Answering James White

Various Replies from the Catholic Answers Boards (c. 2004 - 2010)

Answering James White: Replies from the Catholic Answers Boards

Various Answers to James White and 'Alpha and Omega Ministries' Arguments Against Catholicism.... 

The words following claim <<    >> are various paraphrases of White's anti-Catholic objections, claims, or questions from his books or debates or blog posts, etc.

On Peter and the Early Papacy

On Sola Scriptura, Sacred Tradition, and the Early Church

On the Eucharist and Transubstantiation

On Infallibility and Certainty (the 'fallible decision' to 'follow Rome')


White's Papacy arguments

claim << James White's historical case against the Papacy. It says the Church's teaching contradicts the idea of a development in dogma (in pre-Vatican II conciliar and papal teaching) and that it's a historical fact that the early fathers didn't interpret Mt 16 as the Church says the Church has always understood it. I read this "always" language all over in Trent, about Original sin and Confession, Rom. 5:12 and John 20:23, yet I don't think we find any pre-Augustine consensus or even examples in the interpretation of those passages in the way the Church interprets them. I'd like to know how we are to understand the magisterial and church fathers' teachings and respond to this challenge. Here's White's case put briefly, watch only if you think you can reasonably respond, otherwise you're wasting your time and endangering your faith for no reason. >>

(video debate excerpt, James White vs. Fr. Mitch Pacwa from 1998)

White's Papacy arguments

I have that 1998 Pacwa debate, have listened to it dozens of times. I have all of White's debates on the Papacy going back to 1990, have listened to those dozens of times. Just so you know, White's arguments are nothing new. I discovered this many years ago when examining his anti-Papacy claims. All of his historical arguments against the Papacy (and most of his biblical ones) were presented much stronger and in more detail in the past by noted Anglican Protestant scholars, and replied to in great detail by English Catholic scholars. The quotes from "Launoy" and "Maldonatus" (for example) were taken from Salmon (1888). The material on St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, Pope Honorius and the rest all show up in the Anglican controversialists of years ago, and were replied to vigorously from the Catholic side.

Roman Catholic Claims (pdf) by Charles Gore (1889, 2nd edition)
Bishop Gore and the Catholic Claims (pdf) a reply to a later edition (1905) by Dom John Chapman
Authority: A Plain Reason for Joining the Church of Rome (pdf) reply by Luke Rivington (1890, sixth edition) or his letter to Gore titled "Dust" (1888).

Both Chapman and Rivington are converts from Anglicanism who have practically memorized the early Fathers in Greek and Latin.

Plain Reasons Against Joining the Church of Rome (pdf) by Littledale
Catholic Controversy, a reply to Littledale (pdf)

The Infallibility of the Church, A Refutation (pdf) by George Salmon
The Church and Infallibility, a Reply to the "Abridged" Salmon by B.C. Butler (typing this one in as HTML)

The Pope and the Council (pdf) by "Janus"
Anti-Janus: A Reply to "The Pope and the Council" (pdf)

Also The First Eight General Councils and Papal Infallibility (pdf) by Dom John Chapman

other important books of the time:

St. Peter, His Name and His Office (pdf) by Thomas Allies
Studies on the Early Papacy by Dom John Chapman (HTML edited by me)
The Primitive Church and the See of Peter (pdf) by Luke Rivington (trying to get this into HTML format also)

Most of these are available thru Google Books online, but I trimmed off the excess in the PDFs. Good stuff. Forget White and go to the best arguments which were had 100 to 150 years ago in England. White's debates and books (Answers to Catholic Claims, The RC Controversy) and even Steve Ray's popular book (Upon This Rock) are pale comparisons to the scholarship in the Anglican-Catholic fights of long ago. But both White and Ray are good introductions to this material. BTW, I don't think Fr. Pacwa did that poorly in the debate, but he doesn't spend the time to reply to all of White's historical objections. Books are much better for this purpose.

