Examining an Argument of James White's


#1

Hey guys,

Here is a link to a blog post of mine discussing an argument by James White. The argument of his that I am discussing is his argument that since the Catholic Church defines and interprets Scripture, it cannot be subservient to Scripture. (He claims this argument shows that the Catholic Position is sola ecclesia

If you read it, let me know what you think (either here or on my blog).

Let me know if I have made a mistake in my reasoning, as I often do :slight_smile:

-BT


#2

I like your points. In regards to Mr. White’s idea that since we defined Scripture, we can’t be subservient to it.

I guess Mr. White doesn’t watch much sports. In football, for example, the NFL defines the rules, and then must obey the rules they defined, hence they are subservient to those rules. I guess a better term would be “bound to those rules”, but I’m just using Mr. White’s terminology.


#3

Sola Ecclesia defended :thumbsup:

“…it was not fitting that such novel proceedings should be adopted against the Church. For what canon of the Church, or what Apostolical tradition warrants this, that when a Church was at peace, and so many Bishops were in unanimity with Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria…” (Defense Against the Arians, Intro 30)

“However here too they introduce their private fictions, and contend that the Son and the Father are not in such wise ‘one,’ or ‘like,’ as the Church preaches, but, as they themselves would have it…” (Discourse Against the Arians 3.10)

“Had Christ’s enemies thus dwelt on these thoughts, and recognised the ecclesiastical scope as an anchor for the faith, they would not have made shipwreck of the faith…” (Discourses Against the Arians 3.58)

“Therefore let them tell us, from what teacher or by what tradition they derived these notions concerning the Saviour? …But they seem to me to have a wrong understanding of this passage also; for it has a religious and very orthodox sense, which had they understood, they would not have blasphemed the Lord of glory.” (De Decretis 13)

“See, we are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father; but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to your phrases? Not one of the understanding and wise…and now persuades you to slander the Ecumenical Council, for committing to writing, not your doctrines, but that which from the beginning those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word have handed down to us. For the faith which the Council has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the blessed Fathers so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy…” (De Decretis 27)

"But let the Faith confessed by the Fathers at Nicaea alone hold good among you, at which all the fathers, including those of the men who now are fighting against it, were present, as we said above, and signed: in order that of us too the Apostle may say, ‘Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and as I handed the traditions to you, so ye hold them fast .’ " (To the Bishops of Africa 10)

“…but about the faith they wrote not, ‘It seemed good,’ but, ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church’ and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to shew that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolical; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles.” (Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 5)

Church, Church, Church, ecclesiastical, orthodox, tradition, and…Church. :thumbsup:

Too bad none of these show up in any of White’s debates, books, or blogs. OK maybe 1 or 2.

Phil P


#4

“Sola James White” I love it! I spilled coffee all over my desk ROTFL!!!

In His love…

A Catholic Deacon


#5

My favorite James White debate moment was when he took on Pat Madrid on the Communion of Saints. Madrid brings up Rev 5:8 where the elders in Heaven offer the prayers of the saints on Earth.

White’s best defense was, “Yes, but there’s nothing to suggest that those elders were the object of those prayers.” Of course, he’s right, but there’s nothing to suggest that they WEREN’T the object of those prayers either.

It brings a funny visual to mind:

Mary, mother of Jesus, brings several prayers to Jesus, saying, “Here, these are from James White. These prayers are for those silly Catholics to quit asking me to pray for them.”


#6

That article is more an improper shift of the burden of proof. Instead of defending “by the church alone” (sola ecclesia), the article tries to simply argue against “by scripture alone” (sola scriptura), and the author seems to necessitate that doing so, in and of itself, necessitates “church alone” theology. Simply put, this is not the case. The disproof of a bad theory doesn’t necessitate another theory.

“…it was not fitting that such novel proceedings should be adopted against the Church. For what canon of the Church, or what Apostolical tradition warrants this, that when a Church was at peace, and so many Bishops were in unanimity with Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria…” (Defense Against the Arians, Intro 30)

To adopt any idea that is against the church (ecclesial community – in the biblical sense of the word) would be to adopt something against God, assuming that the church is in accordance with God. As most devout adherants believe that their particular “flavor” of Christianity is “right”, it is only fitting that one would write to condemn any teaching other than they agree with as one against “the church”.

