November 19, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White wrote a book in 1996, entitled The Roman Catholic Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers). His words below will be in blue.

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As his opening of his chapter 5: “Sola Scriptura: God Speaks Clearly,” on page 55, Bishop White cites St. Basil the Great (c. 330-379):

If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore, let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. (Letter 189 [To Eustathius the Physician, Vol. VIII] )

Apparently, this is quite the popular “patristic prooftext” of sola Scriptura. It’s also found in the article, “Basil of Caesarea: A Champion of Sola Scriptura” (Matthew Ervin, 5-11-14), The Shape of Sola Scriptura: a 2001 book by Keith A. Mathison, p. 35, and David T. King and William Webster’s self-published book (also from 2001): Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our FaithVolume III: The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura” (pp. 72-73).

White commented on the passage as follows:

Basil was content to allow that divine document to stand as judge between him and his opponents. . . . he referred to that which was binding on all Christians in all places at all times: the Scriptures. (p. 55)

Now to his great credit, White at least qualifies this somewhat in footnote 2 for this chapter (p. 235). I think he does this because he knows full well (if he simply read the relevant passages) that this is not the sum total of all of Basil’s thought on matters of authority and the Christian rule of faith. In this way, he saves himself from complete intellectual dishonesty:

It does not follow that every man who confesses the ultimacy of Scripture will exhibit perfect application of this truth in his life or doctrine. I would say Basil, for example, at times allowed his traditions to override the testimony of Scripture.

White (praise be to God!) didn’t descend to the stupefying, utterly uncomprehending (and flat-out dishonest) views of his buddies King and Webster (book above), who breathtakingly stated:

[T]he Church fathers . . . universally taught sola Scriptura in the fullest sense of the term . . .

[I]t is the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura which [is] true to the ancient faith and practice of the Church and that it is, in fact, the Roman Catholic Church which has misrepresented the Church fathers . . . (pp. 9-10)

Protestant patristics expert J. N. D. Kelly stated, regarding St. Basil:

Basil made the liturgical custom of baptizing in the threefold name a pivot in his argument for the coequality of the Spirit with Father and Son, pleading that the apostolic witness was conveyed to the Church in the mysteries as well as in Scripture, and that it was apostolic to abide by this unwritten tradition. (Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised 1978 edition, 45)

I have written two lengthy and comprehensive articles on St. Basil’s view of Christian authority (including the Bible):

Basil the Great (d. 379) vs. Sola Scriptura as the Rule of Faith [8-1-03]

David T. King and William Webster: Out-of-Context or Hyper-Selective Quotations from the Church Fathers on Christian Authority: Part II: St. Basil the Great [11-11-13]

I summed up in the second article:

[T]he fathers, including St. Basil, do not oppose Scripture to the binding authority of the Church and apostolic tradition: all are regarded as perfectly harmonious and complementary. . . .

[The King and Webster collection of Basil citations] gives us a thorough survey of St. Basil’s view of Scripture. No problem for Catholics here at all. But there is a huge problem for sola Scriptura Protestants, when we also look at what Basil wrote about tradition, including oral tradition, and the Church. So why don’t we take a few minutes to examine the whole picture now, rather than a slanted, one-sided presentation for polemical purposes, that deliberately ignores all of this other relevant data (which amounts — I would argue — to sophistry and half-truth).

Since I massively documented Basil’s overall views on Christian authority in those two papers, I need not do so again. But here’s a good chunk of the highlights (all that follows is from St. Basil the Great):

Apostolic Tradition / “Three-Legged Stool” (Bible + Tradition + Church)

Can I then, perverted by these men’s seductive words, abandon the tradition which guided me to the light, which bestowed on me the boon of the knowledge of God, whereby I, so long a foe by reason of sin, was made a child of God? (The Holy Spirit, 10)

Scripture, however, in the case of baptism, sometimes plainly mentions the Spirit alone.“For into one Spirit,” it says, “we were all baptized in one body.” And in harmony with this are the passages: “You shaft be baptized with the Holy Ghost,” and “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” But no one on this account would be justified in calling that baptism a perfect baptism wherein only the name of the Spirit was invoked. For the tradition that has been given us by the quickening grace must remain for ever inviolate. (The Holy Spirit, 12)

But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you. (The Holy Spirit, 16)

The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of “sound doctrine” is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. (The Holy Spirit, 25)

Now one of the institutions of Gregory is the very form of the doxology to which objection is now made, preserved by the Church on the authority of his tradition; . . . (The Holy Spirit, 29)

. . . novel and unfamiliar doctrines which they allege to be deduced from the teaching of Scripture . . . These, brethren, are the mysteries of the Church; these are the traditions of the Fathers. Every man who fears the Lord, and is awaiting God’s judgment, I charge not to be carried away by various doctrines. If any one teaches a different doctrine, and refuses to accede to the sound words of the faith, rejecting the oracles of the Spirit, and making his own teaching of more authority than the lessons of the Gospels, of such an one beware . . . (Letter #261)

Oral and Unwritten Traditions

Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. (The Holy Spirit, 9:22)
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Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. (The Holy Spirit, 22)
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[T]hey clamour for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. But we will not slacken in our defence of the truth. We will not cowardly abandon the cause. The Lord has delivered to us as a necessary and saving doctrine that the Holy Spirit is to be ranked with the Father. (The Holy Spirit, 25)
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Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what is the written source? If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grant us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith. If they deprecate our doxology on the ground that it lacks written authority, let them give us the written evidence for the confession of our faith and the other matters which we have enumerated. While the unwritten traditions are so many, and their bearing on “the mystery of godliness is so important, can they refuse to allow us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers; – which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches; . . . (The Holy Spirit, 27)
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Is answer to the objection that the doxology in the form “with the Spirit” has no written authority, we maintain that if there is no other instance of that which is unwritten, then this must not be received. But if the greater number of our mysteries are admitted into our constitution without written authority, then, in company with the many others, let us receive this one. For I hold it apostolic to abide also by the unwritten traditions. “I praise you,” it is said, “that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you;” and “Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our Epistle.” One of these traditions is the practice which is now before us, which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the churches, delivering it to their successors, and its use through long custom advances pace by pace with time. (The Holy Spirit, 27)
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Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents. . . . the Apostles and Fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected and contemned by the multitude through familiarity. . . . Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what is the written source? If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grant us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith. If they deprecate our doxology on the ground that it lacks written authority, let them give us the written evidence for the confession of our faith and the other matters which we have enumerated. While the unwritten traditions are so many, and their bearing on “the mystery of godliness” is so important, can they refuse to allow us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers;—which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches;—a word for which the arguments are strong, and which contributes in no small degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery? (The Holy Spirit, 30)
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Apostolic Succession
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[T]hat doctrine, which by the tradition of the Fathers has been preserved by an unbroken sequence of memory to our own day. (The Holy Spirit, 30)
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For, truly, the boon given you by the Lord is fit subject for the highest congratulation, your power of discernment between the spurious and the genuine and pure, and your preaching the faith of the Fathers without any dissimulation. That faith we have received; that faith we know is stamped with the marks of the Apostles; to that faith we assent, as well as to all that was canonically and lawfully promulgated in the Synodical Letter. (Letter #92 to the Italians and Gauls, 3)
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Binding Authority of Ecumenical Councils
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. . . the same Fathers who once at Nicæa promulgated their great decree concerning the faith. Of this, some portions are universally accepted without cavil, but the homoousion, ill received in certain quarters, is still rejected by some. . . . To refuse to follow the Fathers, not holding their declaration of more authority than one’s own opinion, is conduct worthy of blame, as being brimful of self-sufficiency. (Letter #52 to the Canonicae)
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[Y]ou should confess the faith put forth by our Fathers once assembled at Nicæa, that you should not omit any one of its propositions, but bear in mind that the three hundred and eighteen who met together without strife did not speak without the operation of the Holy Ghost, . . . (Letter #114 to Cyriacus, at Tarsus; NPNF2-8)
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Roman and Papal Primacy

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It has seemed to me to be desirable to send a letter to the bishop of Rome, begging him to examine our condition, and since there are difficulties in the way of representatives being sent from the West by a general synodical decree, to advise him to exercise his own personal authority in the matter by choosing suitable persons to sustain the labours of a journey,—suitable, too, by gentleness and firmness of character, to correct the unruly among us here; . . .  ( Letter #69 to St. Athanasius, 1-2)

Nearly all the East (I include under this name all the regions from Illyricum to Egypt) is being agitated, right honourable father, by a terrible storm and tempest. The old heresy, sown by Arius the enemy of the truth, has now boldly and unblushingly reappeared. Like some sour root, it is producing its deadly fruit and is prevailing. . . . I have looked upon the visit of your mercifulness as the only possible solution of our difficulties. Ever in the past I have been consoled by your extraordinary affection; and for a short time my heart was cheered by the gratifying report that we shall be visited by you. . . . For I well remember learning from the answers made by our fathers when asked, and from documents still preserved among us, that the illustrious and blessed bishop Dionysius, conspicuous in your see as well for soundness of faith as for all other virtues, visited by letter my Church of Cæsarea, and by letter exhorted our fathers, and sent men to ransom our brethren from captivity. . . . Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand. (Letter #70 to Pope Damasus)

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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Photo credit: Misko3 (8-22-17) Basil the Great: painting from Slovakia [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license]

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November 18, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White wrote a book in 1990, entitled, Answers to Catholic Claims (Southbridge, Massachusetts: Crowne Publications). He was kind enough to give me a free copy in 1995 at the time of our lengthy postal debate. Bishop White’s words will be in blue.