Catechism on Matthew 16

Another point to make is the Catechism itself recognizes several interpretations of Matthew 16 (something I wrote elsewhere in response to James G. McCarthy) :

"The literal interpretation is that Simon alone is the rock of Christ's Church, the Church is built on Peter personally (CCC 881, 586, 552). However, the Catechism also notes that Peter is the unshakeable rock because of his faith in Christ (CCC 552); that the acknowledgement of Christ's divine sonship is the Church's foundation (CCC 442); on the rock of Peter's faith Christ built His Church (CCC 424); and Christ Himself as rock and 'chief cornerstone' (1 Peter 2:4ff; 1 Cor 10:4; Eph 2:20) is the foundation (CCC 756)."

Does the Catechism contradict Vatican Council I? I don't think so. Neither do the Fathers, and they also recognized the primacy of Rome early on.

claim << and that [according to James White] it's a historical fact that the early fathers didn't interpret Mt 16 as the Church says the Church has always understood it.... >>

BTW, you won't have every Father giving every aspect of Vatican I teaching in the early centuries. What you will find, and is all we can expect to find, is that various aspects of the teaching on the Papacy can be found in all the Fathers. These are:

  • Peter is the Rock based on Matt 16:18
  • Peter has a special "binding and loosing" and "keys of the kingdom" authority based on Matt 16:19
  • Peter had a primacy and headship among the apostles (e.g. Luke 22:31f; John 21:15ff; beginning of Acts, etc)
  • Peter's successors, the Popes, inherit Peter's primacy, authority, and headship based on Matt 16:19; Isa 22:22 (e.g. St. Clement of Rome, St. Irenaeus, etc)
  • Rome is the "seat" of Peter's Apostolic authority, is the center of Christendom, and was called simply the "Apostolic See" since that's where St. Peter (and St. Paul) finished their ministry (e.g. Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprian, etc)
  • When Rome has spoken, the case is closed (or the cause is finished, St. Augustine, and the rest, etc)

Now do we need quotes from the Fathers for these points? They are available even if Fr. Pacwa didn't provide them all.

BTW, wanted to add to this thread a bit. I mentioned one of White's "Catholic" sources is a French scholar "Launoy" who he quotes from Salmon's anti-Catholic Anglican book.

Who is this Launoy? Fr. Rivington tells us in his Authority: A Plain Reason for Joining the Church of Rome (pdf, 1888), page 35, in response to "Roman Catholic Claims" (by Anglican bishop Charles Gore, who also uses him):

"Now who is this Launoy, this 'learned French divine,' whose investigations are given as sufficient to absolve others from going to the Fathers first-hand? Launoy was a writer of most equivocal reputation. Almost all his books were placed on the Index [of Forbidden Books]. He was committed to various errors on predestination and grace, besides his opposition to the Papacy. His Monday conferences became such a hotbed of democratic and anarchical theories that they were closed by royal order. He is accused of altering writers in quoting them with 'an incredible shamelessness.' He was an adherent of Richer, who, however, retracted his erroneous teaching concerning the sucession of S. Peter (which ought to have been mentioned in the 'Roman Question,' p. 33). What authority, therefore, can a man like Launoy be on such a question as this? He is certainly wrong in this particular instance; for not seventeen of the Fathers, as Launoy says, but upwards of thirty in the first five centuries, tell us that the rock or foundation on which Christ built His Church was Peter." (Rivington, Authority, page 35)

White's "Catholic" sources "Launoy" and "Maldonatus" are also dealt with in B.C. Butler's reply to Salmon found here....

claim << ...Wouldn't you agree that most of the times people pull out; Ireneaus, Clement, Hermas, and Ignatius and try to force an early papacy that it is a disservice to those writers? >>

I agree the earliest Fathers can be argued in various ways, we just don't have a lot of information from the pre-Nicene Church. That's what all those PDF books with debates between Anglicans and Catholics on the Papacy are mainly about. But the same can be said for the Trinity. Modern Arians (or Unitarians) dispute with Trinitarians using the Fathers (and the Bible). Show me "Three Divine Persons" or "Trinity" or "of one substance, nature, or essence" in Clement, Hermas, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, or the New Testament for that matter.