To gain a more clear meaning, you need to replace Catholic with one of two terms in most reading. Either you can accept the etymology of the word and replace the word Catholic with “universal”, or you can accept that it’s referring to a particular established religion, and refer to it as “Roman Catholic”. However, the former approach is preferred for the first couple of centuries following Christ. If you did this with your quotes, you might see different meaning emerge.

Additionally, supporting the Roman church based on quotes from Nicea and afterward is hardly compelling evidence.


#7

PC << Additionally, supporting the Roman church based on quotes from Nicea and afterward is hardly compelling evidence. >>

All righty then, now add these to the Athanasius dossier. :thumbsup:

“…what we have received from Blessed Peter the Apostle, that I declare to you…” (Pope Julius I to the Eusebians, Athanasius Apol 35, c. 340 AD)

“…to the head , that is to the See of Peter the Apostle, the bishops of the Lord shall refer from all provinces…” (orthodox Catholic bishops to Pope Julius I, Council of Sardica, c. 343 AD)

John Chapman concludes: “There was no doubt, therefore, in the minds of the orthodox party at Sardica that the Pope could summon a Patriarch of Alexandria to Rome, could order a Council to be held, could restore bishops by the prerogatives of his See, and could quash the proceedings of any Council, however large, if he had sufficient reason. But the canons are intended to go further. It was easy for the Easterns to avoid coming to Rome when summoned. It was a long journey, communication was slow, and delays and excuses were not hard to make. On the other hand, it meant voluntary exile to an orthodox bishops who undertook the journey, for his see would be filled up in his absence, and the Emperor would not permit his return.”

Of course this thread is about James White and sola ecclesia, not about how James White ignores all this “Roman Catholic” material from St. Athanasius. Sorry to get us off track. :slight_smile:

Phil P


#8

PC-

Is the following quote legitimate or not:

Ignatius of Antioch

“Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist, which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he ordains . Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there, just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Epistle to the Smyrneans 8:2. [110 A.D.]).

Thanks in advance.


#9

Years ago I had an email dialogue with an apologist from James White’s website on sola scriptura and I was accused of sola ecclesia but I rebuted with an answer the person didn’t at all like, I told him that if I trusted in sola ecclesia, then he trusted in sola James White! :slight_smile:


#10

Your article reads…

So, the soldier must both separate commands from non-commands and interpret the commands; this does not prevent him from being subservient to his commanding officer’s commands. Similarly, if the Catholic Church distinguishes God’s Word from writings that claim to be God’s Word but is not, and then they interpret God’s Word, that does not mean that they cannot be subservient to it.

Growing up in a military family, I like your military analogy. You make a good point here. If James White says that the Catholic church can’t interpret scripture without being subservient to it, then that would eliminate everyone (including James White) from being subservient to scripture. I’ve listened to most if not many of White’s debates and he starts with the claim that in order to be subservient to scripture one has to follow sola scriptura, but then again even if sola scriptura was true, it doesn’t and hasn’t lead us to whos interpretation IS correct. Within the parameters of sola scriptura any idea of an infallible interpretation is discarded, therefore what is left is everyones epistemological best guess.
From the outside, as a Baptist I saw the Catholic church as being arrogant and elitest, yet when I finally decided to put myself within Catholic teaching and read it, and juxtaposed my Protestantism and many others including some of James White’s I found that it did consider itself to be subservient to the Bible.

The second example is of Dr. White. I would venture to say that Dr. White claims that ability to decide what is God’s Word and what is not. After all, he often debates Mormons, so I imagine he argues that the Book of Mormon is not the Word of God. I also imagine that he argues that the Bible is the Word of God. So, Dr. White defines the Word of God (the Bible is the Word of God and other stuff is not). Also, I bet he interprets the Word of God. In fact, I have read works by him where he exegetes passages of Scriptures. So, doesn’t Dr. White define and interpret Scripture? Does this mean his view is sola James White? If one applies his argument to him, then I believe this is the conclusion.

Anyway, I think this was a bad argument by Dr. White. To be obedient to the truth, one must first know the true from the false and then know what the truth means. The Catholic Church’s claim that it is subservient to the Scriptures even though it defines Scripture and interprets Scripture does not seem to be inconsistent. (Of course, it could be a consistent claim and still be false.)

You make another good point. It makes me think who decides what is truth? When examining the issue of who has the authority determine and pronounce what is truth, I found that this church not only has to confidently pronounce to have the truth, but moreover, has to be able to give evidence of it being that sole arbiter of that truth from the Apostles since absolute truth is unchangable. White I believe starts off with the false presupposition that the Catholic church of today is different in doctrine from its early years in the early church. I do not believe Jesus left us with a map and not with a church to properly read and interpret it!