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On page 51 he wrote:

Until the teaching magisterium of the Catholic church officially and formally dogmatizes a particular teaching, claiming it comes from “tradition,” it is not known whether those “beliefs” that are held by many Roman Catholics are actually a part of the “tradition” or not.

The problem is that this argument is just as effective against his own distinctive Protestant beliefs. If I may be so bold as to paraphrase the good bishop and turn his argument back onto him:

Until the teaching magisterium of the Catholic church officially and formally dogmatized a particular set of books in the biblical canon, claiming it comes from “tradition,” it was not known for sure whether the “beliefs” regarding the canonicity of several individual New Testament books that were held by many Catholics were actually a part of the canon “tradition” or not.

Let’s take a closer look at this. It’s an argument from analogy. Remember, White’s argument is against sacred tradition. Now I have applied the same reasoning to the biblical canon, to see how analogous it really is. In other words: White and Protestants can accept a long, confusing, almost 400-year process of canonization with no problem, so why not also a long process to proclaim with definite dogmatic certainty, Catholic doctrines that they do not accept?

The only difference is that White “likes” the biblical canon (minus seven books), but he does not like the Marian doctrines, purgatory, the papacy, and so forth. Nevertheless, the historical processes were largely the same for both. Sometimes Catholic developments for certain doctrines took quite a while longer, but the essential process was the same. 

I summed up some of the confusing historical details regarding the canon of the New Testament in a 2006 paper:

Even St. Paul’s books were disputed by at least two major early figures, or at least not introduced as “Scripture” per se. For example, we have no positive evidence that St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165) regarded Philippians, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, or 1, 2, and 3 John, as biblical books. That’s eleven out of 27 books. The same is true of 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, with regard to St. Polycarp (c. 69 – c. 155). . . . 

Moreover, 1 Peter was not considered canonical in the period from 30-160, and was first accepted only by St. Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 200) and St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215). The same is true of 1 John, which was also first accepted by St. Irenaeus. It was still being disputed by a minority in the “late” period of 250-325 (as was 1 Peter). The Book of Acts was scarcely known or quoted in the period of 30-160, and only gradually accepted from 160 to 250. It was either not known or not cited by St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius, and Papias, and the Didache (all prior to 150 A. D.).

St. Justin Martyr, St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen all cite or allude to it, but do not specifically refer to it as canonical or inspired Holy Scripture. . . . 

As for books eventually decided to not be part of the biblical canon: The Acts of Paul was accepted by Origen, and appeared in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic translations. The Gospel of Hebrews was accepted by St. Clement of Alexandria. 1 and 2 Clement and Psalms of Solomon were included in the Codex Alexandrinus from the early fifth century. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 3, 16) tells us that 1 Clement had been read in many churches. The Epistle to the Laodiceans, known to be a forgery by St. Jerome, was included in many Bibles from the sixth to fifteenth centuries; even reappearing in 16th-century German and English Protestant Bibles. . . . 

Justin Martyr also repeatedly cites a work called Memoirs of the Apostles (e.g., ten times in his Dialogue With Trypho). St. Athanasius thought The Didache was good enough to include alongside the canonical books, in the same list where he first lists the 27 NT books, and to be profitably read in churches for edification . . . St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) took the same position . . ., as did Rufinus (d. 410).

In a 2017 article on the biblical canon, I observed:

Numerous books were disputed up until the fourth century: notably, Hebrews, James, Revelation, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, and also including 2 Peter: the very book that is cited as corroborating the Pauline corpus. The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article on the “Epistles of St. Peter” chronicles the uncertainty about this book in the early Church:

In the first two centuries there is not in the Apostolic Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers, if we except Theophilus of Antioch (180), a single quotation properly so called from this Epistle  . . . In the Western Church there is not explicit testimony in favour of the canonicity and Apostolicity of this Epistle until the middle of the fourth century. Tertullian and Cyprian do not mention it, . . .  Eusebius of Caesarea (340), while personally accepting II Peter as authentic and canonical, nevertheless classes it among the disputed works (antilegomena), . . . St. John Chrysostom does not speak of it, . . .

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman compared the patristic evidence for purgatory (rejected by Protestants), to that for original sin (accepted by Protestants):

Some notion of suffering, or disadvantage, or punishment after this life, in the case of the faithful departed, or other vague forms of the doctrine of Purgatory, has in its favour almost a consensus of the first four ages of the Church. (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, University of Notre Dame Press, 1989, from the 1878 edition of the original work of 1845, p. 21)

Newman then recounted sixteen Church fathers who hold the view in some form. But in comparing this consensus to the doctrine of original sin, we find a fascinating thing:
No one will say that there is a testimony of the Fathers, equally strong, for the doctrine of Original Sin. (Ibid., p. 21)
In spite of the forcible teaching of St. Paul on the subject, the doctrine of Original Sin appears neither in the Apostles’ nor the Nicene Creed. (Ibid., p. 23)

It’s a serious problem for Protestantism that it inconsistently rejects many doctrines that have a consensus in the early Church, such as purgatory, the papacy, bishops, the Real Presence, various Marian doctrines, regenerative infant baptism, apostolic succession, and intercession of the saints, while accepting others with far less explicit early sanction, such as original sin. 

The divinity of Christ was dogmatically proclaimed only at the “late” date of 325, the fully worked-out doctrine of the Holy Trinity in 381, and the Two Natures of Christ (God and Man) in 451, all in Ecumenical Councils which are accepted by most Protestants.

White derides the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by the Catholic Church in 1854, and states that “until this time [it] had been a belief held mainly by devotees of Mary” (p. 52; my italics). But what he doesn’t understand is that belief in Mary’s sinlessness is firmly rooted in patristic tradition, and was held by fathers considered great heroes by Protestants, such as Athanasius, and Augustine, among many others. Sinlessness is the very essence of the Immaculate Conception. There was also a feast day for the Immaculate Conception in the east from the 7th century on.

All that doctrine developed was the idea that this sinlessness extended back to Mary’s conception and original sin. Nothing much was added to the thinking concerning Mary’s Immaculate Conception, since the time of Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308). According to the Wikipedia article devoted to him:

Citing Anselm of Canterbury’s principle, “potuit, decuit, ergo fecit” (He [i.e., God] could do it, it was appropriate, therefore He did it), Duns Scotus devised the following argument: Mary was in need of redemption like all other human beings, but through the merits of Jesus’ crucifixion, given in advance, she was conceived without the stain of original sin. God could have brought it about (1) that she was never in original sin, (2) she was in sin only for an instant, (3) she was in sin for a period of time, being purged at the last instant.

It was a further development of a development, which happens all the time in Church history. The Two Natures of Christ was a further development of the deity of Christ. The latter was proclaimed dogma in 325, and the former in 451. Thus, this development took 126 years. 

The problem is that Bishop White (like many anti-Catholic Protestant apologists) doesn’t fully comprehend the development of doctrine. So, for example, he wrote to me in May 1995:

You said that usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development. Well, before Newman came up with it, I guess we had good reason, wouldn’t you say? . . . those who hang their case on Newman and the development hypothesis are liable for all sorts of problems . . . And as for Newman’s statement, “to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant,” I would say, “to be deep in Newman is to cease to be an historically consistent Roman Catholic. (part of a lengthy exchange now uploaded as Is Catholicism Christian or Not?)

To say “Newman came up with it” is abominably ignorant, as it was clearly being discussed by St. Augustine and St. Vincent of Lerins in the 4th and 5th centuries. Cardinal Newman merely developed the thinking of development of doctrine, which had been going on for at least 1400 years. He didn’t “invent” anything out of thin air. Moreover, it can be shown in several ways to be a teaching of Holy Scripture as well:

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Development of Catholic Doctrine: A Primer [National Catholic Register, 1-5-18]
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Therefore, Bishop White needs to get up to speed in understanding development of doctrine: which took place with regard to all Christian doctrines. Then he needs to grasp how specifically Catholic development is hardly different in essence from development of doctrines that Catholics accept.

Sadly, we can’t reasonably expect this to happen anytime soon, and so White will keep making wrongheaded arguments such as this one.

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.

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Photo credit:  caricature of James White, who is an avid bicyclist, done by his own commissioned artist, Angel Contreras (August 2015).

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November 18, 2019

+ White’s Own Erroneous Definition of Sola Scriptura in 1990 (at the same time I got it right)

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White wrote a book in 1990, entitled, Answers to Catholic Claims (Southbridge, Massachusetts: Crowne Publications). He was kind enough to give me a free copy in 1995 at the time of our lengthy postal debate. Bishop White’s words will be in blue.

*****

I’ll be going through this book in order to offer refutations of several of its own more outrageous “claims.” One thing I noticed right away was on the “Acknowledgements” page: “All translations of Scripture, unless otherwise noted, are the author’s own.” I find this highly odd and irregular (not to mention, more than a bit arrogant). I’ve been writing apologetics since 1981 and studying the Bible since 1977, and I don’t recall ever seeing such a thing in a Christian book. It’s quite possible that I don’t recall such an instance, if I ever did see it.

But in any event, this is certainly a very rare thing. Why would White do this? There are many fine Bible translations out there, without his having to come up with his own for this book. It’s one of the many mysteries and inexplicable things about White’s apologetics that will almost certainly never be explained by the good bishop.

He did the same in his other book published in 1990, The Fatal Flaw. By 1996, however, he had changed his tune, with his book, The Roman Catholic Controversy (published by Bethany House). It used primarily the New American Standard Bible (the version I mostly utilized to first read the entire Bible in the early 80s), and also the New International and King James versions. 

For his 2001 book, The God Who Justifies (Bethany House), he mostly used the New English Translation, as well as many others (not, alas, including his own). I guess, by then, he came to realize that the scores of translators who worked on these versions were bigger experts than he was on the biblical text and how it should best be rendered in English. Live and learn . . . 