It is not until Tertullian (c. 200+ AD) and some later writers where you start getting the explicit Trinitarian terms and theology and distinctions of "nature" and "persons" and "of one substance."

And I think the biblical arguments for the Papacy are good enough, just as I think the biblical arguments for the Trinity are good enough. There might be more quantitatively in the Bible about the "Trinity" than about the "Papacy" because there is probably more in the Bible about God and Jesus than about St. Peter.

There is not much about the Papacy "in Rome" in the New Testament since St. Peter (and St. Paul) probably only ended up there at their deaths. The Papacy is not absolutely tied to any city, otherwise when the Papacy left Rome for Avignon (France) for about 100 years, the Papacy ceased to exist. It is tied to St. Peter in his person as selected by Jesus, and his successor, which happened to be the bishop of Rome. Could have been another city, but St. Peter wound up in Rome (1 Peter 5:13) passing on his authority to Linus according to the ancient lists. Philip Schaff admits:

"It must in justice be admitted, however, that the list of Roman bishops has by far the preminence in age, completeness, integrity of succession, consistency of doctrine and policy, above every similar catalogue, not excepting those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople...." (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, volume 2, page 166)

The succession list of bishops in the apostolic see of Rome of the first two centuries as provided by Schaff (volume 2, page 166) is --

  • St. Peter (d. 64 or 67)
  • St. Linus (67-76)
  • St. Anacletus (76-88)
  • St. Clement I (88-97)
  • St. Evaristus (97-105)
  • St. Alexander I (105-115)
  • St. Sixtus I (115-125)
  • St. Telesphorus (125-136)
  • St. Hyginus (136-140)
  • St. Pius I (140-155)
  • St. Anicetus (155-166)
  • St. Soter (166-175)
  • St. Eleutherius (175-189)
  • St. Victor I (189-199)

St. Irenaeus (c. 180 AD) has this same list, as does St. Hegesippus (as cited by Eusebius) a few decades earlier.

More from Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Eerdmans, 1910) --

"Rome was the battle-field of orthodoxy and heresy, and a resort of all sects and parties. It attracted from every direction what was true and false in philosophy and religion. Ignatius rejoiced in the prospect of suffering for Christ in the centre of the world; Polycarp repaired hither to settle with Anicetus the paschal controversy; Justin Martyr presented there his defense of Christianity to the emperors, and laid down for it his life; Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian conceded to that church a position of singular pre-eminence. Rome was equally sought as a commanding position by heretics and theosophic jugglers, as Simon Magus, Valentine, Marcion, Cerdo, and a host of others. No wonder, then, that the bishops of Rome at an early date were looked upon as metropolitan pastors, and spoke and acted accordingly with an air of authority which reached far beyond their immediate diocese." (Schaff, volume 2, page 157)

On St. Clement of Rome (c. 96 AD), reckoned as the fourth Pope from St. Peter, Schaff states --

" can hardly be denied that the document [Clement to the Corinthians] reveals the sense of a certain superiority over all ordinary congregations. The Roman church here, without being asked (as far as appears), gives advice, with superior administrative wisdom, to an important church in the East, dispatches messengers to her, and exhorts her to order and unity in a tone of calm dignity and authority, as the organ of God and the Holy Spirit. This is all the more surprising if St. John, as is probable, was then still living in Ephesus, which was nearer to Corinth than Rome." (Schaff, volume 2, page 158)

[Schaff it should be noted, is an anti-Catholic and 'hostile' source to Catholicism, and popular among Reformed/Presbyterians, but at least as a 19th century historian will admit this much....]

