Friday, May 27, 2005

The rise and fall of James White

The Evangelical world has been rocked from top to bottom these last few days by shocking revelations of Dr. White’s hitherto undisclosed background. This began when the legendary Art Sippo, of Hitmen-R-Us, broke the following story:

“Mr. White is an ignorant bigot who has no academic credentials. He was raised by bigots to be a bigot and would parade around in a white sheet burning crosses on people's lawns if there was any money in it.”

Still reeling from this exposé, Dr. White’s ministry faces yet another body blow, for Sippo has now been tipped off by an anonymous source (a regular informant for Newsweek and 60 Minutes II) that Dr. White has a cousin twice-removed who was once caught trying to sneak 16 items through the express checkout stand, although the sign clearly said "15 items or less"!

And as I write this, yet another sensational detail is just coming over the newswires. According to preliminary reports, Dr. White’s late great Aunt Sue-Ella (as reported by the AP, although Reuters gives her name as Ella-Sue) may have taken two peanut butter cookies (yes, you heard me right, that’s “two” cookies!) back in Sunday school when Teacher wasn’t looking, even though Teacher, when she passed the plate around, told the students in no uncertain terms that they were only allowed “one” cookie each.

Geraldo Rivera has been dispatched by Fox News to interview the surviving eyewitnesses—who were between 5-6 years old at the time, but currently reside in various nursing homes due to end-stage senile dementia.

Although Teacher is long since deceased, her estate is demanding reparations from Alpha & Omega ministries for the pilfered cookie, and Nancy Pelosi has called for a Congressional investigation to look into the escalating scandal of Cookiegate.

15 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. LOL.

    I'm Catholic, but this was a funny post.

    I think polemical and/or personal attacks mar apologetics. On either side.

    And, yes, they happen on both sides. Far too often, IMHO.

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  3. Very humorous Steve!

    It's impossible to take Sippo seriously when so frequently he demonstrates himself (through such emotionally laden tirades) to be little more than a hopeless obscurantist.

    I think he has mistaken his M.D. for a Ph.D. in a theological discipline, which gives him some standing apparently to speak [emphasize - dogmatically] for Christ's "one true Church."

    If you're looking for more grist for your sarcastic mill - go over to Amazon and read some of Sippo's "reviews" of scholarly works (e.g., Oden's "Justification Reader," Garlington's commentary on Galatians, et al).

    Perhaps the theological pontification of a physician unlearned in theology is slightly more seemly than when it is practiced by either a handmaiden or locksmith (no offense intended to either of those priestly endeavors) - but not by much!

    Später!

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  4. Jason, on a serious note--why don't you do us all a favor and tell us what Catholic apologists you do generally recommend.

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  5. Steve,

    I appreciate most of the "usual suspects". They have undertaken a much needed task, and for the most part, have done so valiantly. But I do have grievances with the apologetics community as a whole. I think, very often, it is characterized by tension between brothers, when there doesn't need to be any.

    Although ecumenism is a distinct endeavor from apologetics, I think it needs to penetrate the hearts of apologists. I'm all for serious discussion about our differences, but I really hate the "debate" format. There needs to be a dialogue of truth. It's not about "winning" an argument. It's about serious exchange of ideas, and respect for one another, as persons first.

    Pride is a very real temptation in apologetics. The exchange of ideas can easily degenerate into a battle of persuasion. I must beat you, rather than dialogue with you.

    But, my favorite Catholic author, who was an apologist of sorts, is Frank Sheed. Among modern men, I really respect Father Mitch Pacwa, although he's not really an "apologist", though he does delve into it occasionaly. I think the Catholic apologetics community can learn a lot from his firm, but gentle, approach to things. Peter Kreeft is another favorite of mine.

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  7. I agree, Pacwa is an admirable gentleman. James W. would agree too I think.

    Of course, he still only represents one potential reading/understanding of "Catholicism" - which most members of that particular community naively take to be "normative" or “regular” or “true” Catholicism since they don't seem to understand the innate constraints of language itself or our ability (or lack thereof) to precisely interpret written, verbal, or nonverbal communication (and yes this includes the communicative actions of the so-called Magisterium) as finite & sinful communicative agents. Therefore, these folks usually end up condemning those other Catholics (who have a different understanding of Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxy) as not “true” Catholics or as somehow not “faithfully” representing the Magisterium of the Church (which presumably they themselves have unmediated access to).

    I had a dialogue (I’m using this term loosely) with a RC apologist who seemed to think that words were univocal – and he appealed to the operator “dog” in an attempt to make his point – but of course even this term has a certain fluidity to it, especially when the referent can be a human at times!

    :-)

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  8. Der,

    The use of logic generally allows us to understand what someone is saying. For the most part, Catholic teaching is plain as day. This is not to say difficulties, or ambiguities, do not occur. But they are relatively few and far between.

