to the head of the line and it is now available again, here. . . .
I would like to invite Jonathan Prejean, Patrick Madrid, Dave Armstrong, and the rest of that group of RC apologists, to post links to the paper as well. Why? Well, they are all claiming the paper is a glowing example of how unscholarly I am, how ignorant I am, and why no Roman Catholic should ever listen to anything I have to say.
I haven’t said one word about it. I don’t even participate on the Envoy Discussion Board. So I don’t know why White thinks I have. Maybe it’s because I am (so sez he) a “stalker”, so he just assumes I am in on the evil Jesuit conspiracy to prove that he is so ignorant?
His wish is granted. I’m happy to be of service.
That way, you can let your audience find out if Hugh Barbour was actually dealing with what I wrote, or was doing as I have said, writing nothing but a shameless hit piece that mocks the very nature of sound scholarship?
Being a lover of two-sided dialogue myself, I am ecstatic to present one such example and let readers decide.
And would it not be a great benefit for Madrid and Prejean and Armstrong to post my article as an example of just how dull I am?
I don’t know if “dull” is the best word to describe Bishop White. I would prefer “sophist” or “obtuse” or “intellectual coward” in light of how he has interacted with me these past twelve years.
I mean, each of them should be able to provide a far superior summary of the main issues at Nicea, Constantine’s role, the primary personalities involved, and make it all understandable to the interested layman, and do it all in 4500 words, right?
I might just take up this challenge, but will Mr. White, for his part, promise to respond if I do so, rather than high tail it for the hills, like he has done virtually every other time I have critiqued his writing? One tires of cowardice, poorly masked by bombast and relentless arrogant, self-congratulatory trumpeting of one’s supposedly singular debating abilities.
I mean, since I failed so miserably at it, they should be able to pull it off, right? So I look forward to their demonstrating their integrity and honesty by posting the link along with their far superior articles.
Oh goodie! I have regained my integrity! It took just 23 days too!
And now White has made a substantive, meaningful reply [choke].
My supposed “vow” to never debate anti-Catholics again
The centerpiece is a posting of mine from 14 March 2001 (that’s six years ago, folks), that wasn’t even on my site, as I recall, but on Steve Ray’s discussion board, as a result of a dare (probably calculated, judging by the way the anti-Catholics have tried to throw it in my face ever since).
[Anti-Catholic apologist] Eric Svendsen cited a statement I made in 2001 after being fed up with anti-Catholics and their idiocies and evasions. I said I would never talk to them again, and no one else should, either. This was obviously too extreme of a statement, and impossible for an apologist like myself to abide by (since I have to deal with error of that sort, by profession).
So it was wrong and stupid for me to make such a resolution. Indeed I broke it. But I don’t see this as even a sin. We all break resolutions all the time (diets, not smoking or drinking anymore, to control our tempers, better use of time, etc.).
I can admit that. I have no problem with it (I already have done so in public, long ago). I spoke with too much extremity and set myself up for later mockery by these anti-Catholic clowns. If mine was a sin at all (I’m not so sure, but possibly) it is certainly venial, and long since confessed.
But Svendsen takes it to a whole other level: that of pretending that this resolution was a vow or an oath. Svendsen has repeated this charge many times (to try to discredit me as a lying fool), but it is a bald-faced lie, and I soundly refuted it. Vows and oaths are an extremely serious matter and of a far higher importance than resolutions.
Anyone can do a word search of the Svendsen article citing my older words and see for themselves that the words “vow” or “oath” never appear. Nor does the word “swear” appear; let alone “swear by God” or “under God” or some such. This is an elementary distinction, so for anyone to not understand this, shows a fundamental deficiency in understanding of this ethical point of Christian / biblical / Catholic theology.
A quick glance at the online Catholic Encyclopedia (“Vows”) could have brought [Svendsen and now White] to speed in 20 seconds maximum:
A vow is defined as a promise made to God. The promise is binding, and so differs from a simple resolution which is a present purpose to do or omit certain things in the future.
But even a vow allows for some “loopholes”:
Dispensation from a vow is ordinarily justified by great difficulty in its fulfilment or by the fact that it was taken without due deliberation, or by the probability of some greater good either to the person taking it or to others, . . .