The Papacy....James White 

claim << Where can I find on-line the best refutation of James White's contention that The Papacy is a human invention, unheard of in the early Church? What are the flaws in his arguments? >>

James White on the Papacy

I'll summarize his "best" arguments as follows (off the top of my head), with links to some of my articles:

  1. Peter is not the rock of Matthew 16:18 (or this one by Sungenis/Palm)
  2. The "keys" of Matthew 16:19 were given to all the apostles (i.e. Matthew 18:18), so no special authority for Peter
  3. The "key" of Isaiah 22 relates to Jesus only (Revelation 3:7) not to Peter as the "prime minister" or "chief steward", and the plural keys vs. key makes a huge difference
  4. Peter doesn't "act" like a Pope in the Book of Acts or elsewhere (these are dealt with in any of Dave Armstrong's articles on the Papacy)
  5. Peter said he was just a "fellow elder [or presbyter]" (1 Peter 5:1)
  6. There was a "plurality of elders" in Rome until c. 150 AD (an answer to this historical question below, responding to JND Kelly)
  7. The "primacy of Rome" wasn't clear in the early centuries (or this long one by Mark Bonocore)
  8. St. Cyprian didn't teach the Papacy (dispute with Pope Stephen)
  9. St. Augustine didn't teach the Papacy (meaning of "Rome has spoken..." and Pope Zosimus)
  10. St. John Chrysostom said the rock was Peter's confession
  11. The Council of Nicaea (325 AD) didn't believe in a Papacy (e.g. Canon 6)
  12. The Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) didn't believe in a Papacy (e.g. Canon 28)
  13. Of course the anti-infallibility arguments on Pope Honorius and Monothelitism
  14. The alleged and dreaded "The Peter Syndrome" (or here by Mark Bonocore)
    Also demolished and obliterated by John Chapman's articles on St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, etc.

Arguments White used to rely on (back in 1990-91, see his Answers to Catholic Claims) which he has since abandoned:

From The Roman Catholic Controversy:

"If we find that the Church has not always understood this doctrine as Rome now defines it, and that the modern Roman Catholic doctrine of the Papacy is the result of centuries of theological and political development, we find an obvious and glaring error in an allegedly infallible pronouncement. And if the claim that the Papacy is the ancient and constant faith of the Church is in error, what other claims of Rome are likewise contradicted by the historical evidence?" (The Roman Catholic Controversy, page 106)

"In light of the testimony of the entire New Testament, the Roman apologist must be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the few passages to which he appeals prove the establishment of the Papacy. We cannot accept the mere possibility that the Roman position is correct. Given the absence of the Papacy from all the rest of the New Testament, the few passages cited by Roman apologists such at Matthew 16 and John 21 must plainly and unequivocally establish Petrine primacy and succession in the office of the Pope. But do these passages accomplish this?" (The Roman Catholic Controversy, page 113)

Classic White. Most of this book comes straight from his formal debates. White assumes that "ancient and constant faith of the Church" (from Vatican I definition) means:

  1. every Church Father must interpret Matthew 16 to apply to Peter alone as rock [the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't even do that], and to his successors as bishops of Rome (he quotes old studies by Jesuit scholars "Launoy" and "Maldonatus" who he gets from George Salmon's anti-infallibility book, i.e. no original research here, and no checking of his sources, etc)
  2. there cannot be any doctrinal development (i.e. he rejects Cardinal Newman's argument, and St. Vincent of Lerins statement of same in the 5th century, etc)

A and B is what he argues in his past debates, and presses his opponent to show (for example) St. Clement of Rome in c. 95 AD had the explicit Vatican I definition of papal infallibility in mind.

He does use the phrase "vicar of Christ on earth" a lot, a phrase I don't think is found a lot in Vatican definitions. Although the Pope is known as the "vicar of Christ" meaning representative, as we all are (2 Cor 5:20 "we are Christ's representatives" or ambassadors), the apostles and St. Peter in a greater sense in Catholic teaching (Matthew 16; John 21). Most of his objections are wrong or answerable. Any of them I missed? Pat Madrid's book Pope Fiction covers all these as well. Other arguments such as "fallible decision to follow Rome" answered by B.C. Butler's reply to George Salmon. Yep it was all dealt with in better arguments from the Anglicans of 100 years ago: Salmon's Infallibility of the Church, R.F. Littledale's Plain Reasons Against Joining the Church of Rome, Charles Gore's Roman Catholic Claims, other Anglican authors in Edward Giles' Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, etc. Some of these are available as PDF from Google Books or your online used bookstore

The Roman Catholic Controversy 

claim << Does anyone know where I can find this, I'm guessing, terrible book on Roman Catholicism by James White. Someone brought it up in another forum and told me it has never been refuted by a Catholic apologist. I don't have the money to pay for it so I was wondering if there were any free chapters so I could at least show what is wrong in a single chapter. If someone has already refuted it, I can't find anything on it on this forum or website so I would love links to refutes. Thanks and God bless. >>


Oops, another James White thread I can't let pass by....

