Protestant Apologist James White and sola scriptura... Why does he always now dance around the issue?


I have read this man’s argument apparently for “Sola Scriptura”… I was presented with it by a protestant who doesn’t like my opinion on Sola Scriptura. I am very incensed that this nonsense is being presented as an argument for “Sola Scriptura” when not only does it NOT bother to mount a biblical defense at all(as it logically should) but it entirely slanders the Catholic faith with blatant disregard, and then presents that slander as apparent “evidence for Sola Scriptura”…

I’m sure some of you on this site have already read it. I don’t want to give this man the privilege of a weblink after reading his article about a “debate” he had with a catholic apologist called “Paul” and then reading Patrick Madrid’s rather brilliant account of an earlier debate on the same topic that he had with this man. You can find that article on this site of cause, just search for “James White” and go to the Madrid article called “The White Man’s Burden”(in fact here is the link:

Has anyone else noticed that, after Mr Madrid in 1993 so effectively dealt with his “Biblical” arguments for “sola scriptura” that the man has decided to change tactics?

Madrid really did exceptionally well with the original debate when he continually challenged Mr white to prove it logically from scripture itself in no uncertain terms. So effective was this strategy of debate that White has in the subsequent years changed his tactics from legitimate debate, into “Bait and Switch”, that is set a debate topic such as “Sola Scriptura”, and then ignore the set topic entirely and ambush the Catholic Apologist with a debate on a topic that catholics don’t even believe anyway… “Sola Ecclesia” as they put it.

That is the position that “The church is the sole rule of faith” which is as we all know a fictitious position that the Protestant faith incorrectly believes that us Catholic hold. The fact is the church actually holds 3 rules of faith combined, the infallibility of the Church’s interpretations of Revelation(The Church), the Inerrancy of Scriptural Revelation(The Bible) and the Infallibility of Apostolic Tradition(Oral tradition). As far as I count, that is 3 rules of faith combined with emphasis on the first yes, but not exclusively or by itself(I.e there is always Revelation to back up whatever the pope says infallibly… he is the interpretor, not Author.), unlike the teachings of “Sola Scriptura” which DO hold to “the bible alone”.

I think the actions of Mr White have actually gone very far to proving there is no real scriptural evidence for this doctrine and the man knows it too. It’s man made and he knows it. He has deliberately changed his tactic into changing the topic to an entirely different topic than the one that has been set for debate. In doing this not only does he personally reveal that Sola Scriptura is nowhere to be found in the bible(something he originally DID try to prove in the Madrid debate only to get exceptionally embarrassed), but he also reveals his blind and ignorant “anti-catholicism at any cost” opinion.

He has even gone one step worse, he has misrepresented the true beliefs of the Catholic faithful on Scripture, it’s own church and on Apostolic Tradition(Excuse me Mr White, but we do have a definition of “Apostolic Tradition” that is inerrant and that has driven the infallible rulings on the doctrine… it’s clear in the Bible from the writings of Paul!). He has then also gone to the extent of presenting on his website an argument “for sola scriptura” that does not present a shred of evidence from the bible and instead in it’s place presents slanderous incorrect opinions about an entirely different topic. Once again he incorrectly says the argument that proves “Sola Scriptura” is saying that “sola Ecclesia” is wrong! NO it’s not the argument for “Sola Scriptura” Mr. White! it’s an argument you’ve plucked out of thin air about an imaginary belief that you think we have…

The argument for Sola Scriptura is logically only going to be found in the Scriptures if it is a true doctrine. Don’t you see, you still have not prooven this is a correct doctrine that the bible teaches and logically, do you know what that means? it means that you cannot prove that doctrine of “the bible alone”.

You can’t prove this and so you have decided to change the topic entirely and make up false lies about the catholic faith’s beliefs so that unknowledgeable protestants have the wool pulled over their eyes whenever they look at our church and the true faith of God!

It is saddening to think that some protestants will actually believe his argument is for Sola Scriptura, when he obviously has no intention of actually debating that doctrine…

And i am absolutely sure I’m not the first person to notice this discrepancy.