In vainly seeking to establish that the Old Testament Jews believed in sola Scriptura and a Bible Only view (excluding oral tradition), White cites (on pp. 12-13) Psalm 119:89 and Isaiah 40:8 (“For ever, O LORD, thy word is firmly fixed in the heavens” and “the word of our God will stand for ever” in RSV), and stated that “Psalm 119 is sufficient to demonstrate the reverence for the Word of God held at the time by those faithful to the Lord” (p. 13); and, “their respect for the Scriptures was based upon their belief that these words were God’s words, these teachings were God’s teachings” (p. 13).

What White seems oblivious to is the fact that “word of God in the Old Testament usually did not refer to Holy Scripture. I recently addressed this in a critique of a debate of his on sola Scriptura:

As far as the terminology “word of God” in the Old Testament, it actually only appears three times in RSV.  In 1 Samuel 9:27 and 1 Kings 12:22 it is clearly oral in nature (right from God to a person who proclaims it) and not referring to Scripture. In Proverbs 30:5 it’s not clear that it is written Scripture, either.

“Thy word” appears more times, and mostly in Psalm 119, and many times (2 Sam 7:28; 1 Ki 8:26; 18:36; 2 Chr 6:17 it refers to oral revelation from God to persons: not originally written as Scripture. It’s not absolutely clear that “thy word” in Psalms 119 must refer to written Scripture. I actually think that it probably does, while at the same time noting that the phraseology is not confined to descriptions of only Scripture.

It’s much more clear with regard to the phrase “word of the Lord”: which appears 243 times in the Old Testament in the RSV. These instances are overwhelmingly oral: usually God speaking to prophets and other notable people: Abraham (Gen 15:1), Joshua (Josh 8:27), Samuel (1 Sam 3:21), Nathan (2 Sam 7:4), Gad (2 Sam 24:11), Solomon (1 Ki 6:11), Ahi’jah (1 Ki 14:18), Jehu (1 Ki 16:1), Elijah (1 Ki 18:1), Shemai’ah (2 Chr 11:2), Jeremiah (2 Chr 36:21), Isaiah (Is 38:4), Ezekiel (Ezek 1:3), Hosea (Hos 1:1), Joel (Joel 1:1), Jonah (Jon 1:1), Micah (Mic 1:1), Zephaniah (Zeph 1:1), Haggai (Hag 1:1), Zechariah (Zech 1:1), and Malachi (Mal 1:1).

Note: “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (1 Sam 3:1). And the book of Psalms sometimes uses it in an obviously non-Scriptural way: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (33:6). Now, with all this “oral communication” going on, clearly, “word of God” / “word of the Lord” / “Thy word” is not  confined to written Scripture. And just because one Psalm (119) seems to refer to written Scripture, it doesn’t follow that these terms always referred to inspired writing. Therefore, plainly “oral traditions” existed in Old Testament times, contrary to White’s fanciful imagination.

In fact, mainstream Judaism believed that Moses received oral tradition on Mt. Sinai alongside the written.  This was what the Pharisees believed (which Paul more than once called himself). The Sadducees, who were sort of the theological liberals of the time (denying, e.g., the resurrection of the body), denied it. They were the Jewish sola Scripturists. I have an article that discusses many possible Old Testament references to oral tradition or the oral Torah. And I have written about how the Old Testament Jews denied sola Scriptura. (two instances of bolded italics added presently)

It is worth noting that at this stage of the game (as a curiosity piece or a bit of “relevant trivia”), that the Right Reverend Bishop White was utilizing a definition of sola Scriptura that contradicts his own later view, and the standard definition used by Protestant apologists today. In other words, he himself held some semblance of the view of what is called (notably by Keith Mathison) solo Scriptura: a radical Bible Only position:

The Christian is to look to Scripture alone as his authority, . . . (p. iii; describing what he mistakenly thought was John Calvin’s view)

The concept of the Bible being the sole authority for the Church, the Reformers taught, was not only clearly taught in the early Church itself, but it flowed logically and necessarily from the nature of the Bible as God’s inspired Word. (p. 12)

He offers similar non-precise, flawed references to the essence and nature of sola Scriptura in his other book from 1990, The Fatal Flaw: “the Word of God as my authority” and as “the sole and sufficient source of all that is the Christian faith” (p. xi).

White has chided and insulted me for now 24 years as an ignoramus and an idiot regarding anything theological. How ironic, then (if he is correct), that I was using the proper definition of sola Scriptura when I wrote the first chapter of my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism in 1990 or 1991. Here’s how I defined it (p. 4):

The concept of sola Scriptura, it must be noted, is not in principle opposed to the importance and validity of Church history, Tradition, ecumenical councils, or the authority of Church Fathers and prominent theologians. The difference lies in the relative position of authority held by Scripture and Church institutions and proclamations. In theory, the Bible judges all of these, since, for the Evangelical Protestant, it alone is infallible and the Church, popes and councils are not.

See how my definition is much more precise and detailed (and accurate) than White’s 1990 definitions? It’s because I drew from Martin  Luther (On the Councils and the Churches, 1539) and R. C. Sproul (one of White’s own heroes and mentors). I also remember reading (as a Protestant) Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm, who dealt with the extreme Bible Only view as false.

I did my homework and got it right. White (despite a Master’s degree from Fuller Seminary) had not done so. In 1991, I had a better and more accurate understanding of what sola Scriptura means than he did. In White’s mind, this could never ever happen. But it did! And I confess that this is very amusing and entertaining to me, given White’s triumphant “know-it-all” rhetoric and constant condescension towards Catholics.

Bishop White also claimed in 1995 that I had never truly been a Protestant. Some years later he stated that I converted without proper knowledge of what I was rejecting (ignorance is bliss . . .). After I produced a long list of the books I had read as a Protestant, he then switched on a dime and asserted that I was guilty of “knowing deception” (which means that he then thought I was even more wicked).

In 1996, in his book, The Roman Catholic Controversy, he had finally gotten it right: i.e., that the Bible is the only “infallible rule of faith for the Church” (p. 59: his italics; my bolding), and he offered far more articulate and detailed explanations (which are quite good for both sides to grasp the subtleties of the false doctrine of sola Scriptura). Then he blasts others (especially Catholic apologists!) for getting it wrong, just as he had, six years earlier:

Few Protestants today can define sola scriptura briefly, succinctly, or even accurately. And it is my experience that this same problem plagues Roman Catholics as well. It is particularly pernicious in its impact among the defenders of the Roman Catholic system. . . . most of the time they spend their time attacking (or defending) straw men. (p. 56)

The funny thing here is that White, in effect is also condemning (without saying so, of course) his own flawed definition in 1990. But back to Answers to Catholic Claims:

Throughout the body of the New Testament, it is plainly perceived that the simple citation of the Old Testament Scriptures was enough to end the argument. (pp. 13-14)

I agree for the most part, but I would add that the New Testament and Jesus don’t always cite from the 39 Old Testament books that Catholics and Protestants agree are canonical. My friend David Palm wrote a classic article in 1995, published in This Rock (Catholic Answers), called, “Oral Tradition in the New Testament.” He gave several examples of citations of non-Old Testament materials:

Scripture says that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth after their sojourn in Egypt, “that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” (Matt. 2:23). All commentators admit that the phrase “He shall be called a Nazarene” is not found anywhere in the Old Testament. . . .

Just before launching into a blistering denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus delivers this command to the crowds: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matt. 23:2-3). . . . One searches in vain for any reference to this seat of Moses in the Old Testament. . . .

“All drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). The Old Testament says nothing about any movement of the rock that Moses struck to provide water for the Israelites (Ex. 17:1-7, Num. 20:2-13), but in rabbinic Tradition the rock actually followed them on their journey through the wilderness. . . .

“When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ ” (Jude 9). As H. Willmering says in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, “This incident is not mentioned in Scripture, but may have been a Jewish oral tradition, which is well known to the readers of this epistle.” . . .

Paul dips into rabbinic tradition to supply the names, Jannes and Jambres, of the magicians who opposed Moses in Pharoah’s court (2 Tim. 3:8). In the Old Testament, these individuals are anonymous (Ex. 7:8ff.). James tells us that because of Elijah’s prayer there was no rain in Israel for three years (Jas. 5:17), but the Old Testament account of Elijah’s altercation with King Ahab says nothing of him praying (1 Kgs. 17). (my bolding added)

See also the related papers of mine:

Dialogue on “Tradition” in the New Testament (vs. Dr. Eric Svendsen) [1996]

“Tradition” Isn’t a Dirty Word [late 90s; rev. 8-16-16]

“Moses’ Seat” & Jesus vs. Sola Scriptura (vs. James White) [12-27-03]

Binding, Authoritative Tradition According to St. Paul [2004]

James White’s Critique of My Book, The Catholic Verses: Part I: The Binding Authority of Tradition [12-30-04]

Refutation of James White: Moses’ Seat, the Bible, and Tradition (Introduction: #1) (+Part II Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI) [5-12-05]

Biblical Evidence for True Apostolic Tradition (vs. “Traditions of Men”) [6-23-11]

Bible on Submission to Church & Apostolic Tradition + Biblical Condemnation of the Rebellious & Schismatic Aspects of the Protestant Revolt [8-27-11]

The Bereans and Searching the Scriptures: Sola Scriptura? [National Catholic Register, 5-5-19]
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Moreover, I have documented, in a three-part series in 2005 (one / two / three), many examples of plausible New Testament citations (or at least strong reflection of the thought) from the deuterocanon (or so-called “Apocrypha”): the seven books that Protestants arbitrarily threw out of the Bible.

On page 14, White cites 1 Peter 1:23 [wrongly listed as 2:23] (“the living and abiding word of God” — RSV) and 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (“you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God”).