The book (The Roman Catholic Controversy, 1996) has been dealt with in here, since White's arguments from the book have been addressed. Basically the book is a re-statement of White's opening statements and some of his rebuttals from his formal debates pre-1996, e.g. Justification debate with Pacwa from 1991, Papacy debate 1993 with Matatics, various debates with Robert Fastiggi from 1994, sola scriptura debates with several apologists, Marian debates from mid 1990s, etc. If you listen to his debates pre-1996, you have heard (read) virtually the entire book.

The "fallible knowledge" argument is a re-statement of anti-Catholic Anglican George Salmon's "you must be infallible yourself to know the Church is infallible" answered by Cardinal Newman long ago. A distinction needs to be made between certainty (or Newman's "certitude"), infallibility, and faith. You can be certain 2+2 = 4 even though you may make mistakes in large addition sums. See B.C. Butler's reply to Salmon's argument here. It is very good.

Also the book by (convert) Henry Graham What Faith Really Means deals with "private judgment". It was also addressed by Phil Blosser in a chapter in Sungenis Not By Faith Alone on the philosophical / practical problems with sola scriptura. An early exchange I had on the book from my FidoNet days (1996 just when the book came out) is here on my site. White contributed, and I let them have the last say, but I made some good points. Many of White's objections to the Papacy have been addressed in numerous threads. You can do a search for White and Papacy, etc. I've listed all the past threads dealing with White several times (see for more).

As I've also mentioned, this stuff was dealt with in a lot more depth by the old Catholic vs. Anglican controversialists from the late 19th, early 20th century. White's stuff is fluff in comparison.

James White et al 

claim << Anyone out there read James White, self-announced authority on Catholicism. Have you heard some of his debates. He is a study in inaccuracy. He is of the opinion that, if the Catholic position were true, everyone would think and worship the same-as if that were anathema! ..... I have listened to and read a lot of his work. Can you give 2-3 examples where he is inaccurate? >>

Two James White errors on the Papacy

OK, two old errors :

The "Washington-Ajo" error on St. Jerome: "...[Jerome] asserts that the bishop of Rome is of the same worth as the bishop of any smaller city or province. All the bishops, Jerome claims, are the successors of the apostles. No mention is made of Peter, no mention is made of the unity of the church depending on Rome. Surely Jerome recognized the importance of the Roman See -- so did just about everyone else. But they did so for reasons that are other than those claimed by modern Romanism." (Answers to Catholic Claims [Crowne Publications, 1990], page 121)

Demolished here by John Chapman over 100 years ago.

The "Universal Bishop-Antichrist" error on Pope Gregory the Great: "Gregory likens anyone who would claim to be 'universal bishop' to Lucifer himself who attempted to raise his throne above the throne of God Himself (Isaiah 14). Would the modern claims of the papacy qualify for Gregory's ridicule? This author believes that they would." (Answers to Catholic Claims, page 122)

Answered here by Radio Replies, This Rock, etc on Gregory

And there is: "In fact, there is a good possibility that Peter did not go to Rome at all" (page 103), that "Babylon" might not be Rome (page 104).

To be fair, White hasn't used these since his Dec 1990 debate with Matatics on the Papacy. Webster still uses the "universal bishop" one (Roman Catholicism [Moody, 1994] and repeated in his more recent books/talks). There are others in that White book (Answers to Catholic Claims) that he still uses (Cyprian, Augustine, Chalcedon and Canon 28, etc) which are more differences of historical interpretation rather than blatant errors. I call the St. Jerome quote he used, the Pope Gregory and "universal bishop" quote, and the "Peter may not have been in Rome" blatant errors.