My mere resolution was obviously too difficult to reasonably abide by (esp. as an apologist) due to its extremity, and it was made on the spur of the moment without due deliberation (in fact, as I recall, I was goaded into it by another anti-Catholic).
The article on “Oaths” is similar:
An oath is an invocation to God to witness the truth of a statement. It may be express and direct, as when one swears by God Himself; or implicit and tacit, as when we swear by creatures, since they bear a special relation to the Creator and manifest His majesty and the supreme Truth in a special way: for instance, if one swears by heaven, the throne of God (Matthew 5:34), by the Holy Cross, or by the Gospels.
Traditionally, Eric Svendsen (post of 1-13-05) and other anti-Catholics have used this statement of mine to “prove” that I am supposedly a “liar” or an “oath-/vow-breaker”. White has now offered an interesting new twist on the perpetual smear campaign (the Big Lie and talking points about me seem to change roughly every 6-8 months). Rather than accusing me of lying, he opts for psychological or mental illness, “stalker”, untrustworthiness, and my allegedly being not “stable”.
Very clever (very unethical too). It’s amazing how many excuses intellectual cowards will come up with. Along with this latest evasive tactic, anti-Catholics like Frank Turk have also been making out that I am begging for attention because no leading anti-Catholics supposedly think I am “relevant” or “important” in apologetics anymore, and simply laugh me off as a washed-up has-been.
Right; funny, then, that my paperback books are bestsellers in the field: three are now consistently in the Top 100 for the Catholic Theology category on amazon, and often two are in the top 20, a new book is coming out in May, plus my blog hits are 900 a day average (more than Turk and Hays), and I get letters all the time informing me of conversions to Catholicism partially or largely because of my work. By any objective criterion of “success” in what I do, I’m more effective as a vessel of Catholic apologetics than ever. All glory to God.
Of course this very statement will be thrown in my face as “bragging” (even though James White talks about results he gets in his ministry in similar fashion all the time, often with considerable paranoia, as seen in his new “stalking” charge). But the anti-Catholics have to come up with something: to rationalize their unwillingness to answer critiques or to do necessary, fundamental debates, some hogwash so that they don’t have to ever seriously consider anything I write, so this fits the bill. Whether it is true or not is utterly irrelevant to them.
Smear and propagandistic tactics are never concerned with the truth, but rather, with their goal to find something that works for the purpose of putting someone down and trashing their person and integrity, despite, in the teeth of, the actual facts of the matter. But if they want to ignore me, that’s fine. It only helps my work succeed all the more, because they have effectively removed any opposition to it. So I have a free reign to influence Protestants to seriously consider the fullness of Catholicism. Thanks, guys!
White, in this latest post, uses the description “vow[ing]” twice, with regard to my past resolutions about desired non-interaction with anti-Catholics. As anyone can see in a word search of the ancient post of mine that he has reproduced in its entirety, as I noted above:
The words “vow” or “oath” never appear. Nor does the word “swear” appear; let alone “swear by God” or “under God” or some such.
Nor did I use this language of “vow” or “oath” in 2005. Not at all. That can easily be proven as well. So White is lying again and misrepresenting what I have done. I left his discussion of my book The Catholic Verses because he couldn’t stay on the subject and had to make it yet another mudfest (including charges that I am knowingly deceptive about the falsity of various Protestant beliefs). It was an insult to anyone’s intelligence to continue that discussion. So I left. It had nothing to do with fear or inability, as White vainly loves to pretend. A few months later I refuted (at extreme length) his position on Moses’ Seat and he never replied to that, as usual.
All of this pompous flatulence from Bishop White is a transparent cover for his inability to defend the positions he takes. He challenged: I took it up, and rather than make a rational reply, White opts for ridicule: his tactic where I am concerned for now 12 years. Some highlights of this classic of Bishop White condescension:
He collapsed into a puddle of goo, ran for the hills, vowing to never again have anything to do with “anti-Catholics.”
He’s become downright nasty and demeaning, but again, this is nothing new for DA.
He truly strikes me as a kind of stalker.
