Monday, March 28, 2016

Taking White to Task


In an "All Roman" edition of James White's Dividing Line program, as you can probably guess, White makes a number of faux pas comments.

1) White starts with making note of the controversy between Pope Francis and Donald Trump.  In this case it wasn't really a faux pas, as he actually stood up for the fact that Pope Francis was mistranslated (you can see my response to that incident here).  Look for the context, etc. "but that's not The Donald's way."  Then White criticizes Pope Francis for the statement about borders.  Has not White just done what he accused "The Donald" of doing?  Go back to what Pope Francis actually said AND his clarifications on the matter. However, White does go back to defending the pope's ability to make a statement about an individual person's faith...  reminding the listeners that it's really the responsibility for a religious leader to make such judgments.

2)  "Super Confessors - with super powers - where if you walk through certain doors - your sins will be forgiven."


Over 1100 priests were hand-picked to forgive sins normally reserved to being forgiven by the pope himself.  Let me start by quoting White:
So obviously medieval, so obviously unbiblical, I mean no one is going to honestly look at the New Testament and say, 'yah, that's what the Apostles were doing, the Apostles were, you know, opening doors and saying if you walk through this door you'll get forgiveness of sins.  And yah, that sacramental stuff, it developed over time, and you know, it's like Cardinal Newman said, the acorn to the tree and... and this is why Rome has to deny sola scriptura, of course, because if you limit yourself to what is theopneustos (God breathed) then you're never going to come up with this silly stuff.  You're not going to have super confessors, well first of all you're not going to have priests to begin with, ah, you're going to have one High Priest, Jesus, and everybody in the Body of Christ is a priest in one sense, I mean, there's no such thing as a sacramental priesthood (as) in Roman Catholicism.
Let's pause here as White himself pauses at a "squirrel" moment of someone posting a picture of Pope Francis, looking sternly, with the caption of "I'm watching you, James" (posted on Twitter).
a) What's this comment about gaining forgiveness of sins by walking through certain doors?  First off, we must correct White's misunderstanding (again) of Catholic teaching and tradition.  The "Holy Doors" (which traditionally were just four doors on four of Rome's basilicas) have been extended to include all the cathedrals in the world.  What is sought by those passing through them is not forgiveness of sins, but an indulgence.  Big difference here!  An indulgence is NOT the forgiving of a sin!  Indulgences relieve all or some of the temporal punishments which may remain after a sin is already forgiven.  There is no indulgence for a sin not yet forgiven.  That being said, if Matthew 16:18-19 be true, then St. Peter (and those who were "sent out" as his successors, more on that in a bit) has the authority not only to bind on Earth, which also binds in Heaven, but to loose on Earth which also looses in Heaven.  That which he looses is infallibly loosed - as an erroneous (or fallible) loosing cannot be loosed in Heaven.  Thus, when a pope decrees the temporal punishments are loosed (an indulgence) it MUST be so and has scriptural foundation.  White is simply wrong here (again) and misrepresents Catholicism (again) on this matter.
b) No such thing as a sacramental priesthood?  Let us remind the reader, and especially White, the definition of a a sacrament.  A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give/gain grace (grace = God's life in us).  So, with that in mind let us look at the sacramental initiation of the priesthood as it relates to the forgiveness of sins (we could also mention the sacramental initiation of the Eucharist, but this topic is on forgiveness, so let's stick with that example.  The "outward sign" is the actual forgiving of the sins.  Forgiving of sins is a means of grace.  In John 20:21-23, Jesus breathes upon them, The 12, and says to them:
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)
So, this 1) sending and 2) receiving the Holy Spirit and 3) authority to forgive sins - was "instituted by Christ."  So, this "priesthood" (we also call Holy Orders) most definitely fits the definition of a sacrament - and quite clearly contains the authority to forgive sins.  Keep in mind, as He (Jesus) was sent out, He was sending them out - therefore they too, necessarily, needed to send others out with that same authority with which they were sent out.  White is simply wrong, again, in saying this is "unbiblical."

Back to the program...

3) "You didn't have venial v. mortal sins."  Really?  Again, White is wrong because this is clearly a scriptural teaching in 1 John 5:16-17 - 
16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
So there is a sin which leads to death (aka: mortal) and a sin which does not lead to death (aka: venial).  It cannot be more clear that White is again wrong in his statement on this.  

4) "What has this to do with Christianity?  Absolutely, positively, nothing at all.  It's as far removed from the Christian faith as can be.  See, once you abandon the standard which Jesus gave us, to test human traditions by what is written in Scripture, once you're convinced that doesn't work."  Really?  Even though the "Christian Scriptures" precisely teach that which White precisely rejects?  I have already demonstrated the scriptural foundation of these traditions.   The objective reader can surely see who is not presenting Christianity here!

5) Minutes 10-12 - Apostolic succession - too many vague, uncited allegations to answer to at this time, but virtually all, if not all, have been answering in the past.