    An oft cited example is the question of inspiration. The Second Vatican Council's document on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, says everything asserted by the sacred authors is asserted by God himself. Thus, it would be a breach of logic to conclude that only some assertions are inspired by God. "Everything" cannot at the same time be "something".

    Speculative theology goes beyond a basic teaching of the Church, and explores various aspects. This has its place in the Church, because, as you probably know, the formulation of doctrine is a gradual process.

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  9. Jason,

    I believe that you are sincerely convinced that Catholic teaching is "plain as day," (to you and supposedly everyone else) and I suspect that your confidence in this regard is due primarily to 1) a basic unfamiliarity with alternative Catholic understandings which most likely would cause you to state the matter with less certainty (the problem here though is that you would no doubt regard such people who don't conform to the standards of you and your own particular Catholic community as "true" or "faithful" Catholics - hence the influences that your community has on your own understanding tends to be somewhat blinding and you inevitably end up conflating your own reading/understanding of Catholicism with the "true" reading/understanding of Catholic teaching while dismissing alternative readings/understandings as "unorthodox" or as somehow "less than truly Catholic"); 2) reinforcement of your beliefs based on the fact that members of your own particular interpretive community share a similar reading/understanding of Catholic teaching (hence you feel that you can derive a greater sense of objectivity from this shared understanding), 3) an apparent unawareness that words are equivocal (that would include the term "everything" - a word that can have multiple senses - e.g., it can be used distributively so that it connotes "everything" without regard to kind or type [in which case it would not denote all things without exception], or "everything" without exception [which can clearly carry a universal sense] - and it can carry other shades of meaning that can dramatically affect meaning as well. The original contextual setting [on multiple levels] affects meaning to be sure, but so does the particular pre-understandings that you bring to the communicative endeavor), 4) building on the previous point - a seeming unawareness of the essential role that your own interpretive pre-commitments play as you read Catholic teachings (such as your own a priori epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical commitments to put the matter broadly), 5) the assumption that "the use of logic" is somehow able to overcome the relative indeterminancy of language, the noetic effects of sin, and the innate limitations all of us share as finite communicative agents.

    All of these points I’ve raised are problematic on multiple fronts. I suspect that if you were raised and immersed in a more progressive diocese for example or even in a different culture, I think you might see things a bit (and perhaps dramatically) differently, particularly with regard to the alleged perspicuity of Catholic teaching.

    The basic point of all this is that having an alleged infallible head and teaching magisterium doesn't really solve the basic epistemological dilemma all of us face - every communicative action (and that includes not only the CCC but every subsequent explication of it) requires individual interpretation and that interpretation is subject to the basic constraints of language itself and the constraints that you bring to the interpretive endeavor – all of which inescapably affects at the particular understanding you arrive at.

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  10. Der,

    I suppose our differences lie in in a basic conception of logic. Catholicism places a very high premium on the role of reason in human thought.

    It's possible that everything you just wrote really means "I like Ice Cream, because I'm a martian from Albuquerque." But reason allows me to understand the context of thought and language, and apply it accurately.

    And I agree that faith requires an excercise of fallible judgement. I don't "know" that Christ existed, let alone that he is God. I must exercise my reason to bring all the facts together, and decide whether or not I will take a leap of faith, and accept what logic tells me (ultimately limited though it may be). As I said, Catholics trusts the faculties of reason to deduce with moral certainty the context of thought and language.

    I feel like your objections are like the claims made by skepticists who deny that man can know he even exists. As they say, you gotta believe what your lyin' eyes tell you. :)

    But I think you bring up valid points. I disagree with them, but I completely understand your objections.

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  11. Jason said:

    << An oft cited example is the question of inspiration. The Second Vatican Council's document on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, says everything asserted by the sacred authors is asserted by God himself. Thus, it would be a breach of logic to conclude that only some assertions are inspired by God. "Everything" cannot at the same time be "something". >>

    Sorry, Jason, but you’re dead wrong on several counts:

    i) You are paying insufficient attention to the exact wording. Vatican II draws a subtle, but strategic distinction here. Note carefully what it does and does not say. It doesn’t say that everything written by the Bible writers was inspired. Rather, it says that everything “asserted” or “affirmed” by the Bible writers was asserted/affirmed by God himself. Notice the loophole: not everything that was written was asserted or affirmed.

    “Everything” only extends to everything that was “asserted or “affirmed,” not everything which was not asserted or affirmed.

    ii) You are also disregarding what follows. But what follows is epexegetical of the general, preceding statement: “"Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation."

    The point of the next clause is to spell out the precise force of the preceding clause.

    So much for the wording of the text. There are to other ways of determining original intent.

    iii) There is the prehistory of debate leading up to this statement. The Council was prepared to reaffirm the traditional magisterial teaching of the church on the plenary inspiration of Scripture until Cardinal Koenig rose up and spoke out against that proposition. He cited three proven errors in Scripture: the misidentification in Mk 2:26 (cf. 1 Sam 21:1ff.), the misquotation in Mt 27:9 (cf. Zech 11:12f.) and the erroneous chronology of Dan 1:1. That was sufficient to sway the Council against reaffirming the plenary inspiration of Scripture. Instead, it limited the scope of inspiration to saving articles of the faith.