Anyway, I explained to him that arranging a debate with him would be problematic for the obvious reason that he can’t be trusted. He is not stable. He swings from pillar to post, and if we did, in fact, arrange a formal debate today, how could anyone trust that next week he won’t have yet another change of heart, make another vow to avoid anti-Catholics, and bag out?
It is just one of many such examples of the instability of Dave Armstrong.
Pray for this man. My family has started making a habit of doing so every night when we say grace for dinner. Now all we need to do is pray Rosaries on his behalf, or ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints to ask God to heal this man from his resentments, slanders, extreme blindness to his own faults and hypocrisies, and severe irresponsibility in matters of truth and falsehood (not to mention intellectual cowardice, which is a strange trait indeed for an apologist to suffer from).
ADDENDUM OF 3-7-17: White’s Own Determination (“Vow”?) to Completely Avoid Me: Made on 1-12-01
This is drawn from an old lengthy paper of exchanges with Bishop White. It probably won’t be available much longer on Internet Archive. But it’s still there for now, and is entitled: “Case Study in Anti-Catholic Intransigence: Dr. James White Rejects Personal Reconciliation, Yet Simultaneously Pushes for an Oral Debate” (1-16-01):
White wrote to me in a letter of 1-12-01 (keep in mind the bum raps about me and my supposed “broken vow” above):
I have done all I could since then [our first “postal debate” from 1995] in light of certain aspects of your behavior to avoid interaction like the plague. My website contains nothing about you for that very reason. . . . It’s a no-win situation, and I am still kicking myself for even thinking about hitting the “reply” button on the first e-mail from you regarding that dialogue. . . . But we all have moments of weakness, I guess. So I apologize for even considering the idea of having ANY contact. As they seem to say amongst the young people today, “My bad.” . . .
I have to trust God’s Spirit to lead His people as He sees fit. I have had a number of folks contact me about your posting of my letters and actually warn me against “casting pearls before swine” in doing what I am doing even now. I had three people say to me this morning, “You are wasting your time.” I will have to accept their counsel after this response.
Mr. Armstrong, I have no interest, whatsoever, in continuing this with you. I don’t like you, and I don’t believe you like me. Until a few weeks ago I had followed the path of wisdom and avoided every entanglement with you. I erred in moving from that path. You will undoubtedly claim “victory” and shout loud and long about my supposed inability to respond to your “tightly reasoned” arguments. So be it. I know different, and what’s more, I think, somewhere down inside, you do too.
Continuing to attempt to reason with you is likewise foolish: if you write an angry e-mail, like yesterday, and I reply to it, the next day you’ll use the calm, rational response, and upbraid me for being nasty. No matter what I do, the end is the same. I knew this years ago. My memory must be failing or something for even making the attempt.
I’m going to ask you to join me in promising to stay as far away from each other as possible. I’m not asking you to not respond on your own website to what I write or doing whatever you want to do when speaking, etc. I am talking about personal interaction. Stay out of #prosapologian. Don’t write to me. Don’t ask to do dialogues, debates, or anything else. You just do your thing, and I’ll do mine. OK?
Let’s leave the issues to those who have a true interest in such things, and given that our personalities are such that we cannot possibly co-exist in the same space (physical or cyber….we’d kill each other on Survivor!), let’s not obscure the issues with our personal clashes. I think that is a fair request, one that would advance the cause of truth no matter how one views the debate. No one needs to waste their time thinking about our inability to get along. That’s just the way it is.
Dave, I pray God’s best for you, and health and blessing upon your family.
The additional silly thing about this is that the day before, White had challenged me to an oral debate, which I turned down, as I always have, because I don’t do them with anyone, out of a principled objection to their nature, as opposed to far-superior written debates. He had challenged me before in 1995, and would again in 2007 (it seemed to be a cycle of every six years). Thus, he had written the day before:
Since we both believe the other is guilty of fallacious, incorrect, and sophistical argumentation, one-on-one, live, is the way to find out who is right and who is wrong, is it not? I do not believe you can defend your position without changing the ground from the actual questions to some massive presentation drawing from all the things you have written before. That doesn’t work in a live situation. You have to be direct, clear, and on-topic. So I repeat my invitation: we do a 90 minute web broadcast.