James White is big on rhetoric, short of substance. I was shocked at how thin his “Roman Catholic Controversy” was. He basically would bloviate for pages at a time and wrap it up with a “gotcha!” quote. It reminded me of how college freshmen write term papers.


coll << Has anyone else noticed that, after Mr Madrid in 1993 so effectively dealt with his “Biblical” arguments for “sola scriptura” that the man has decided to change tactics? >>

Not to defend White, but I think he has been pretty consistent on his defense of sola scriptura (consistently wrong :D). He’s used the same old quotes from St. Athanasius since about 1992 (I don’t have his 1990 first debate with Matatics, apparently the tapes are lost). And his 1996 book RC Controversy does lay out “what is” and “what is not” SS I think fairly well.

I see the major changes in this “debate” as these:

Since 1993 or so Catholic Answers and Catholic apologists following them have made the distinction between “material” and “formal” sufficiency. This appeared first in Keating/Madrid’s Aug 1993 “World Youth Day” debate with Jackson/Nemec, then in Madrid’s Sept 1993 debate with White, then in the pages of This Rock Oct 1993 in that “White Man’s Burden” article, in a side bar by James (Jimmy) Akin. Before this time there was no “material” or “formal” sufficiency distinction ever brought up in popular Catholic apologetics, although it was explained by Yves Congar’s Tradition and Traditions in the 1960s. Professional Catholic theologians have known this distinction, and I think it is a fair one if you read Congar and his sections on the Fathers.

However, the “material/formal” distinction is not found in Keating’s 1988 classic Catholicism and Fundamentalism (for example). So since 1993 or so, Catholic apologists have placed an extra burden on Protestants to defend not just “material” but “formal” sufficiency. We can agree all Catholic doctrines are found in Scripture at least implicitly.

Then in 1997 White began admitting the Scriptures indeed do not teach sola scriptura since the doctrine is not applicable to the apostolic age. He did this first in his article on the “Bereans and Sola Scriptura” in reply to Steve Ray :

“…the doctrine [of sola scriptura] speaks of a rule of faith that exists. What do I mean by this? …You will never find anyone saying, ‘During times of enscripturation – that is, when new revelation was being given – sola scriptura was operational.’ Protestants do not assert that sola scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be, since the rule of faith to which it points was at that very time coming into being? One must have an existing rule of faith to say it is ‘sufficient.’ It is a canard to point to times of revelation and say, ‘See, sola scriptura doesn’t work there!’ Of course it doesn’t. Who said it did?”

Then in his debate with Matatics the same year (the Great Debate II):

Matatics: Did the people in Jesus’ day practice sola scriptura? The hearers of our Lord, Yes or No, Mr. White.
White: I have said over, and over, and over again, that sola scriptura –
M: It’s a Yes or No.
W: – is a doctrine that speaks to the normative condition of the church, not to times of enscripturation.
M: So your answer is No?
W: That is exactly what my answer is.
M: Thank you.
W: It is no.
M: Did the apostles practice sola scriptura, Mr. White? Yes or No?
W: No.
M: Thank you.

But we can forget White and go to the source: George Salmon’s Infallibility of the Church if you want a strong anti-Catholic argument from a Protestant (Anglican). All of White’s arguments on the Papacy (the Peter quotes from “Maldonatus” and “Launoy”, statements about Pius IX and Vatican I, history of the early papacy, Clement, Irenaeus, Cyprian, etc), and many of his arguments against “tradition” come from this old book (orig 1888). I haven’t owned it but have checked it out a couple times, and just recently ordered it (I think 1953 edition) through an online used bookseller (Abebooks). Also getting B.C. Butler’s reply The Church and Infallibility since I only have that in photocopy form. Virtually all of White’s stuff on sola scriptura and the Papacy are dealt with by these two authors in detailed scholarly fashion.

Phil P


BTW, if you want White’s most recent defense of sola scriptura, you’ll want to get his book Scripture Alone (2004). At this point, White had debated the issue formally at least 6 times if I’m counting right (Matatics 1990, Matatics 1992, Madrid 1993, Staples 1996, Matatics 1997, Pacwa 2000). So we can assume this is his best current shot.

Or maybe you can find the book at a garage sale for $.02 as Dave Armstrong likes to say, but I doubt it. :cool:

Phil P


I just LOVE the “In times of enscripturation” thing. It’s beautifully false.

The argument then necessarily evolves to–Debating the idea of “times of encripturation”; Debating whether or not there need be biblical “proof” of “times of enscripturation”; Debating any proffered biblical “proof” for "times of enscripturation; And on down the line. Trot that pony out there enough times and it becomes standard Protestant Doublespeak.