#11

I have listened to debates with James White where he begins with his whole sola ecclesia argument. I think the debate on sola Scriptura with Madrid was one where he started with the whole point about sola ecclesia.

I think he is correct to point out that in discussions between Catholics and Protestants there are two positions that are being discussed, however, I think his characterization of the Catholic view is uncharitable.


#12

Yeah, as I said in the blog post, I have recently watch the whole Band of Brothers series. I watched the whole series in just two days, so the military has been on my mind. Currahee Mountain is the mountain they jog up in training; so that is why I use it in my example:D


#13

Like I said – quotes from later and later times are hardly good indicators of what the earliest members of “the church” thought.

but I rebuted with an answer the person didn’t at all like, I told him that if I trusted in sola ecclesia, then he trusted in sola James White! :slight_smile:
That’s disappointing. Arguments like that will never gain you any ground with your opponents.

You make another good point. It makes me think who decides what is truth? When examining the issue of who has the authority determine and pronounce what is truth, I found that this church not only has to confidently pronounce to have the truth, but moreover, has to be able to give evidence of it being that sole arbiter of that truth from the Apostles since absolute truth is unchangable. White I believe starts off with the false presupposition that the Catholic church of today is different in doctrine from its early years in the early church. I do not believe Jesus left us with a map and not with a church to properly read and interpret it!
[/quote]

I see – so infant baptism, transubstantiation, rosary prayers, veneration/worship of canonized saints (and even the canonization of anyone as a saint in the first place), purgatory, and so on, were all undeniably present within, say, the first two centuries of the church, and were most certainly mainstream teaching?


#14

When you say “the church” to which would you refer?

To gain a more clear meaning, you need to replace Catholic with one of two terms in most reading. Either you can accept the etymology of the word and replace the word Catholic with “universal”, or you can accept that it’s referring to a particular established religion, and refer to it as “Roman Catholic”. However, the former approach is preferred for the first couple of centuries following Christ. If you did this with your quotes, you might see different meaning emerge.

Additionally, supporting the Roman church based on quotes from Nicea and afterward is hardly compelling evidence.

Actually Nicea and historical councils (especially the early councils) are considered historical evidence that’s why non-Catholic Christian theologians have to include Catholicism in any historical argument against those who question the historicity and authority of Christianity. These theologians give evidence of Popes and many other “Catholics” like Jerome as historical evidence for Christianity. Catholicism and Christianity are inseperable being they are one and the same and even Protestant theologians affirm the early church was Catholic…

Dr. Norman Geisler A General Introduction to the Bible…

Page 534:
“Add to this the two basic Old Latin texts, the African and European, and it is a little wonder that the Bishop of Rome desired a new and authoritative translation upon which the official doctrines of the church could be based.”

Page 535:
"When Jerome [fourth century] published his revisions of the four gospels, sharp criticisms were made. But, because of the Bishop of Rome had sponsored his work, the opposition was silenced."



#15

**PC Master;**2361088]That’s disappointing. Arguments like that will never gain you any ground with your opponents.

Right. I wasn’t trying to gain any ground, but show the point that to say Catholics strictly follow sola eccelesia without any critical thinking on our part is as silly as saying all those who follow James White don’t think for themselves either.

I see – so infant baptism, transubstantiation, rosary prayers, veneration/worship of canonized saints (and even the canonization of anyone as a saint in the first place), purgatory, and so on, were all undeniably present within, say, the first two centuries of the church, and were most certainly mainstream teaching?

I’m afraid your logic here doesn’t add up. I would be interested in what is your definition of “undeniably?” Is the Trinity “undeniably present” prior to the council of Nicea declaring the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as being of the same nature (homoosius?) By the same token we do see evidence for many “truths” that were once for all given that developed like the Trinity. :slight_smile:
And it is very evident that you are very misinformed. Catholicism has never taught nor practices worship of the saints; now that is a straw man for sure, that would be akin to me saying you worship the book you own made of paper which has the words Bible on it and which you call the word of God.
And the rosary prayer isn’t something Catholics have to pray nor practice, so I’m afraid you need to do some homework. Padeo baptism, transubstantiation, purgatory are all taught in the early church and in the Bible. There is a plethora of evidence from the early church fathers on all of the issues you’ve mentioned.


#16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.