Continuing on that day or the next, he wrote:
I’ll be right up front with you, Dave: you would never survive a one-on-one debate with me, because you can’t defend your position without using obfuscation and rhetoric. You can’t survive direct cross-examination, and what really bugs you is you know it.
I’ll tell ya what: we have a tentative agreement with someone for the 2002 Long Island Debate. If that falls through, how about you free up some time and face me in public? Let’s do something really unusual that hasn’t been done before, . . . You obviously believe I am utterly incapable of meaningful written debate, So, the easiest way to demonstrate that, and document it on audio and video tape, would be to step into the arena. How about it?. . . offering citations IN CONTEXT against someone who KNOWS the context and can point out the errors of out of context citation is a whole new world, Mr. Armstrong. And using the same old tired citations, as you do all the time on your website, would not work in live debate. . . .
If you want to debate, let’s debate….in person, before observers, where rhetoric and misdirection is quickly and easily detected and refuted. Please stop calling the exchange of a few letters a “debate.” It was, at best, “brief correspondence.” . . .
I am a nobody, Mr. Armstrong. A dope. If I got run over by a truck tomorrow a few folks would notice but the world would go on without so much as a pause. There are many, many people FAR more intelligent and able than I am. As long as you believe that I think otherwise, you’ll keep playing directly into my hands over and over and over again. What is true about me is that I’m passionate about the truth. I detest inconsistency and deception. I detest surface-level assertions and the misuse of facts. That is why you and I don’t get along.
I’m not impressed by rhetoric and bluster and verbosity. There are many who are, I’m not one of them. I have a deep-seated dislike of those who make a show of knowledge for the sake of something other than the truth itself. That’s why I don’t like much of what goes on in “academia” today: it’s all for show, not for the edification of believers in the Church. So at the very least I’m consistent. . . .
Dave, I really don’t find a thirst for “truth” in the notes you added to the online debate. . . . If you think written exchanges have the ability to allow for the kind of interaction that live ones do, well, what can I say? It obviously does not. . . .
So you will defend your statements on the webcast? . . . If our books are so poor, it would follow that exposing their errors in person would be rather easy, would it not? . . . Will you defend what you have written on our webcast or not? Yes or no?
No. My challenge to do some sort of writing debate stands, as it has since mid-1995. You have admitted that basically you think I am dumb and without substance. So why do you want to interact with me? Is it the common tactic of Protestants loving to talk to dumb Catholics, so their view can look better?
I don’t do live oral debates, for the reasons I originally gave you in 1995 when you asked me, and recently expanded in a paper of mine on that very topic [“Interacting With Sophists: Reflections on “Debates” With Anti-Catholic Polemicists”]. I did the live chat [with him, about the Blessed Virgin Mary] for a few reasons, which I was very upfront about. I did enjoy it very much (mostly because it remained cordial and respectful). There is no intrinsic ethical objection to adding footnotes to the text, that I can see. If someone doesn’t want to read them, they are below, so they don’t have to, just as they don’t have to watch a lousy TV show. I thought it was a reasonable compromise between an oral debate and a written exchange.
I reminded White of my words in declining his same challenge in 1995:
Finally, I am delighted and (I think) honored that you are eager and “happy” to debate me in public. I love debate, but much prefer informal, conversational Socratic dialogue or written point-counterpoint exchanges to the mutual monologues and often antagonistic and disrespectful affairs which pass for “public debates.” I am not particularly skilled as an orator and lecturer, nor do I have the requisite desire to participate in that type of forum. That said, I would not want to publicly represent the Church to which I give my allegiance, but would rather defer to someone with more abilities for formal debate than I possess, so that we are best represented . . .
Lest you think I’m trying to evade you, however, I am perfectly willing, able, ready, and eager to engage you in debate on any topic you so desire either by letter or in your newsletter (if the latter, I would require prior editorial consent, due to the unscrupulous tactics recounted above). I would demand equal space in your newsletter, so that the fair inquirer could make up his own mind. You’ve observed my debating abilities in this letter and other writings I’ve given you, so I think you’ll agree that timidity and fear are not my reasons for declining public oratorical debate.
He blew that off at the time, writing:
I have to keep reminding myself that you are the same person who has declined my challenge to publicly debate. If you would “devour [George] Salmon for lunch,” Mr. Armstrong, wouldn’t that make me a mere before-dinner snack, given my obvious inferiority to Salmon as a scholar? Sort of makes your protestations about not being an orator rather empty, don’t you think?
