+ His Continual Fleeing in Terror from Me (Since 1995) at the Prospect of a Horrifying Sustained Written Debate
[portions of the following are dated 4-4-07 and 3-7-17, with additional materials and editing on 8-12-22]
I made a resolution on 14 March 2001 that wasn’t even on my site, as I recall, but on Steve Ray’s discussion board, as a result of an anti-Catholic dare (probably calculated, judging by the way the anti-Catholics have tried to throw it in my face ever since). I was 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 spoke with too much extremity and set myself up for later mockery by these anti-Catholic clowns.
But Eric Svendsen (and many other anti-Catholics along with him) took 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 and vow-breaker), 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. The words “vow” or “oath” never appeared in my resolution made on 14 March 2001. 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.
Much less known, however, is Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White’s own determination to completely avoid me, and his pathetic, pitiful begging and pleading with me to avoid him: stated in a personal letter written to me on 12 January 2001: that is, two months before I made my “famous” statement. A complete (tedious, laborious) account of the entire incident can be found in my original report: Case Study in Anti-Catholic Intransigence: Dr. James White Rejects Personal Reconciliation, Yet Simultaneously Pushes for an Oral Debate (1-16-01). But here I will summarize the main highlights of what happened.
White wrote to me in a letter of 12 January 2001 (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 wanted us to pretend that 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 (or pretends to think) “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 now 27 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). In the first, he was so thoroughly bested that he utterly declined to reply to my final 36-page installment. Zero, zilch, nada. That has been the case for these past 27 years. In the second, which was a spontaneous exchange in his own chat room, where I had no notes or preparation (hence was at a distinct disadvantage going in), he became so threatened by my questioning that he conveniently experienced “technical problems” (just in the nick of time, before he made a total fool of himself!) and was never heard from again that night (while I hung around for several hours chatting with his followers).
It is a matter of fact that I have posted all the words from both of us from both exchanges on my site as soon as I could. The initial postal debate went up on my website as soon as it went online in February 1997. A transcript of the live chat went up shortly after it happened, in early 2001. White has neither linked to either nor posted a single 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. You be the judge as to who prevailed.
Bishop White routinely mocks oral debate opponents when they don’t put up debates with him on their sites: implying that this means that they lost the debate. He’s famous for doing this. I’ve personally seen it probably 15-20 times. Yet with me it is the opposite scenario: I put up everything: every word, and he has put up zero words from either. Why? Obviously, it’s because he got his head handed to him in a handbasket in both debates. Using his own reasoning in interpreting the behavior of his debate opponents, this must be what his refusal means.
Moreover, I had the unmitigated gall to put up an analysis of the live chat, which laid bare his sophistry and unworthy debate tactics. When I first put up the transcripts, I also added footnotes and commentary, which White wasn’t pleased with at all. That was the immediate background of his being so threatened by me that he asked me to split and not bother him again. In December 2007, I took it a step further, and posted James White’s Relentless Sophistry in Our Live Chat on Mariology. This exposed all the more his nefarious tactics, and of course was not replied to (what a surprise!).
White kept attacking me personally (all he had left in his “arsenal” I guess), all the way till 2009 or 2010, then he finally ceased once and for all, except for 95% pure mockery in passing statements on Twitter, etc. I have continued to critique his theological nonsense, but he never issues a single word of reply.
I have even published a 395-page book of our exchanges, that he has utterly ignored as well: Debating James White: Shocking Failures of the “Undefeatable” Anti-Catholic Champion (Nov. 2013). He knows that he will lose if he tries to take me on, so he decided at long last to pretend either that 1) I don’t exist, or 2) I do exist, but I am the dumbest , stupidest Catholic apologist in the history of the world: so ignorant that he requested a formal oral debate with me in 1995, 2001, and 2007. Go figure . . .
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Summary: Overview of the desperate attempts of anti-Catholic apologist James White to avoid written debate with me like the plague. Tragi-comic but very amusing stuff!