A question about the Early Church and James White 

claim << I must admit I made the mistake of listening to James White, in an interview, on a radio program. After the experience, my head hurt. He kept talking about the importance of speaking truth, and defending fact, and yet he made a wide range of factual errors. Since I find it difficult that, in his line of work, these haven't been pointed out to him, I must conclude that he has fallen into the post-modernism he accuses the Church of espousing. Nevertheless, during his rant, he made a couple of claims I can neither substantiate nor discredit. One of them was that the early Church in Rome did not have a single bishop until long after Christ's death (he give the date of about AD 150), and until then was lead by a group of elders. When a caller questioned this, he said 'every scholar, Catholic and Christian, agrees that this is true'. I cannot find this in Pelikan's work, nor in any of the other Church Histories I have, nor in the writings of the Church Fathers or Eusibeus. Where does this statement come from, and how does everyone know it is true? >>

The early Papacy and James White

claim << One of them was that the early Church in Rome did not have a single bishop until long after Christ's death >>

He gets this from JND Kelly, that there was a "plurality of presbyter-bishops" in Rome until about 150 AD or so:

"In the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. the tradition identified Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This was a natural development once the monarchical episcopate, i.e. government of the local church by a single bishop as distinct from a group of presbyter-bishops, finally emerged in Rome in the mid-2nd cent." (Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes, under "Peter" page 6)

also under "Linus"

"According to the earliest succession lists of bishops of Rome, passed down by Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 180) and Hegesippus (c. 160) and attested by the historian Eusebius (c. 260 - c. 340), he [Linus] was entrusted with his office by the Apostles Peter and Paul after they had established the Christian church in Rome. By this primitive reckoning he was therefore the first pope, but from the late 2nd or early 3rd cent the convention began of regarding St. Peter as first bishop. What Linus' actual functions and responsibilities were can only be guessed, for the monarchical or one-man, episcopate had not yet emerged in Rome. Irenaeus and Eusebius identified him with the Linus, who as a companion of St. Paul, sent greetings from Rome to Timothy in Ephesus (2 Tim 4:21)...." (Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes, page 6-7)

I quote the fuller context than White normally quotes in his debates (bold sentence). What JND Kelly is saying is you can't trust St. Irenaeus or St. Hegesippus, you have to trust critical scholarship that says there were no single bishops in Rome. The problem is that same critical scholarship says Matthew didn't write Matthew, and therefore cannot be trusted, etc. So its kind of a pick and choose scholarship. We'll trust Irenaeus on the Gospels, but reject his succession list of bishops of Rome. For a conservative Catholic response and defense of a Monarchical Bishop in Rome, see this long article by Mark Bonocore in reply to James White.

Back to topic, on the monarchical episcopate in Rome -- this depends on if you accept JND Kelly or St. Irenaeus:

"...that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere."

"The blessed apostles [Peter and Paul], then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles....

"To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth." (Against Heresies Book III, chapter 3)

JND Kelly says we shouldn't believe this list, nor should we accept Irenaeus when he says the Gospel of Matthew goes back to the Apostle.



sola scriptura dance 

claim << 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). 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 White's (W) debate with Matatics (M) the same year (the Great Debate II):

M: Did the people in Jesus' day practice sola scriptura? The hearers of our Lord, Yes or No, Mr. White.
W: 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.

Protestant Apologist 

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.

James White's "God Breathed" Argument 

claim << One of James White's arguments for sola scriptura is that in 2 Timothy 3:16 it refers to scripture as "God Breathed." and according to him, since the church, and sacred tradition, are not called God Breathed in scripture, therefore he concludes that only scripture is God Breathed. But the problem with this is that the church IS called God Breathed: "(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit." (John 20:21-22). Here we see Jesus (who is God) breathing on the disciples and commissioning them. It is at this point that we believe that the church officially began and christ is breathing into the apostles his own authority. >>

"God Breathed" Tradition

I've already quoted these:

"Contrary to persistent charges by Roman apologists, Protestant Evangelicals do affirm the binding authority of apostolic tradition as delivered by the apostles. What they preached and taught in the first century Church was authoritatively binding on the consciences of all Christians....To be sure, all special revelation given by God is authoritative and binding. There can be no doubt that the oral teaching of the apostles and their approved representatives was both (1 Thess 2:13)." (David King, Holy Scripture [2001] volume 1, page 55,145)