Again, I don’t deny that many references to “word of God” in the New Testament are referring to the written Old Testament or even sometimes, to what would become recognized as the New Testament. But the majority of these instances (as in the Old Testament) clearly refer to oral proclamation and preaching, or a more or less private (teacher-to-pupil) passing-on of sacred apostolic tradition. This is what White ignores: but it is as plain and “perspicuous” as the sun at noon on a clear day in summer.

White only provides part of the whole picture. He is cynically selective. This is a frequent flaw in Protestant apologetics, and I will expose it every time I run across it. In fact, we observe that both of the passages that White sets forth (see two paragraphs above) in favor of his view, explain themselves in context as referring to something other than the written Bible. 1 Peter 1:25 clarifies: “That word is the good news which was preached to you”. This was the proclamation of the gospel which was uniquely a phenomenon during and immediately after the life and dearth of Jesus.

It was not yet Scripture at the time that Peter wrote this, and not all of it would have made it into Scripture. Some of it clearly was: for example, Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, which is recorded in Acts 2: likely in part. Not all of it would later become part of the Bible. But it was no less “the word of God.” It still was that, because the phrase goes beyond the written word only, and the Bible. It also applies to the words of (usually) prophets in the Old Testament, and that of apostles in the New.

Likewise, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 itself refers to “the word of God which you heard from us.” He brings up Hebrews 4:12 also on p. 14, which refers to the “word of God.” But whether this is undeniably Scripture is at least debatable, since in the same book, an oral meaning is mentioned: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God” (13:7).

Biblical confirmation that “word of God” or “word of the Lord” in the New Testament (as in the Old Testament) refers far more often to oral preaching and proclamation than to written Scripture, is abundant:

Luke 3:2 in the high-priesthood of Annas and Ca’iaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechari’ah in the wilderness;

Luke 5:1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennes’aret. [i.e., all of Jesus’ words would be the “word of God” but not all — by a long shot — would be included in Scripture]

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Acts 6:2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.

Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, . . .

Acts 8:25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. [the Bibles kept getting bigger and bigger?]

Acts 13:5 . . . they proclaimed the word of God . . .

Acts 13:7 / 13:44 . . . hear the word of God.

Acts 13:46 . . . It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you . . .

Acts 15:35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, . . .

Acts 15:36 . . . in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, . . .

Acts 16:32 . . . they spoke the word of the Lord . . . 

Acts 17:13 . . . the word of God was proclaimed by Paul . . .

Acts 19:10 . . . all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord . . .

Philippians 1:14 . . . speak the word of God . . . 

1 Thessalonians 1:8 . . . the word of the Lord sounded forth from you . . .

Bishop White trots out the usual [alleged] “classic proof” of sola Scriptura: 2 Timothy 3:14-17, on pp. 14-15.  I have dealt with it (along with other treatments) in these two papers:

Sola Scriptura, 2 Tim 3:16-17, & “Man of God” [1-27-12]

Answer to Sola Scriptura “Prooftexts” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & Romans 16:15-16 (vs. David T. King) [6-26-12]

White writes about this passage:

Paul counsels Timothy to abide or remain in what he has been taught, knowing from whom he learned it. Roman Catholics might think this refers to “sacred tradition” that would exist side-by-side with, but contain other “revelation” than, the Holy Scriptures. But this is not born [sic] out by the text, for the message he has received in the Gospel is to be found in the Sacred Scriptures themselves. The content of the teaching Timothy has received is identical with, not separate from, that found in the Word of God. (p. 15)

The last two sentences cannot be established from Scripture itself. They are simply manifestations of an extra-biblical Protestant tradition (of men, as it were). I showed in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (completed in 1996), “that the concepts of Tradition, Gospel, and Word of God (as well as other terms) are essentially synonymous. All are predominantly oral, and all are referred to as being delivered and received” (p. 12). Here are the biblical evidences for this (for Protestant ears, quite jolting!) that I submitted in support of my assertion:

1 Corinthians 11:2  Maintain the traditions . .  . . even as I have delivered them to you.

2 Thessalonians 2:15  Hold to the traditions . . . .  taught . . . by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6  . . . the tradition that you received from us.

1 Corinthians 15:1  . . . the gospel, which you received . . .

Galatians 1:9  . . . the gospel . . . which you received.

1 Thessalonians 2:9  We preached to you the gospel of God.

Acts 8:14  Samaria had received the word of God . . .

1 Thessalonians 2:13  You received the word of God, which you heard from us, . . .

2 Peter 2:21  . . . the holy commandment delivered to them.

Jude 3  . . . the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

I concluded (and still agree with this today: 23 years later):

In St. Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians alone, we see that three of the above terms are used interchangeably. Clearly then, tradition is not a dirty word in the Bible, particularly for St. Paul. If, on the other hand, one wants to maintain that it is, then gospel and Word of God are also bad words! Thus, the commonly asserted dichotomy between the gospel and Tradition, or between the Bible and Tradition, is unbiblical itself and must be discarded by the truly biblically-minded person as (quite ironically) a corrupt tradition of men. (p. 13)

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.

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Photo credit: from the Goodreads page for this book (4.37 average out of 5, for 41 ratings!).

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November 16, 2019

And by James White’s “Reasoning,” Jesus Couldn’t be God and was a Blaspheming False Teacher

In a post dated 26 March 2013, entitled, “Talking to Dead People: Tim Staples Refuted,” Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist, Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White noted that Catholic apologist Tim Staples cited a passage from an older book of his: Answers to Catholic Claims (Crowne Publications, 1990). It was cut off in this version (some glitch on White’s blog), but I have the fuller citation since I have the book. White gave it to me in 1995 when we engaged in our lengthy postal debate. Here it is:

The only communication with spirit beings that originates with man that is allowed in Scripture is that of prayer to God and He alone. Prayer, it is asserted, is an act of worship, and we are to worship God only. (p. 126, my italics and bolding)

If it weren’t for White’s qualification in the italicized and bolded portion above, I could answer this with many many examples. But even with the qualification, Scripture (in the words of Jesus Himself) contradicts him in (at the very least) four ways.

The best disproof is in the story (not parable) of the rich man and Lazarus:

Luke 16:24 (RSV) And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz’arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’

This is the Abraham of the Bible: long dead by that time, being asked to do something by a “rich man” (16:19, 22), traditionally known as Dives (which is simply a Latin word for “rich man”). His answer was, in effect, “no” (16:25-26). Thus failing in that request, he prays to him again for something else:

Luke 16:27-28 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father [KJV: “I pray thee therefore, father”], to send him to my father’s house, [28] for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

His request is again declined (16:29). So, like any good self-respecting Jew (Moses even “negotiated” with God), he argues with Abraham (16:30). But Abraham states again that his request is futile (16:31).

The passage also shows (in a fascinating way) that not only can dead saints hear our requests, they also have some measure of power to carry them out on their own. Abraham is asked to “send” a dead man to appear to Dives’ brothers, in order for them to avoid damnation (yet another [potential] instance of dead men — like the prophet Samuel to Saul — communicating to those on the earth). Abraham doesn’t deny that he is able to potentially send Lazarus to do such a thing; he only denies that it would work, or that it is necessary (by the logic of “if they don’t respond to greater factor x, nor will they to lesser factor y”).

Therefore, it is assumed in the story that Abraham could have possibly done so on his own. And this is all told, remember, by our Lord Jesus. It is disputed whether it is a parable or not (several textual factors suggest that it is not; e.g., parables do not use proper names), but even if it is, it nevertheless cannot contain things that are untrue, lest Jesus be guilty of leading people into heresy by means of false illustrations or analogies within His common teaching tool: the parable.

This expressly contradicts White’s statement in the following ways:

1) This is a communication with a spirit being (Abraham after death) originated by a man (Dives). White said that the only such communication sanctioned in the Bible is “to God and He alone.”

2) It’s a prayer and petition to Abraham, not God. According to Bishop White, the Bible teaches that prayer can only be directed towards God.

3) White claims that all prayer is “an act of worship.” Therefore, according to him, Dives is worshiping Abraham: contrary to biblical teaching.

4) This means (in the White erroneous outlook) that Jesus doesn’t understand that “The only communication with spirit beings that originates with man that is allowed in Scripture is that of prayer to God and He alone”: since He told this story of an actual event, and sanctioned it in so doing.

5) Jesus (i.e., in White’s mentality and utilizing his false premises) also doesn’t understand that prayer and petitionary requests can only be directed towards God.

6) Jesus also doesn’t get it that prayer is always worship and that only God should be worshiped, since — following White’s flawed logic — He is teaching here that Abraham was worshiped.

7) It follows that Jesus is not omniscient and is a false teacher (not understanding the nature and limitations of prayer).

8) It also follows that He is a blasphemer and is guilty of idolatry.

9) #4-8 all amounts to a disproof that Jesus is God.

Are there any other biblical indications of “communication with spirit beings that originates with man” directed towards a dead person? Yes:

Acts 9:36-40 Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. [37] In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. [38] Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” [39] So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. [40] But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

This shows two things (both absolutely anathema to White and most Protestants):

1) St. Peter prayed for the dead (9:40).

2) St. Peter communicated to a dead person (9:40: “Tabitha, rise.”): expressly against what White claims Scripture never allows.

And of course, in this, Peter was only following the lead and example and command of His Lord Jesus, Who said that His disciples would raise the dead, just as He did. And when Jesus raised Lazarus, He, too, talked to a dead man: “Lazarus, come out” (Jn 11:43). And He did so again in the case of the son of the widow of Nain, whom He raised from the dead (Lk 7:11-15): “And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.'”