Reading the recap of various approaches to the logical problems of SS reminds me of the phrase “Making music for money”.
Just keep that apologetics ball rollin’— it beats workin’ for a living.:wink:

That troublesome bit about “Christian” ethics? Just let those silly little feelings in the middle of the night pass----Gotta win this argument.


Is this the same debate as this:
Ironically this SS debate vs Matatics is on White’s webpage, yet Matatics wins easily.


Isn’t it breathtaking?

It’s like the Bible’s last page contains a big “The End” or something.


<< Is this the same debate as this:
Ironically this SS debate vs Matatics is on White’s webpage, yet Matatics wins easily. >>

Actually that is the 1992 debate White vs. Matatics, and I actually give the edge to White in that debate since Matatics wasted precious minutes talking about “Vin Lewis” in his opening statement :smiley: and wasn’t as strong during the cross-exam. But I can see someone giving Matatics the win. However, the cross-exam of the 1997 debate is where Matatics was much stronger and therefore I give him the win there. White’s debates on sola scriptura are:

vs. Matatics 1990 (this is one that’s not available apparently)
vs. Matatics 1992 (White wins in my opinion)
vs. Madrid 1993 (Madrid wins)
vs. Staples 1996 (Staples wins)
vs. Matatics 1997 (Matatics wins)
vs. Pacwa 2000 (White wins in my opinion)

There is no transcript of the 1997 online I don’t believe, but the entire debate was played once on White’s Dividing Line (around 2001 or 2002) and was therefore made available on which is how I got it (and then ripped the .rm to .mp3 once I figured that out).

Phil P


I don’t know why you all give Ole’ Jimbo White the time of day. I own and have read all of White’s books regarding Catholicism, and think they lack scholarship at best and honesty at worst. In fact, I’ve found so many things misconstrued, not just with his books but with what he says in debates and on his blog, I simply dismiss him. Now, a lot of times he does make honest arguments, but they are laughable at best, usually.

He’s the boy that cried wolf, in my opinion.


I don’t know who j white is, but I think there’s an overcomplication here on sola scritura. it makes no sense.

all authentic doctrine is found in scripture (sola scritura)
sola scritura is not found in scripture
—therefore sola scritura is not an authentic doctrine.

ok, now before you all conclude I’m catholic, let me point out an alternative understanding of the idea of sola scritura that most protestants would understand that is outside the above sylligism.

lets accept from catholic whitness and from history that the new testiment is the authentic teaching of the first century founders of Christianity.

lets assert that in order to belong within the heading of Christianity, a teaching must agree with the teaching of the founders.

–therefore the bible agrees with what can be authentically considered pure Christian doctrine.

taking the above conclusion we add the assumption that it is also concise summery of the essentials of Christian doctrine.

–therefore the new testiment is the standard or “canon” of Christian teaching.

the new testiment authenticates the old

therefore the whole bible is taken as the accurate word of

the protestant assertion is that catholocism goes outside the reasonable implication of this standard ie is inconsistant with it’s beginning. hence the coining of the misleading and popularly misunderstood phrase “sola scritura” which leads lay, amature, and dull theologians to think that God’s word is only found in scripture–a view that is more rationally denied.

Personally I have always held that God’s message is heard through the scriptures, through creation, through the incarnation, through the ministry of faithful pastors, through brother’s and sisters in the one true church of God and prayer, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the christian mind. all this is taught in scripture. my doubt personally is’nt that God’s word come’s to us in a variety of media but that the so called Roman Catholic Church has a complete, and internally consistent view of what the apostle’s tradition is. the testing of that doubt is why I have subscribed to “Catholic Answers”


White and other Evangelical leaders who would be king have troubles of their own these days.

Evangelical Theological Society President Francis Beckwith and his wife crossed the Tiber and Beckwith resigned, leaving a power vacuum.

My Return to the Catholic Church

And White’s response:

Head of the Evangelical Theological Society Swims the Tiber

Patton’s bid for points:

Letter to Pope Benedict

Patton’s been here and here btw.


Ani Ibi,

I’m not a catholic or protestant but I have been studying these issues for a while and as far as I am aware James White doesn’t identify himself as a “Evangelical leader”. He says that the term evangelical has taken on a very broad meaning today. He holds a position in a reformed baptist church and, while i cant speak for him, I don’t think he loses too much sleep when people outside of his church such as Francis Beckwith cross the tiber. Sure he’s probably disappointed in general but he has no direct control over such things.