"Let it be stated as clearly as possible: Protestants do not deny that the oral teaching of the apostles was authoritative, inerrant truth, binding as a rule of faith on those who heard it....the apostolic message...was as inspired and infallible and true as Scripture itself....So the written words of Scripture are binding. Apostolic preaching was equally binding for those who heard it from the apostles' own mouths." (John MacArthur in Don Kistler Sola Scriptura!, page 171,178,182)

And more:

"The Old Testament believer was under the authority of the revealed word carried to the prophet by the Holy Spirit -- whether oral or written....the divinely revealed and therefore authoritative word is presented to the world through the spoken or written word of the Spirit-inspired prophet" (The Pattern of Religious Authority by Bernard Ramm [Eerdmans, 1965], page 27,28).

"Some New Testament documents were evidently designed from the outset to be written compositions, not substitutes for the spoken word. But in the lifetime of the apostles and their colleagues their spoken words and their written words were equally authoritative....The teaching and example of the Lord and his apostles, whether conveyed by word of mouth or in writing, had axiomatic authority for [the earliest Christians]...." (The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce [InterVarsity, 1988], page 118, 255).

So the oral preaching, oral teaching, oral tradition of the apostles was just as inspired, just as authoritative, just as much the Word of God as Scripture (cf. 1 Cor 2:4,7,13; 1 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19ff; 3:15f; 2 Tim 3:15ff; 2 Thess 2:15; etc). The argument from "sola scriptura" Evangelicals is not that this "oral teaching" is not God-breathed, but that we have:

  • somehow "lost" that oral apostolic tradition and/or cannot have access to it now
  • or it was completely subsumed into the written.

Material sufficiency partially agrees with this saying all doctrines are contained in Scripture (at least implicitly), but also all doctrines are contained in tradition.

material / formal distinction 

BTW, let me reply to David King a little bit from the, yeah I check that pretty much dead board occasionally. What I meant about "material sufficiency" being new to popular Catholic apologetics is true. Before 1993 I am not aware of popular apologists using this material/formal distinction. Folks like Fulton J. Sheen (apologist of the 1950s, 60s), Frank Sheed (Catholic Evidence Guild of the 1930s, 40s, 50s), the "Radio Replies" priests (of the 1930s, 40s), and even later Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism (1988) didn't use this "material" and "formal" sufficiency distinction in arguing with Protestants. The material/formal distinction was revived in popular apologetics first with that Oct 1993 issue of This Rock, and the Aug and Sept 1993 debates of Keating/Madrid, and Madrid vs. White.

I mentioned professional theologians (such as Congar in the 1960s) have made such distinctions (King brings up some theologian from an earlier period who said similar things). Cardinal Newman (who I call a professional theologian and historian) of the 19th century was also aware of such distinctions and affirmed a material sufficiency. But popular apologists (Sheed, Sheen, Keating, et al) of the 20th century as far as I'm aware did not use such language (until 1993).

Yves Congar on specific traditions in the Fathers

Since this is a "James White" thread:

White to me, claim: << So, don't you think it is rather odd that in all that verbiage, we can never find anyplace where Congar gives us the actual content of this wonderfully nebulous thing called "tradition"? >>

RESPONSE: From Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay (1967) by Yves M.-J. Congar, O.P. The content of the traditions mentioned by the Fathers are given in Chapter 2: "The Fathers and the Early Church" in Part (C) "Examples of Unwritten Apostolic Traditions cited by Catholic Writers", pages 50ff.