Therefore, Jesus is again exposed as a false teacher — giving now three bad examples of false theology and practice — , therefore, not God, etc., etc.

Since that can’t be the case, and since the Bible clearly contradicts White’s position here, we must conclude that he is gravely mistaken, and that the Bible and Jesus strongly affirm Catholic and Orthodox teaching in this regard. It’s always best to go with Jesus and the Bible. If someone like James White contradicts them, don’t listen to him. And if White is this bad of a Bible teacher in this instance, it sure casts doubt on his ability in other areas of his anti-Catholic and anti-biblical exegegis, too, doesn’t it? I can personally attest to this, due to my refutations of dozens of such poor and biblically implausible and self-contradictory arguments from Bishop White, going back to 1995.

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Related Reading:

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Praying to Angels & Angelic Intercession [2015]

Asking Saints to Intercede: Teaching of Jesus [2015]

Why Pray to Saints Rather than God? [9-4-15]

Dialogue on Praying to Abraham (Luke 16) [5-22-16]

Prayer to Saints: “New” [?] Biblical Argument [5-23-16]

Why Would Anyone Pray to Saints Rather Than to God? [National Catholic Register, 1-8-17]

Invocation & Intercession of Saints & Angels: Bible Proof [10-22-16 and 1-9-17]

“Armstrong vs. Geisler” #5: Prayer to Creatures [2-20-17]

Dialogue: Rich Man’s Prayer to Abraham (Luke 16) and the Invocation of Saints (vs. Lutheran Pastor Ken Howes) [5-3-17]

Dialogue on Samuel Appearing to Saul (Witch of Endor) [5-6-17]

Dialogue on Prayer to the Saints and Hades / Sheol [12-19-17]

Prayers to Saints & for the Dead: Six Biblical Proofs [6-8-18]

4 Biblical Proofs for Prayers to Saints and for the Dead [National Catholic Register, 6-16-18]

C. S. Lewis & the Invocation & Communion of Saints [10-10-19]

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.

***

Photo credit: wilhei (4-13-15) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

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November 15, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White wrote a post entitled,The Dizzying Effect of the Tiber on the Mind” (7-24-12). It was the usual potpourri (“popery”?) of 101 things where “Rome” is (so he is absolutely “sure”) mistaken and anti-biblical and blasphemous, etc., but at the end after his dizzying survey, he concentrated on one issue: indulgences.

And that allows me to respond, since he actual produced some semblance (though, alas, not much) of a rational argument against it. I don’t play the silly games of either “biblical hopscotch” or “Catholic doctrine hopscotch.” One thing at a time . . . He cited at length, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, a post Vatican II document defining, and defending, the doctrine of indulgences.” [see a link to the document from 1 January 1967] He then concluded, in typical Bishop White condescending, “look all dumb all these Roman Catholics are!”  fashion:

I challenged [then a recent convert] Jason Stellman to read it. He hadn’t when we met. I’ll be honest, I sorta doubt he took up my challenge. Not that reading this kind of stuff will dissuade someone who has lost their foundation and are grasping for anything, but for most folks, these words are sufficient warning of the emptiness of Rome’s non-gospel. They are so plainly non-apostolic, so plainly contrary to everything the Apostles cherished and proclaimed, that to believe them is to show, clearly, the true direction of one’s heart. But, in any case, when you hear a wide-eyed Tiber Swimmer talking about how the Bible doesn’t teach sola fide, remember that what they are really telling you is that you can’t know what the Bible really does teach, and that what you should believe is what you just read from Indulgentiarum Doctrina. And once you realize that, well, you realize what Romanism really is.

What I’d like to do, then, is take some of the portions of this Church document (in green below), that White cited in mockery (thinking they are self-evidently unbiblical and anti-biblical) and show how they are eminently biblical. The document itself, of course, contains many references to Holy Scripture, as a quick perusal of the 47 footnotes quickly proves. White has no interest in presenting those to his readers, since it doesn’t fit his cynical agenda: i.e., to make out that Catholic doctrines are utterly devoid of even claimed biblical support. Even what he cited, contained biblical references in the footnotes.

White doesn’t even properly or accurately cite the words that he cites. He correctly cites Chapter 1, section 1 (complete) and then two sentences of section 2. But then his citation “jumps” (with no indication or mention to the reader, who thinks it is still section 2) to chapter 2, section 5, third paragraph (complete). This is inexcusable in a man with a legitimate Master’s degree, and who claims (illegitimately) to have a doctorate.

Even a tenth grader could do better than to cite material in this shoddy, haphazard fashion. White’s buddy, James Swan, who also frequently posts on his blog, has excoriated as incompetent nincompoops, — times without number –, anyone who (deliberately or not) messes up a Luther citation in a similar manner. But here is his hero doing exactly the same thing. How ironic, huh?

White deliberately omits two footnotes that occur in section 2 (connected to the words he cites). Here are the two footnotes (note all the Bible passages):

3. Cf. Gen. 3:16-19; also cf. Luke 19:41-44; Rom. 2:9 and 1 Cor. 11:30. Cf. Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 58 1:13—”Iniquitas omnis…Deo vindicante” (CCL 39, p. 739; PL 36, 701). Cf. Thomas, Summa Theol. 1-2, q. 86, a. 1: “Cum autem…depressio poena est.”

4. Cf. Matt. 25:41-42; see also Mark 9:42-43; John 5:28-29; Rom. 2:9; Gal. 6:6-8. Cf. Council of Lyons II, Session 4, profession of faith of Michael Palaeologus (DS 856-858). Cf. Council of Florence, decree for the Greeks (DS 1304-1306). Cf. Augustine, Enchiridion, 66, 17: “Multa etiam…mundo damnemur” (ed. Scheel, Tubingen 1930, p. 42; PL 40, 263).

He also omits footnote 21 from section 5: “Cf. Heb. 7:23-25; 9:11-28.”

So let’s take a look at the amount of Holy Scripture a Catholic can bring to bear on this issue:

1. The doctrine and practice of indulgences which have been in force for many centuries in the Catholic Church have a solid foundation in divine revelation which comes from the Apostles and “develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit,” while “as the centuries succeed one another the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”

Matthew 16:19 (RSV) I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18 Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

John 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

These passages form the biblical basis for priestly absolution (forgiveness), and broadly speaking, for both papal and Church jurisdiction (by extension, for the power to impose penance — binding, retaining — and to grant indulgences — loosing, forgiving). Matthew 16:19 was spoken by our Lord to St. Peter alone, and is the primary foundation for the concept of the papacy (along with the preceding verse). Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23 were directed toward the twelve disciples.

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 

2 Corinthians 2:6-8, 10-11 For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him . . . Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive . . . in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

St. Paul in his commands and exhortations to the Corinthians is in entire agreement with the Catholic tenets of penance and indulgences. He binds in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 and looses in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7, 10, acting as a type of papal figure in 2 Corinthians 2:10, much like St. Peter among the apostles. He forgives, and bids the Corinthian elders to forgive also, even though the offense was not committed against them personally.

Clearly, both parties are acting as God’s representatives in the matter of the forgiveness of sins and the remission of sin’s temporal penalties (an indulgence). In this as in all other doctrinal matters, the Catholic Church is grounded in the Bible, takes seriously all that it teaches, and grapples with all the implications and deepest wellsprings of truth to be found within the pages of God’s Holy Scriptures.

James Cardinal Gibbons elaborates:

Here we have all the elements that constitute an Indulgence. First — A penance, or temporal punishment proportioned to the gravity of the offence, is imposed on the transgressor. Second — The penitent is truly contrite for his crime. Third — This determines the Apostle to remit the penalty. Fourth — The Apostle considers the relaxation of the penance ratified by Jesus Christ, in whose name it is imparted. (The Faith of Our Fathers, New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, revised edition, 1917, 308-309)

2. It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or “purifying” punishments.

We must be without sin to enter into God’s presence (Eph 5:5; Heb 12:14; Rev 21:27; 22:3, 14-15). Therefore, God must purge or wash away our sin to make us fit to be in heaven with Him. All agree so far. The only disagreement is whether this “divine cleansing” takes place in an instant or is more of a process. It’s merely a quantitative difference; not an essential one. Purgatory is indicated most directly in 1 Corinthians 3:13, 15:

Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. . . . [15] If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

[see my lengthy rebuttal of James White with regard to this passage]

The Bible also often refers to this same purging process taking place before we die: the very common biblical theme of God’s chastising or purifying His people. By analogy, this shows us the same notions that lie behind the apostolic and Catholic doctrine of purgatory (methods of how God works, so to speak). When these passages are included, one can find (as I did) as many as fifty biblical passages that are relevant to purgatory.

Scripture refers to a purging fire (in addition to 1 Corinthians 3 above): whatever “shall pass through the fire” will be made “clean” (Num 31:23); “Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you; and on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire” (Dt 4:36); “we went through fire” (Ps 66:12); “For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation” (Sir 2:5); “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29); “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you” (1 Pet 4:12); We also see passages about the “baptism of fire” (Mt 3:11; Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16; 12:50).

The Bible makes frequent use also of the metaphor of various metals being refined (in a fire): “when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10); “thou, O God, hast tested us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried” (Ps 66:10); “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tries hearts” (Prov 17:3); “I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy” (Is 1:25); “I have refined you, . . . I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Is 48:10); “I will refine them and test them” (Jer 9:7); “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested” (Zech 13:9);  “he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver” (Mal 3:2-3); “Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; [6] like gold in the furnace he tried them, . . . “ (Wis 3:5-6); “. . . your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire” (1 Pet 1:6-7).