For instance, Mr. Patton mentioned on the DL that protestantism has no structure because of people like Benny Hinn. James said that his church does have structure and binny hinn is not a member of it.

Also, from what i’ve seen James White is very kind to his opponents. I have two of his debates on DVD “Does the New Testament Teach that Jesus is God” against Hamza Abdul Malik and “Is Jesus God, or a god?” against Greg Stafford. He treated them both equatable. Some of the audience members at the Malik debate were cantankerous in their questions but he answered them kindly.


You should call into his Dividing Line show. I’m sure he would enjoy a dialogue with you.


Sorry, Guard, but I couldn’t resist giving you a hard time about this—

:stuck_out_tongue: At least we haven’t *bought all of his books, listened to his debates, and studied his blog.:stuck_out_tongue:


Why? That would be giving him the time of day, something I said I’m not willing to do anymore. I read his stuff, listened to his debates…I’m not going to waste any more time with him, at least not anytime soon.

However, there is one reason why I might do it, and that is to help the people that listen to him hear the other side. But I have a feeling that the people that take him seriously are probably delusional or plain foolish.

Moreover, he has too much advantage on his OWN internet broadcast, anyway. He’d probably hang up on me once I start showing how shallow and unscholarly he is.

Maybe when I finish my studies and have my book published I may make more significant strides in documenting and responding to his claims specifically, perhaps. I’ve already proved his unworthiness in my mind, it would take a bit more effort to present a formal response to prove it to others. Is he really that popular to merit my precious time? I highly doubt it.


Well, there are two reasons I did such:

  1. Initially, I took him seriously, so I bought all his material. Obviously, that has changed after studying his material.

  2. He’s entertaining. Maybe I have a sick humor, but I get a huge kick out of reading his blog and listening to his broadcast. He’s so obnoxious I get some good chuckles. He’s amazing, simply amazing in that regard!


Oh boy, do I remember him…and those long “debates” we had with him (I’m surprised I have any hair left)


Uh-oh!! Mr. White is callin’ me out! He updated his blog and stated:

Once in a while it is worth “turning up the lights” on the kind of mindset and activity that passes for day in, day out Roman Catholic thought and speech as found in such places as the Catholic Answers Forums. It is especially useful when all you hear is how “mean” the non-Catholics are! Remember, I make myself available for two hours a week, live, call-in, on The Dividing Line, so if these folks really did believe I am so clearly in error, why wouldn’t they wish to demonstrate it? I would love for “Guardian,” author of the following swipe, to give me a call and lay out his case, but, we all know how often folks on the CA forums make claims like these and then discover that they have to have their cat’s teeth flossed during the DL…every DL…every time it is on:

Let’s analyze it:

Once in a while it is worth “turning up the lights” on the kind of mindset and activity that passes for day in, day out Roman Catholic thought and speech as found in such places as the Catholic Answers Forums.

First off, I’m not Roman Catholic.

Remember, I make myself available for two hours a week, live, call-in, on The Dividing Line, so if these folks really did believe I am so clearly in error, why wouldn’t they wish to demonstrate it?

Because I don’t care? Why would I wish to demonstrate it is a better question?

I would love for “Guardian,” author of the following swipe, to give me a call and lay out his case, but, we all know how often folks on the CA forums make claims like these and then discover that they have to have their cat’s teeth flossed during the DL…every DL…every time it is on

Hmmn, should I fall for the trap? Will I call up Mr. White, only to have him hang up on me like he did crimsoncatholic, and then, once crimsoncatholic couldn’t respond, bash him for saying he was laughing at God’s Word, when it was obviously not the case?

Or will I call in to give my specific examples, and then Mr. White, knowing where I’m headed, try to steer the conversation into satispassio or the bodily assumption of Mary?

I may have to wipe the dust off his books once again. How many examples of dishonesty or lack of scholarship should I come up with? Is 10 good enough?

I’ll have to pray about this. I think the real question is, will this benefit anyone if I do call in, and will it glorify God?


I hope you know I was just kidding you. I’m glad you went through so much of his stuff----I’ve only seen a tiny bit of his work so I’m glad you’re around to help out. My friend MM says the same sort of thing–he was surprised to see how easy he was to refute.

I read Sungenis taking White’s Corinthians argument apart bit by bit—it was enough to give me a good idea about the guy.


You seem to have a touch of the “keyboard warror” syndrome. I thought he might help you get over it.

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