    You can read the record of the debate in:
    Vorgrimler, H., ed. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Herder & Herder, 1969), 3:205-206.

    I won’t take the time to comment on these alleged “errors.” The immediate point is that this represents the “original intent” behind the restrictive wording.

    iv) Then there is the post-conciliar history of debate. If you read top theologians like the late Karl Rahner, top Catholic Bible scholars like Ray Brown, Roland Murphy, Murphy-O’Connor, Luke Johnson, and Joseph Fitzmyer--to name a few--as well as top cardinals like Kasper and Ratzinger--not to mention the late John-Paul II, it doesn’t take long to discover that the do regard the historical claims of Scripture as erroneous in many respects. Ratzinger himself has told the traditionalist wing that the magisterium is not going to turn the clock back to the days of Pius IX and Leo XIII. If you want to know how the magiserium interprets Vatican II, just look at what it tolerates and actively sanctions.

    Now, why is this liberal view of Scripture allowed? And where is it coming from? From Vatican II, clearly. For if Vatican II had reaffirmed the traditional magisterial teaching on the plenary inspiration of Scripture, then limited inerrancy would never be permitted to carry the day in mainstream Catholic Bible scholarship. Really, Jason, it could hardly be more obvious. Open your eyes!

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  12. Note carefully what it does and does not say. It doesn’t say that everything written by the Bible writers was inspired. Rather, it says that everything “asserted” or “affirmed” by the Bible writers was asserted/affirmed by God himself. Notice the loophole: not everything that was written was asserted or affirmed.

    Of course not everything that was written was asserting or affirming it. This is manifestly true when it comes to quotes. Just because the Sacred author records what someone says, doesn't mean he is agreeing or affirming it. There is no controversy here. How can something not asserted be inspired?

    as well as top cardinals like Kasper and Ratzinger--not to mention the late John-Paul II, it doesn’t take long to discover that the do regard the historical claims of Scripture as erroneous in many respects.

    They sure had a funny way of showing it. Among the dogmatic truths of the Catholic faith, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith included:

    "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM

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  13. I've heard that James White redistributed a videocassette of a Diamondbacks game without having first obtained the express written consent of Major League Baseball.

    Also, rumor has it that he has driven 60mph on a 55mph highway.

    What a moralistic hypocrite he is!

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  14. Jason said:
    << Of course not everything that was written was asserting or affirming it. This is manifestly true when it comes to quotes. Just because the Sacred author records what someone says, doesn't mean he is agreeing or affirming it. There is no controversy here. How can something not asserted be inspired? >>

    i) In that event, you are restricting the range of "everything." So you've quietly conceded my interpretation without openly admitting so.

    ii) And so your own version of limited inerrancy only differs, if at all, from a Brown or Fitzmyer or Kasper as a matter of degree. They would simply extend your distinction by denying that the Bible writers (and thus, God himself) assert or affirm the creation account, or the flood, or the Exodus, or the words of Jesus, or the miracles of Jesus, or the prophecies Isaiah and Daniel, or whatever they wish to disbelieve.

    iii) You are also drawing a false antithesis between assertion and inspiration. Everything can be inspired in the sense that the Scriptural record of everything said and done can be inspired. The writer or narrator can be fully inspired whether or not every speaker recorded in the narrative is inspired.

    Jason said:
    << They sure had a funny way of showing it. Among the dogmatic truths of the Catholic faith, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith included:

    "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts." >>

    i) Once again, you're choosing to disregard the loophole in magisterial teaching: the absence of error relative to what? To whatever is deemed to have been affirmed or asserted, which allows for any amount of error in which it deems to fall outside the domain of what was affirmed or asserted. So this is an empty norm since it all depends on how the distinction is applied, and vast latitude is allowed in its application.

    ii) You also have a bad habit of quoting these programmatic statements from the magisterium without bothering to compare what they say with what they do. If you want to know what the statements mean, see how they are carried out in actual practice. Whether that's faithful to original intent, what they're taken to mean in the day-to-day business of the church is what counts.

    iii) Merely citing a passage from a commentary on the profession of faith does absolutely nothing at all to explain away the very specific examples I and others (e.g., Steve Jackson) have given of how top scholars and theologians and cardinals and even the Pope do, in fact, attribute error to Scripture. By retreating into these convenient abstractions, you are turning a blind eye to your own tradition in action.

    So, yes, Jason, if the Magisterium really believed in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, it sure has a funny way of showing it.

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  15. Der Fuersprecher:

    You should have told your univocal friend, "That example is a dog, but I'm dog-tired and can't dog your argument to its dog-gone conclusion -- and my wife wants me to walk the dog.

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