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Jesus vs. James White on Who Can be Saved

Jesus vs. James White on Who Can be Saved October 12, 2021

This is a reply to an article by Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White: Pope Benedict XVI Continues Rome’s Move to Full Inclusivism (6 December 2005). “Dr.” [???] White is, in my opinion, the most influential, well-known, and able Protestant anti-Catholic apologist / sophist / polemicist of our time: and certainly most published and “heard”: through his podcasts and oral debates. His words will be in blue.

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From the official Vatican webpage we read,

In elucidating the psalm, the Pope also referred to a meditation on the subject by St. Augustine in which, he said, “the great Father of the Church introduces a surprising note: he knows that even among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people committed to peace and goodness, though without sharing the biblical faith. In the end, then, God will lead those people to the heavenly Jerusalem, rewarding them for their pure consciences.”

. . . Once again we see that “theology matters,” since, of course, there is no one with such a pure conscience to begin with, no one who fears God and does what is right before Him “without sharing the biblical faith.” A false anthropology combined with a defective view of the atonement results in a false soteriology.

Matthew 8:5-13 (RSV) As he entered Caper’na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him [6] and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” [7] And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” [8] But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. [9] For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” [10] When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” [13] And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

The Roman centurion was in all likelihood pagan in belief. At least that’s what the text implies. We don’t know if he actually had a “biblical faith.” If it is asserted that he did, it would only be an argument from silence, which is never very strong. What we do know is that Jesus said about him: “not even in Israel have I found such faith” (8:10). To me this implies that he was not a practicing convert to Judaism. If he had been, Jesus in His omniscience would have treated him as, well, a “son of the kingdom” (8:12). But He didn’t.

He specifically made the point (by analogy) that he was in contrast to the “sons of the kingdom” and separate from Israel (8:10): among whom at that time resided the “biblical faith” (Christianity not having yet been established, before the crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost). And most importantly, Jesus strongly implies that this man would be saved in the end (8:11), whereas many Jews would not (8:12).

This supports the statement from Pope Benedict XVI in all respects:

1) The Roman centurion was a person outside the Jewish, biblical faith and “Israel”,

2) who was nevertheless good, since he exercised true “faith”: that Jesus “marveled” at,

3) who would be eschatologically saved (while many Jews would not be).

Bishop White, in his infinite and unerring wisdom says “no one” can 1) fear God, or 2) do what is right without the biblical faith (Judaism or Christianity as the development of same). Funny: St. Peter in inspired, infallible revelation states precisely the opposite:

Acts 10:34-35 . . . “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, [35] but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Every nation”? In order to escape this decisive refutation of his total depravity false doctrine and unbiblical, late-arriving tradition of men, White would have to claim that every nation had Christians or Jews in it at this time, right at the dawn of Christianity, or somehow that the “biblical faith” was present in every single case of a person who “fears him and does what is right.” That’s simply utterly implausible and absurd. Therefore, White is dead wrong, and rather spectacularly so. No one ought to believe what he says when it so blatantly contradicts explicit, clear, inspired Holy Scripture.

Moreover, “Dr” [???] White claims that no one without the “biblical faith” can possess a “pure conscience.” St. Paul expressly contradicts him:

Romans 2:9-16 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, [10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. [11] For God shows no partiality. [12] All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. [14] When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them [16] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

In cases where this “conscience” is a means to “bear witness” and “perhaps excuse” it is clearly a pure conscience, suffused with God’s grace: without which no man can do any good at all, let alone be saved. The overall passage is, after all, about those who will be saved (“to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;”: 2:7), and also about damnation (“for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury”: 2:8). The clear conclusion to be drawn from all this is that there are people outside the law of Moses (2:12, 14) and outside of Israel (2:9-10, 14) and “the biblical faith” who can have a “pure conscience” and possibly be saved.

But without this compelling witness from Holy Scripture (and the influence of unbiblical traditions of men) many Christians can possibly fall into the absurd and impious false doctrine of total depravity (the “T” in the Calvinist “TULIP”. See much more on that topic below:

Related Reading

Calvinist Total Depravity vs. Catholic Concupiscence [1996]

Total Depravity: Reply to James White: Calvinism and Romans 3:10-11 (“None is Righteous . . . No One Seeks For God”) [4-15-07]

Calvinist Total Depravity: Does Romans 1 Apply to All Men? [4-10-08]

2nd Council of Orange: Sola Gratia vs. Total Depravity [1-5-09]

Dialogue: Double Predestination, Total Depravity, & Limited Atonement [4-14-10]

Bible vs. the Reformed Doctrine of Total Depravity [2010]

St. Francis de Sales: Bible vs. Total Depravity + Biblical Evidence for the Indefectibility of the Church (from the Psalms) [11-24-11]

Total Depravity & the Evil of the Non-Elect (vs. John Calvin) [10-12-12]

Refutation of Calvinist Total Depravity [10-12-12]

Can Only Regenerate Men Perform Truly Good Works? (vs. John Calvin) [Oct. 2012]

St. Augustine, Calvin, & Calvinists Regarding Total Depravity [1-7-14]

Total Depravity and Salvation Outside the Church (vs. a Calvinist) [4-4-17]

Calvinist Origin of Luther’s (?) “Snow-Covered Dunghill”? [5-14-19]

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Photo credit: Saint Paul Writing His Epistles (c. 1620), attributed to Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: Bishop James White runs afoul of Holy Scripture on the question of “who can be saved?” The Bible says non-Christians & non-Jews can do what is right & fear God.

 

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