6) I want to thank a Roman Catholic apologist.  Scott Eric Alt published an article on February 9, 2016, stating we (Catholic apologists) need to stop saying there are 33,000 denominations.  Alt goes on to say, "there are not, not even close to, 33,000 denominations.  Well, OK, but White represents this as if no other Catholic apologist has said this, to him or elsewhere, in the past.  This, again, is simply not true!  In 2011 I responded to White's attack on the Vortex - dispelling the myth of the 33,000.  In 2010 I presented the actual source of the 33,000 number - from Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001.  That 2010 article was actually a reposting of an article I had posted in 2007 on the Locutus Webboard (that webboard was taken down due to security issues it posed on our web server, fortunately I had snagged the article before it was taken down).  I will repost the pertinent facts from the 2007 article:


Mega-bloc.......... | Denominations in 1995.. | Countries

Roman Catholic...| 239 ...............................| 234 (dividing it out, that's a statistical "1")

Orthodox............| 764 ..................................|133  (statistical = 6)

Protestant ..........| 8848 ...............................| 231  (statistical = 38)

Anglicans ...........| 168 .................................| 162 (statistical = 1)

Marginal ............| 1488 ................................| 215 (statistical = 7)

Independent ......| 21,582 ............................| 220 (statistical = 98)

Total .................| 33,089 ..............................| 237  (statistical = 140)

(David A. Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001, p 12)
(The "statistical" statements in parentheses were added by me, and I used Barrett's math.)
So, that's where the "33,000" figure came from.  It INCLUDES Catholics in the numbering of Christians, but using the editor's own math, Catholicism is a statistical "1" whereas Protestants are "38" groups, then add in the "98" independents then the Anglicans and Marginal and you can see the dividing of the Body of Christ - which is contrary to His Will.  That's 144 "denominattions" yet it is His Will is that we are to be One, just as He and the Father are One - and we WERE One, for over 1000 years when Orthodoxy split with Catholicism, and it would be another 500 years later that Protestantism would be born and further splits would be made from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Who else has corrected White on this faux pas? 

2004:  Dave Armstrong (in this Dave refers to a response he and Al Kresta wrote back in 2000, but that link is no longer valid:  https://web.archive.org/web/20041128195553/http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004_08_29_socrates58_archive.html#109434258447719839

2005: We had a similar discussion in CDF (Catholic Debate Forum) with no relation to White and Co.   https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/catholicdebateforum/conversations/messages/6378 (you have to follow the thread, but Barrett's "facts" come in too).

2007:  Phil Vaz http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/a106.htm

White's original article, in 2007, to which my article was a response:  http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2007/08/22/the-33000-denominations-myth/ 

2007: Steve Ray responds to White's article:  http://www.catholic-convert.com/blog/2007/08/27/look-for-yourself-how-many-denominations/

2007: Scott Windsor responds to White on Locutus Webboard and while that link is no longer available, that same article was posted here in 2010:   http://cathapol.blogspot.com/2012/08/white-lies.html  Here (in 2007), I reference that (again, no longer available) article from Locutus:  https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/catholicdebateforum/conversations/messages/19192

2011:  Scott Windsor responds:  http://cathapol.blogspot.com/2011/12/white-on-vortex.html

2014:  Benjamin Baxter: http://www.catholiclane.com/the-bad-evangelist-club-33000-denominations/

2016:  Scott Eric Alt:  http://www.ncregister.com/blog/scottericalt/we-need-to-stop-saying-that-there-are-33000-protestant-denominations

2016:  Dave Armstrong, recalling his 2004 response to White on the subject:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2016/2/33000-denominations-thankful-james-white.html

Well, there are others, but this list should suffice to say that White has been shown, by several other Catholic apologists that a) the 33,000 number is not a lie; and b) many times before Alt's article from earlier this year. The bottom line is Barrett's numbers "denominate" by country, which is not the way most, if any, of us look at denominations.  Barrett says there are 239 Catholic "denominations" - but counts 234 countries - I'm not sure where he gets the other 5, but dividing it out - that's 1 denomination.  Protestants, on the other hand, are up to 144 - and ANY number greater than ONE is outside of God's Will for His Church - for HE desires that we be ONE, just as He and the Father are One (John 17:21).

7) Infallibility?  Well, he (like John Bugay) misrepresents or at best ridicules papal infallibility at a level indicating he really doesn't "get it" and since I just wrote a whole article on that (click here) I'll not repeat myself again just now.

8) Caller "Luke," whom he claims Catholic apologists are aggressively pursuing, calls in and basically takes up the rest of the show.  Well, THIS Catholic apologist is not actively pursuing Luke so I will not belabor those points here and now.  If Luke wishes to have a discussion with me, public or private, he can contact me.  Here's my email:  bigscott@a2z.org

If you would like to listen to or watch the Dividing Line webcast, in its entirety, on Youtube:

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