God cleansing or washing us is another common biblical theme: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (Ps 51:2, 7); “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts” (Prov 20:30; cf. 30:12); “the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning” (Is 4:4);  “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me” (Jer 33:8); “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (Ezek 36:25); “cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech 13:1);  “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10:22); “he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Pet 1:9); “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Divine “chastisement” is taught clearly in many passages:  “as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you” (Dt 8:5); “do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,” (Prov 3:11); “I will chasten you in just measure” (Jer 30:11); “For thou didst test them as a father does in warning” (Wis 11:10); “God who tests our hearts” (1 Thess 2:4); “For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:6-7, 10).

We are subject to God’s indignation or wrath, insofar as we sin: “God will bring every deed into judgment” (Ecc 12:14); “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, . . . He will bring me forth to the light” (Mic 7:9).

Purgatory is “written all over” the passages above.

This treasury also includes the truly immense, unfathomable and ever pristine value before God of the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, . . . 

Word Studies in the New Testament (Presbyterian Marvin R. Vincent, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980; orig. 1887; vol. 4, 536), another standard Protestant language source, comments on Hebrews 12:1  (“we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”) as follows:

‘Witnesses’ does not mean spectators, but those who have borne witness to the truth, as those enumerated in chapter 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer’s picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having borne witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rest, watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid.

Jeremiah 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. . . .” [in other words, there is such a thing as a dead prophet sanding before God and interceding]

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;

Revelation 6:9-10 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”

Revelation 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne;

Jesus also taught in a parable that Abraham could be prayed to (petitioned), in his story of Lazarus and the rich man. If he had the power to answer (or deny, as here) a prayer request, then it follows that he can pray for us as well (being a conscious being exercising loving concern). I’ve addressed this several times:

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Asking Saints to Intercede: Teaching of Jesus [2015]

Dialogue on Praying to Abraham (Luke 16) [5-22-16]

Dialogue: Rich Man’s Prayer to Abraham (Luke 16) and the Invocation of Saints (vs. Lutheran Pastor Ken Howes) [5-3-17]

Thus while attaining their own salvation, . . . 

Acts 2:40 . . . “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Philippians 2:12 . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Philippians 3:12-14 . . . I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

2 Timothy 3:15 . . . the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [i.e., we do the work of reading Scripture and this in turn can save us, so we helped save ourselves by reading it]

James 5:20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation;

[we all participate in helping to save ourselves, in the sense of merit, that originates always from God’s grace, and as a result of baptism: more mediation of God’s grace and salvation: this time through the natural conduit of a sacrament (cf. Mk 16:16)]

. . . they have also cooperated in the salvation of their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.

Romans 11:13-14 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

1 Corinthians 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

2 Corinthians 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; . . . 

1 Timothy 4:16 . . . you will save . . . your hearers.

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.

1 Peter 3:1 . . . some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives

[St. Paul and others “save” other people, thus becoming “mini-mediators” in the sense that they are vessels for the grace and salvation that comes from God, won by Jesus’ wholly sufficient and perfect sacrificial death on the cross]

Next question?

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
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Photo credit: Saint Paul, by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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November 14, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White pontificated in a post of his entitled, “T4G, Sole Authority, and Church Tradition” (4-12-12):

 I must disagree with Mr. [C. Michael] Patton at a very important point in his discussion. He wrote in his article,

Without tradition being an authority we would not even have the Scriptures themselves, as it is only through tradition that we know what Scripture is actually Scripture. The Scriptures have no place where there is an inspired list telling us which books belong in the Scripture (we call this the “canon” of Scripture). It is through the traditions of the church that we know which books are the final authority. Therefore, tradition must be an authority to some degree.

I would like to suggest to Mr. Patton that at this point he has, in fact, fundamentally compromised on the doctrine of sola scriptura. Or at the very least, he has put himself in a position where he could never defend his doctrine of sola scriptura against a sharp critic of his position. I invested a fair amount of space in my book, Scripture Alone, discussing the issue of the canon of Scripture. I suggested that the common approach of defining the canon on a merely historical basis misses the fundamentally theological nature of the canon itself. I pointed out that the canon is a necessary artifact of the act of inspiration. The canon exists of necessity. Since God inspired some books but not all books, that means a canon exists de facto. God knows the canon infallibly because God knows his own actions infallibly. Since God has a purpose for the church to know the extent of His act of inspiration in providing to us the Scriptures, then God will expand the necessary effort to make sure that the church receives the blessing and gift he has given to us in Scripture, and that includes having a sufficient knowledge of the canon to accomplish His ends. But Mr. Patton identifies the canon as a “tradition of the church.”

White stumbles badly on this, and falls into vicious self-contradiction, in at least four different ways, as I shall now proceed to demonstrate. I have maintained that this is inevitable for any Protestant trying to defend the biblical canon minus the Catholic Church, because it’s a fundamentally flawed position, and no one can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as the old saying goes.

1) Semantics / Tradition the “Dirty” Word White plays games with the word “tradition.” C. Michael Patton (an ecumenical Protestant with whom I had several friendly dialogues) is honest enough to admit the obvious: sacred, apostolic tradition was indeed necessary in order for the proclamation of the biblical canon to be made in the first place. White doesn’t like the word, because it sounds so “Catholic” (even though it is eminently biblical as well), so he comes up with this notion of “the church . . . having a sufficient knowledge of the canon.” Nice try, bishop, but ultimately silly and sophistical: a distinction without a difference.

2) Which “church”? The question also immediately becomes, “what is this ‘church’ that White refers to?” Of course, it is the good ol’ Catholic Church:

Pope Innocent I concurred with and sanctioned the canonical ruling of the councils (in 393 and 397) of Hippo and Carthage (Letter to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse) in 405. He also reiterated this in 414. Carthage and Hippo were preceded by a Roman Council (382) of identical opinion, and were further ratified by Pope Gelasius I in 495, as well as the 6th Council of Carthage in 419.

The Protestant reference work, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd edition, edited by F. L. Cross & E. A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1983, 232) states:

    A council probably held at Rome in 382 under St. Damasus gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament (also known as the ‘Gelasian Decree’ because it was reproduced by Gelasius in 495), which is identical with the list given at Trent.

The list from 382 — which The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church deemed as “identical with the list given at Trent” includes: Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. Baruch was included as part of Jeremiah, as in St. Athanasius’ list of 15 years previously. This is indeed identical with the Tridentine list, and comprises the seven “extra” deuterocanonical books in Catholic Bibles which Protestants reject from the canon as “apocryphal.” Nevertheless, there they are in the Council of 382.

The Council of Carthage accepted the same list, as detailed by Brooke Foss Westcott (A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan Baker Book House, 1980, reprinted from 6th edition of 1889, 440).

Thus, this same ‘church’ (which White manages to somehow rationalize to himself — in classic Baptist fashion — is not the historic Catholic Church), clearly is the Catholic Church, complete with popes (Innocent I, Gelasius I, and Damasus) and a crucial council in Rome in 382, which somehow inexplicably produced — verified by two Protestant scholarly reference works — the same scriptural canon that the Council of Trent merely reiterated nearly 1200 years later. All this, but of course we “know” that there was no Catholic Church or no “tradition” involved: simply because we either “can’t have” that or can’t bear the horrific thought even for a second.

3) Dreaded “Apocrypha” Note that the deuterocanonical books were included in this list of books that also managed to correctly determine the 39 canonical books that Catholics and Protestants agree with. This creates a huge problem in and of itself. If indeed God the Holy Spirit was guiding the [Catholic] Church to the true tradition of the true canon and recognition of what was already inspired and determined by God (which books were in it), to (how did he put it again?) “sufficient knowledge of the canon,” then how in the world can this proclaimed canon have books in it that White and Protestants do not think are canonical? And of course, these books were arbitrarily removed after the “Reformation” (for one reason, because they clearly taught prayer for the dead and purgatory) with supposed Protestant “authority”: which truly is none at all in and of itself, because it’s not apostolic, with valid ordination.

4) Where in the Bible? This is where it really gets fun and interesting. Where is this unique, One-Time [and one time only!!!] Infallible Guidance of the [Catholic] Church, so that the “church’ is able to come up with the biblical canon [minus, alas, the “asterisk” of seven mistaken ones] in the Bible? After all, that is (as White explained earlier in his paper), “the sole infallible rule of faith for the [Catholic] church.” Therefore, for this view he is expressing now to be infallible and unquestionable, it necessarily (as a purely logical matter) has to be found in that same Scripture. Otherwise, it collapses into a dreaded “unbiblical” / “extrabiblical” tradition [of men]: which White and Protestants detest. So where is it? To refresh the reader’s memory, here again is White’s claim:

God knows the canon infallibly because God knows his own actions infallibly. Since God has a purpose for the church to know the extent of His act of inspiration in providing to us the Scriptures, then God will expand the necessary effort to make sure that the church receives the blessing and gift he has given to us in Scripture, and that includes having a sufficient knowledge of the canon to accomplish His ends.

That idea or belief has to be found in Scripture, in order for White’s position to be internally consistent and coherent. But (I’ll save you the trouble of looking), it ain’t there, folks. Not only is a bald list of the canonical books not present in the Bible (tables of contents were added later), but there is also found nowhere this idea that God would guide His Church only so far for it to produce the list of what already was intrinsically the inspired books of Holy Scripture. Then (so the mythology proceeds) everything would reduce to the default position of sola Scriptura as a rule of faith, and the ‘church’ would again descend to fallibility: in which state it has resided ever since (i.e., in the ultimately ahistorical fantasy land between every Protestant’s ears).

That leaves White with an arbitrary [Protestant] tradition of men, which is entirely, utterly unbiblical and extrabiblical, just as sola Scriptura itself is, which means in turn that it is a viciously self-refuting (not to mention, also highly embarrassing) anomaly in his stated position.