All of that is the background of White then switching on a dime, from challenging me to talk on his webcast for 90 minutes, to a position where he wants us to pretend each other doesn’t exist: because I turned him down.
Also, it must be noted that at the time White was challenging me to do a 90-minute show in his venue, I made the following counter-proposal of a live chat:
1. I get to question you for 90 minutes, about anything, where you have to answer, and I go first. That way you can’t run and hide, but will have to defend your beliefs under scrutiny.
2. Then you can question me for 90 minutes about anything: Mary, the pope, episcopacy, whatever you like. In fact, you can question me for 5 hours, or all night if you want (if it is on the weekend). I’m not scared of you. That would give me an opportunity to so expose your falsehoods, that I would jump for joy. Just give me 90 minutes where you can’t run, (like local hero Joe Louis said: “he can run but he can’t hide”).
3. It all goes on my website, and I will footnote it again, if necessary (including this letter and the last one — people need to see your “intellectual” brilliance in action).
4. The slightest ad hominem attack and I leave immediately. If you pull a stunt like this letter in a live chat, I’ll be gone before your next heartbeat. I don’t care a whit what you or others may think about that. It doesn’t concern me.
How could anyone say this isn’t greatly favoring you? I will eagerly await your response.
This was declined, as were several future challenges for a similar debate: always giving him a strong advantage (knowing his fear of me). He turned them all down.
But because I turned down his proposal in 2001, the next day he opted for the tack of “I’m going to ask you to join me in promising to stay as far away from each other as possible. . . . I am talking about personal interaction. . . . Don’t write to me. Don’t ask to do dialogues, debates, or anything else.”
Of course, he didn’t hold to this “resolution” (“vow”?) of his own. He has had many interactions with me after January 2001. Yet he went out several times and pretended that I broke a “vow” of saying I would not interact with him, when I had done nothing more than what he did in the same year (2001): i.e., I didn’t follow a resolution made out of exasperation.
This is the kind of man we’re dealing with: a liar, a sophist, a two-faced hypocrite, and an intellectual coward.
Believe me, I make those charges of anyone only with the greatest reluctance. But I have hundreds of hours of experience with White, going back to 1995, and tons of documentation, and he always consistently acts inconsistently, in the fashion you see above. Charges are either true or false. If they are false, they are slanderous and sinful. If they are true, we are allowed to make them (many examples in the Bible: notably, from Jesus and St. Paul).
Bishop White also declined my suggestion in October 2004 that I come onto his webcast so we could just chat like human beings for an hour.
He kicked me out of his chat room recently when I had done nothing wrong (and had been harangued by the notorious anti-Catholic Pastor David T. King. I wasn’t even allowed to go to the second “debate” chat room. I’m far too threatening, I guess, to enter a place with 25 anti-Catholics. The odds are too stacked in my favor, I reckon.
He declined my challenge to do a live chat debate (on the topic of “What is a Christian? / Is Catholicism Christian?”), where I would give him 90 minutes to cross-examine me whereas I get 60 to question him. This was specifically designed to give him plenty of opportunity for cross-examination, since he frequently extols the glories and supreme importance of same on his blog. His sidekick James Swan then refused the same exact challenge.
All this, and yet White thinks “you would never survive a one-on-one debate with me, because you can’t defend your position without using obfuscation and rhetoric. You can’t survive direct cross-examination, and what really bugs you is you know it.”
To this day (after literally 25 years), our most direct, back-and-forth exchanges remain the initial 1995 postal debate on the definition of Christian, and the live chat debate on Mary (12-29-00; the only “live” and spontaneous one). Since then he has engaged in 95% pure mockery. You be the judge as to who prevailed. It is a matter of fact that I have posted all the words of both parties on my site as soon as I could. White has neither linked to either nor posted a word of either on his site. What does that suggest? That he bested me? I think not. You get both sides on my blog so you can decide for yourself who defended truth and who took the side of falsehood. This is the only fair and intelligent way to go about these things.
(originally 4-4-07; with lengthy additions of older 2001 material, on 3-7-17)