Jimmy Akin and James White had a bit of a back-and-forth last week, with more posts coming from White than Akin, as White responds to comments left by readers of Akin’s blog.
In today’s post from White, he says:
Christ’s sheep will hear Christ’s voice. They will not be scandalized by truth. Now, those who are religious hypocrites will surely be offended by the truth of the gospel. Such was the case in the days of the Apostles, and nothing has changed, to be sure.
What he assumes that anyone scandalized by his statements are actually being scandalized by the truth of the Gospels, which is not the case. How is comparing Catholics to Islamic extremists Biblical? What does such a comparison have to do with the Gospels?
White chooses to ignore the very real likelihood that Catholics are scandalized, not by the truth, but by the comparison to extremists willing to chop off heads of unbelievers. Much like he chose earlier to ignore the very real likelihood that someone could read a document twice with 20 years between readings and have a completely different understanding the second time around.
Someone being scandalized by another’s actions doesn’t mean that the actions are proven true. After all, one could easily argue that Jesus was scandalized by the moneychangers in the Temple…does that mean that the moneychangers were right and Jesus wrong? Of course not. Or that White was scandalized by being called a troll, or that he was scandalized by the hypothetical mobs of Catholics who wanted to dismember him.
So someone being scandalized is not a good measure of who is speaking the truth and who is not. And White’s use of scripture in this way to justify unjustifiable actions is disgusting. Does he think he speaks with Christ’s voice, such that us being scandalized is proof that we’re not followers of Christ?
Now, all of that said, there have been a lot of uncharitable things said about James White in the comments at Jimmy Akin’s blog (and by Jimmy, for that matter), and that reflects poorly on them. James White is not a moron, or insane, or any of various other things. In fact, he’s really a very intelligent man. He is very anti-Catholic, and as such he sees things through a very biased filter. As a result, he creates a strawman Catholic Church, a caricature of the Church, that contains everything he (wrongly) believes the Church believes, and beats down that strawman. And, because he’s intelligent and well educated, he does it in a very convincing way.
The right thing to do is to try and correct his misconceptions about the Church. It’s a difficult task, especially when any defense of the Catholic Church is bound to be faulty in his eyes. It will take a long time for him to lose his hatred for the Church, as it partially defines who he is.
Now, in a couple of posts he asked the following questions, and thinks it’s a set of “gotcha’s”. It’s not
I would like to ask anyone who claims that the Roman Catholic Church, as it exists today, has existed for nearly 2000 years, to explain something to me. When the Council of Nicea convened, around 318 (by one count) bishops attended. Could a Roman Catholic representative point me to a single bishop at Nicea who believed what you believe de fide? That is, was there a single bishop in attendance who believed, for example, in transubstantiation? Purgatory, as defined by Rome today? Indulgences? The thesaurus meritorum? Immaculate Conception? Bodily Assumption? Papal Infallibility? If these things have been defined de fide, are we to believe that the gospel has “changed” since that time, if, in fact, these things were not defined as part of the gospel at that time?
Let’s start with the first. Transubstantiation. Would the Bishops at Nicea recognize the word? No. If the concept was explained, would they agree? Absolutely. Purgatory? No. The concept, once explained? Most likely. And so on. Explaining some of the positions (i.e., thesaurus meritorum) might take some time, but I don’t think there’d be any real hang-ups. A chunk all go together (Purgatory/indulgences/thesaurus meritorum…without Purgatory, there’s no need for indulgences, nor a treasury of merit.)
But there’s a greater underlying problem in White’s argument. White is relying on Sola Scriptura, without recognizing that sola scriptura itself wouldn’t be recognized by the Bishops at Nicea. White has left himself in a bad position, because in trying to argue that the Bishops wouldn’t agree with something like Papal Infallibility (which, again, they would agree with once the concept was explained), he makes them the judges, the authorities. Ask the judges if absolutely everything that a Christian should believe is contained in the Scriptures. Explain the concept to them, and watch them reject the idea. “You think we were able to put everything needed to be a Christian into the Bible? You think everything we believe is contained in 2000 pages of text, and that by writing it down we’ve done away with Oral Tradition? HA!”
Ok, they’d probably be a bit more regal about it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they’d reject the very idea that the sum totality of being a Christian was contained in a collection of books and letters, even such great and important books and letters. They’d also be aghast at the idea that anyone can pick up the Bible and fully understand it. It requires study, teaching, and understanding of not just the words but the entire context of what was written and why. (Things, by the way, that aren’t contained in the Bible.) Do the rebukes contained in Malachi make sense without knowing what the priests were doing when this was written? Or understanding how it points to John the Baptist (something that one might not notice without study and teaching.)
No, if Scripture Alone is true, then White shouldn’t be writing books…why would any truths in his book be worth anything when compared to the Bible? What good are his books when everything I need to know as a Christian are contained in the Bible? Why should I read his books for answers to hard questions when I can just go to the Bible?
But study is good, and commentaries on the Bible can be useful. There is nothing wrong with writing books about the Bible, or studying it, or recognizing that there is so much to learn in the Bible. There is a problem with thinking it is the sum totality of truth and Christianity.