There is no way out of this dilemma for the Protestant who accepts sola Scriptura as his or her rule of faith. None, zero, zip, nada, zilch . . . The honest Protestant will have to acknowledge and face this at some point. C. Michael Patton (and even one of White’s heroes, the late R. C. Sproul) admirably did so. James White did not and could not (because I think he instinctively knows that this would be the slow death of his overall position), and so he descended to silly sophistical game-playing (hoping his readers wouldn’t notice). We see the result, and it’s not pretty. We know this because of how he describes Mr. Patton’s stated position:

I would like to suggest to Mr. Patton that at this point he has, in fact, fundamentally compromised on the doctrine of sola scriptura. Or at the very least, he has put himself in a position where he could never defend his doctrine of sola scriptura against a sharp critic of his position. . . . It is another example of how many of those who are in the forefront of evangelical proclamation today have not seriously engaged Roman Catholic apologetics especially on the issue of authority. 

White is quite sharp enough to know that if he called a spade a spade here, that he would be in the same exact epistemological / ecclesiological boat that Patton is in, and so — knowing that — he chose the usual route of sophistry and obscurantism and obfuscation, over simple intellectual and historical honesty, including (with high irony) even an honest consideration of what Holy Scripture teaches about authority (which it gives to Church and Tradition as well as to itself, in a harmonious “three-legged stool” scenario).

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.

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Photo credit: Stewart Black (11-15-16) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]

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November 13, 2019

+ 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.

***

Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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(originally 3-14-17 on Facebook)

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November 13, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White put up a post entitled, Mortal and Venial Sins? (3-4-10). He implied that St. Basil the Great denied the Catholic notion of mortal and venial sins:

Pastor David King, co-author of the three-volume set titled Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith, has been spending a great deal of time in the years since the publication of that work continuing his work of cataloging patristic citations that are relevant to Rome’s claims and dogmas. He just posted the following in our chat channel:

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379): How are we to deal with those who avoid greater sins but commit small sins regarding them as venial sins? First of all we must know that in the New Testament it is impossible to observe this distinction. For one sentence is passed against all sins, that of the Lord Who said: Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin [Jn 8:34]. —-W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Question & Answer #293 (CCXCIII), pp. 342-343.

There are a few choices here in interpretation. First, it may be that St. Basil the Great had a particular shade of meaning, so as not to deny the categories of mortal and venial sin altogether, or that he later changed his mind. I don’t know. I found the quote in context, but couldn’t make out exactly what he meant. The context did not particularly illuminate his more specific or exact meaning (if there is one to be had).

In any event, we know that St. Basil — however he divides up, or doesn’t distinguish between types and degrees of sins — was a big advocate of confession to a priest, with resulting absolution: a practice (and underlying theology) which is equally anathema to almost all Protestants.

On the other hand, it may be that St. Basil was simply wrong (though further evidences I produce below suggest otherwise). This would (if true) be no surprise or supposed devastating “disproof” of the Catholic view of the Church fathers. We Catholics never held that all, without exception, are infallible, as if their writings are quasi-inspired or specially protected by God in some way different from inspiration. We also don’t believe that any single father is completely infallible. Even the theologians we consider the greatest, were sometimes declared in authoritative, magisterial Church documents, to be in error on certain points.

For example: St. Augustine was in error as regards double predestination, and St. Thomas Aquinas, concerning the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Several Church fathers (mostly in the east) even thought that Mary sinned, and some later became heretics (Tertullian) or held to some seriously heretical views (e.g., Origen on the afterlife: which is why he isn’t St. Origen).

The phrase, used by the Catholic Church: “unanimous consent of the fathers” is widely misunderstood. It doesn’t mean “absolutely every” — as it is commonly used today in general usage, but rather, “consensus of the vast majority” in line with the magisterium of the Church. As I explained in my paper on the topic:

Dictionary meanings for the term unanimity bear out the traditional Catholic theological understanding, too. For example, Roget’s Thesaurus provides the following synonyms for unanimity:

unanimity (520.5; under general category, “Assent”)

like-mindedness, meeting of minds, concurrence, consent, accord, general agreement, consensus, consensus of opinion, general acclamation. [partial list] (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 3rd edition, 1962, p. 339)

. . . The Latin phrase used in the Catholic Church is unanimem consensum Patrum. Note St. Vincent of Lerins’ famous passage, from the 5th century:

In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that Faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense ‘Catholic,’ which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one Faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors. (Commonitory, 2; my emphasis)

Whether or not St. Basil was wrong, in the sense that an anti-Catholic like White wishes and hopes for him to be wrong (i.e., if he denied the very categories of mortal and venial sin), it seems clear to me that Holy Scripture does indeed teach that these categories exist. Scripture in fact provides several indications of differences in seriousness of sin and also in subjective guiltiness (which is a key component in the Catholic understanding, tying into confession of sin and absolution):

1 John 5:17 (RSV) All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal (KJV: “not unto death”).

Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the hell of fire.

Luke 12:47-48 And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.

Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” . . .

John 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

John 19:11. . . he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.

Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent,

Romans 3:25 . . . This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;

1 Timothy 1:13 though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.

Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

James 1:14-15 but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.

Some objectors to these notions bring up James 2:10: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Does this prove that all sins are the same; equally destructive and worthy of judgment? No; the passage is dealing with man’s inability to keep the entire Law of God: a common theme in Scripture. James accepts differences in degrees of sin and righteousness elsewhere in the same letter, such as 1:14-15 and 3:1 (above).

Furthermore, the Bible provides several lists of sins that are said to prohibit one from entering “the kingdom of heaven”:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, [10] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, [21] envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:3-6 But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (cf. Gal 1:8; Heb 12:16; Rev 21:8; 22:15).

In other words, such lists presuppose serious distinctions among sins. Otherwise, if Calvinists are correct (and if in fact St. Basil agrees with them on this point), these quite “Catholic” texts seemingly should have stated – without the specificity – “all sins bar one from heaven.” It would be meaningless to provide a lists of all the sins (a, b, c, . . .) that bar one from heaven, if this is the characteristic of each and every sin.

Thus, even if St. Basil was wrong on this point, the many passages from Scripture above clearly differentiate between types and degrees of sin: precisely as in Catholic theology and spirituality. Since Scripture alone is Bishop White’s only infallible authority, he’s in far more of a pickle in explaining away all these inspired passages of God’s written revelation, than we are in interpreting one passage in St. Basil. It’s not problem at all for us, as explained. It’s a huge one, however, for him.

Lastly, St. Basil himself does make distinctions of sins, at least in the sense of our subjective relationship to them, and a differential understanding of culpability (which is part and parcel of the full Catholic view of mortal and venial sins):

Q. 8 Whether the work enjoined by the command is acceptable to God if the manner of performing it is not in conformity with the divine ordinance.

R. We learn the answer to this question, and at the same time a rule, so to speak, for dealing with every question of this sort, from the Old Testament where God says in His own Person, as it were: If rightly thou didst make thy offering, but didst not rightly divide it, thou hast sinned. Peace; his turning is unto thee. These words show that not only is an offering which is improperly made unacceptable, but such an action is imputed as sin to him who has made the offering.

From the simile used by the Apostle we can learn, by a human illustration, as it were, the inviolable rule of piety which Is to be applied in general to all cases. The Apostle says: ‘He also that striveth for the mastery is not crowned except he strive lawfully.’  Moreover, we can adduce and we do it with deeper reverence the rule given by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself when He said: ‘Blessed is that servant whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing.’

In using the word ‘so’ the Lord shows that He excludes from His blessing one who does not perform his actions as we can accurately be taught and fully persuaded to do by many stories and sayings in both the Old and New Testament. Not ‘so’ doing means acting inappropriately as regards the place, the time, the person, the matter involved, or in a manner intemperate or disorderly, or with improper dispositions. (Ascetical Works, Vol. 9, Catholic University of America Press, 1950; translated by Sister M. Monica Wagner, pp. 407-408)

I have also found St. Basil referring to “faults” that are “trivial and venial” and “not to the death of thy soul” (Exhortation to Baptism, in Saint Basil Collection, Aeterna Press, 2016, p. 103)

All of this is basically meaningless in the theology and spirituality of most Protestants, who hold that sin is sin, and that (forget or ignore all the Bible passages above!) distinguishing them in this way (let alone confessing to a priest), is of little or no use in theology or the Christian life.  In any event, it would strongly appear that St. Basil is far closer to present-day Catholicism in this regard, than any form of Protestantism.

***

Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.

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Photo credit: March 1917 advertisement in Moving Picture World for the American film, The Mortal Sin (1917) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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November 12, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White opined in his article, “Roman Unity: If it Promotes Mother Rome, It’s All Good” (1-6-10, complete):

My first moderated, public debate was on the subject of Roman Catholicism. It took place in August of 1990. Since I have a few decades of experience now, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at one particular fact over and over again: Rome’s apologists just don’t seem driven to work hard in their field. Further, they clearly observe the “throw everything including the kitchen sink in defense of Rome, no matter how objectively bad it is on a scholarly level.”

Illustration: today Patrick Madrid took a shot at “Calvinists” in general on his blog. For someone who has yet, to my knowledge, to engage a Calvinist on the relevant subjects (of course I would, Patrick, let’s set it up!) in debate, I find his surface-level retorts somewhat amusing. But what is amazing are the three links he provides for, what he calls, “quite able” refutations of Calvinism. Two are ancient articles Jimmy Akin wrote years and years ago, neither of which provide much in the way of substance. And the third is to Dave Armstrong’s series on Calvin! Now, with all due respect to ol’ Dave Armstrong, he is one of the clearest examples of why past canon law prohibited laymen from engaging in public disputation in defense of Rome. Serious readers in the field realize that while Dave may stumble over a thoughtful argument once in a while, it is always to be found somewhere else. He simply does not produce original argumentation of any kind, and clearly does not understand the responses that have been offered to him over and over again. So, we find Madrid once again pulling out of mothballs surface-level materials that are nearly two decades old, and promoting Dave Armstrong as “quite able” refutations of Reformed theology. One is truly left wondering if these men really think this kind of material has real weight and meaning, or if they are just too bored to do serious work in the field. I will leave it to the reader to decide.

And I’ll be happy to let readers decide who has written many refutations of Calvinism and who has utterly ignored this in-depth examination. First of all, there is my point-by-point reply to almost all of Book IV of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, in my 388-page book, Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin. It was published two months after White wrote his post.

What Pat Madrid linked to was an even more extensive series of direct, exhaustive replies to Calvin (a literally complete reply to all of Book IV), which were recently revised and re-typeset, and appear in no less than 55 lengthy, “meaty” installments: listed on my extensive John Calvin: Catholic Appraisal web page. I had done those in 2009, in “honor” of Calvin’s 500th birthday.

Moreover, I also wrote the books A Biblical Critique of Calvinism and Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love”. The latter includes 115 pages (seven chapters) devoted specifically to a critique of Calvinism and “TULIP”.

Moreover, I have more arguments against Calvinism listed on my Calvinism and General Protestantism and Salvation and Justification web pages. Furthermore, several of my papers dealing with Calvinist soteriological error were directed specifically towards James White. For example:

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I just put another paper of this sort up yesterday (which will, of course, be ignored by White, as always. You can bet the farm on that):
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Needless to say (for anyone who has followed my interactions with Bishop White, which have taken place off-and-on since April 1995), he has utterly ignored all of these articles and books. He uses as his tired and ridiculous excuse for this complete forfeit of any serious dialogue, the claim that I supposedlysimply [do] not produce original argumentation of any kind, and clearly [do] not understand the responses that have been offered to [me] over and over again.” Right. No one buys this hogwash except his own rabid followers.
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It’s manifest that it is sophistical nonsense, by the fact that White challenged me to formal oral debate no less than three times: in 1995, 2001, and 2007 (apparently, these urges of his come around in six-year cycles). Each time, I carefully explained why I oppose oral debates. I do written debates (White does, too: just not with me). White has been running from those critiques from me (including an entire, almost 400-page book), literally for 24 1/2 years: since May 1995, when he fled in terror from our initial — and to this date, only, in-depth — debate. It takes up over a hundred pages in my book devoted to the good bishop.
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The portion from pages 76-117 document the final installment that I wrote on 15 May 1995 on an electric typewriter and mailed (“snail mail”) to White (it makes up about 40% of the entire volume of the debate, including both our contributions). He utterly ignored it, and sent me a letter almost six months later, stating, “I have never figured out how to answer letters that are filled with whining, crying, complaining, and general substanceless meandering.” Readers can see for themselves whether this last installment (read it online) is of the nature that White claims it to be. I’ve had the entire debate on my website for over 22 years (initially with his express permission). White has never linked to it or posted it on his page. What does that suggest as to who is most confident of his performance?
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The record is documented and quite clear (see my web page devoted to Bishop White). See, for example, our one and only live chat, about Mary, in December 2000, where he also split early, just as it was getting good and interesting. Some years later, I did an extensive analysis of his outrageous, intellectually dishonest methods of sophistry, with which he unsuccessfully tried to trap me in that exchange. Again, needless to say.
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White has never, for almost 19 years now, put up any part of that debate on his web page, either. But it’s been on mine all that time. And that was much closer to his favorite medium: the live oral debate. I had no notes or preparation because I didn’t know it was gonna happen. It was spontaneous, after an earlier Calvinist polemicist had forfeited and left a live planned debate that I had with him, in White’s chat room.
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Now, if White wants folks to believe that he chooses and challenges people to orally debate whom he regards as absolute imbeciles, ignoramuses, and idiots: incapable of forming even a single coherent theological sentence (if he thinks they are that stupid and gullible), then, feel free! If you believe that pitiful line, I have some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you. He ignores my refutations because he is unable to answer them, pure and simple. No amount of flatulent, desperate rhetoric and polemics and empty insults from him can change that obvious fact. And no other explanation adequately explains the public record, that is on my blog (and not on his) for all to see.
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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
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Photo credit: Norman Rockwell’s No Swimming: used for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, published 4 June 1921 [Wikimedia Commons / public domain]
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November 11, 2019

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White took on the issue of synergy, man’s cooperation with God, God’s free gift of grace, and faith and works in his article entitled, “An Attempted Syllogism Examined” (11-3-09). He cited Catholic philosopher Francis Beckwith, denying “that Catholicism embraces ‘works righteousness’ because justification requires human cooperation (though performed in sanctifying grace)”. White’s words will be in blue.

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[H]e does not tell us why we should think that because Jesus was the God-Man this means the gospel has to be partly God’s work and partly man’s (a synergistic system). Further, in quoting the Roman Catholic position Beckwith embraces not only the concept of infusion, but that “Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” Of course, only God’s grace makes it possible for this to happen, however, we are still doing the meriting and, of course, there are those who do not “cooperate” and thus lose the grace of justification, becoming enemies of God. And so the real issue of the Reformation remains the same today as it was then: it is not the NECESSITY of grace that is at dispute, it is the SUFFICIENCY of grace that is the focus of the debate. And, of course, so many of those who are non-Roman Catholics today actually agree with Rome against the Reformers on that topic, and are thusly crippled in resisting Rome’s teachings. . . . 

But there is by far a more pressing reason to reject Beckwith’s syllogism: the Bible speaks directly to the issue of the fact of God’s solitary and unique role in salvation. Not only are we told that salvation is of the Lord, but that all of salvation is of the Lord, from beginning to end, and that God, and God alone, is to be glorified as a result. Consider these words:

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” (1Co 1:26-31)

Further, the problem with Rome’s gospel can be illustrated by asking Frank Beckwith (and any other follower of Rome) the same question I asked Fr. Peter Stravinskas in 2001, a question that a truly honest Roman Catholic cannot answer as the Bible does. Dr. Beckwith, are you the blessed man of Romans 4:7-8? Are your sins imputed to you? What does your priest say when you ask him? You know the answer from Rome’s teachings, but surely you must know that Paul’s answer would be, “the blessed man is every believer in Jesus Christ.” So how do you answer this question?

Delighted to have the opportunity to interact with White’s provocative question. My answer is, yes, indeed I and any other regenerated Catholic believer, not mired in mortal sin (see 1 Jn 5:16-17), is the “blessed man” of Romans 4:7-8 (RSV, as throughout): “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; [8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

We can, however, lose this blessedness by means of our rebellious free will, and so those familiar with all the relevant biblical teaching on possible apostasy and the moral assurance of salvation (as opposed to some imaginary absolute assurance), agree with the Bible writers that we are in Christ and will be saved, provided that we don’t “turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits” (Gal 4:9), or “submit again to a yoke of slavery” leading to our being “severed from Christ” and “fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:1, 4), and “provided that” we “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23), and do not (according to what “the Spirit expressly says”) “depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1), and if we have not “strayed after Satan” (1 Tim 5:15).

The apostle Paul made it clear that he himself (as in 1 Cor 9:27) had “not . . .   already obtained” this salvation, and that he had to “press on” to make that happen (Phil 3:12); he would be saved unless “after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). He also wrote that we will be “children of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:16-17).

The writer of Hebrews is even more crystal clear and explicit. We will be saved by God’s grace unless “there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (3:12), or if it so happens that we are “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13), and “if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (3:14). Is it clear enough yet? The same inspired writer of God’s infallible revelation informs us that “it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy” (6:4-6).

St. Peter continues the same sort of thought on apostasy: “Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, . . . For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Pet 2:15, 20-21).

Thus, — bottom line –, we must sadly conclude that James White’s exegesis and soteriological teaching is shallow and hyper-selective, whereas Catholic soteriology is far more comprehensively biblical: taking into account all relevant themes and passages, so as to create a coherent whole.

I suppose that if anyone simply chose to ignore the passages I have highlighted (most of them from the apostle Paul), or had never ever learned of them at all, then sure (ignorance is bliss, as they say), he or she would believe in absolute assurance of salvation, based on the every carefully selected passages that White and other Protestant preachers and theologians and apologists produce. But that would be insufficiently biblical and it would be a simpleton man’s religion. That’s the problem.

Lastly, I would like to examine another portion of Scripture that doesn’t fit at all into James White’s and the general Calvinist / eternal security / fundamentalist mold (this argument would not apply to the many Arminian / Wesleyan-type Protestants, who believe that apostasy or falling away from grace and salvation is possible).

For White and his like-minded buddies, it’s a very simple affair: you are forgiven once and for all with a sinner’s prayer or some other outward form of committing oneself to Christ (an adult baptism or whatever). That’s it. There is no more need for forgiveness because God imputes justification to such a believer, and saves him or her once-and-for-all in that one-time event.

The problem is that 1 John (among many other passages) completely contradicts this scenario. St. John repeatedly and undeniably teaches that we must exhibit this moral assurance of salvation and being in Christ by good works (the two are hand-in-hand; two blades of a pair of scissors, or two sides of the same coin, just as they also are in James). This is most assuredly not a “faith alone” theology:

1 John 1:7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 2:3-6 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; [5] but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: [6] he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him.

1 John 3:3  And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.

1 John 3:10 By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:22-24 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. [23] And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. [24] All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us. (cf. 5:2-3)

1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (cf. 4:11-12, 16, 19, 21)

1 John 4:20 If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.

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Photo credit: Piotr Siedlecki [Needpix.com / public domain]

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