  • St. Irenaeus -- the paschal fast (Frag 3, Eusebius HE V:24;12-17, PG 7:1229ff), also in a footnote the custom of praying standing on Sundays and from Easter to Pentecost (PG 6:1364).
  • Tertullian -- rule against soldiers wearing the military wreath, by an ancient tradition (De Corona 3-4, PL 3:78); then he widens the question and gives further examples of unwritten traditions: the customs involved with baptism, eucharist, prayers/sacrifice for the dead, practices of fasting/kneeling, and the Sign: "Whatever we do, whether on a journey or just making a visit, coming in or going out, putting on our shoes, washing, sitting down to a meal, attending to the lights, lying down, sitting down, or anything we do: we mark our foreheads with the Sign of the Cross." (ibid)
  • Origen -- infant baptism (In Levit Hom VIII:3, PG 12:496 and In Epis ad Rom V:8-9, PG 14:1038,1047B); praying on the knees and facing towards the east, and eucharistic and baptismal rites (In Num Hom V:1, PG 12:603C)
  • St. Clement of Alexandria -- he "assumes doctrines can constitute the object of a completely oral tradition," etc.
  • St. Dionysius of Alexandria -- the keeping of Sunday (Ad Basilidem).
  • Pope Stephen -- the validity of baptism conferred by heretics (in St. Cyprian, Ep 75:6, 85:5).
  • St. Cyprian of Carthage -- connects usage followed by our Lord of the offering of a chalice of wine mixed with water (Ep 63:9-13, PL 4:380-3), and backs it up with scriptural allusions; he considers a rule according to which a bishop must be elected in the presence of people in the assembly of the bishops of the province as "de traditione divina et apostolica observatione" (Ep 67:5, PL 3:1027).
  • St. Basil the Great -- dealing with the theology of the Holy Spirit, says he is collecting the ideas of Scripture and of the unwritten tradition of the Fathers (De Spiritu Sancto 9:22; PG 32:105A); in the phrase "WITH the Holy Spirit" he appeals to an unwritten part of the apostolic witness and justifies this appeal as legitimate by invoking the existence of unwritten customs of unquestioned authority (ibid 27:66, PG 32:188).
  • St. Epiphanius of Salamis -- prohibition of marriage after a vow of virginity; fasting on Wed and Fri (Panarion Haer 66:6, PG 41:1047; and ibid 75:7, PG 42:542-3).
  • St. John Chrysostom -- prayer for the dead (In Epis ad Phil Hom 3:4, PG 62:203-4)
  • St. Jerome -- invokes an apostolic origin not only for the imposition of hands, together with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, after baptism (one could appeal to Acts), but also for the triple baptismal immersion, the giving of milk and honey to the newly baptized, and the practice of kneeling or fasting during Paschaltide (Dial adv Luc 8, PL 23:172).
  • Pope Innocent I -- in his letter to Decentius, bishop of Gubbio, invites Churches of the West, supposed to have been founded by the apostle Peter or his successors, to align themselves with the usages transmitted (tradition) to the Roman Church by the prince of the apostles (Ep 25, PL 20:551).
  • St. Augustine -- at a very early date, infant baptism as an apostolic tradition, but also with a biblical argument using the examples of the Holy Innocents or circumcision (De Genesi ad Litt 10:23:39, PL 34:426; De Bapt c. Don 4:24:31, PL 43:174; ibid 5:23:31); an apostolic tradition of not rebaptizing heretics on their reconciliation with the Church (De Bapt c. Don 2:7:12, PL 43:133); and a number of liturgical customs which he believed to be universal: rites at baptism (aspersion, exorcisms, insufflation), etc. "His criterion for determining an apostolic tradition is, at least after the Donatist controversy, the evidence of the spread and universal acceptance of matters not found or expressed in Scripture or determined by plenary councils." (Congar, see Augustine, De Bapt, and Ep 54)

Summary of the teaching of the Church Fathers on Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium from Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions:

  1. The true Catholic Faith and true interpretation of the Scriptures is found only in the Church which is bound up with the succession of its ministers -- its bishops succeeding the authority of the apostles;
  2. The "rule of faith" or "rule of truth" was not the whole of Tradition; it may be the principal part, but there are other things transmitted from the apostles by tradition: rules of conduct, custom, ways of doing things, on behavior, practice, on worship and liturgy, see the 'teachings' listed above by Congar, etc.
  3. The content of tradition consisted "materially" of the Scriptures, but "formally" of the Faith of the Catholic Church, its reading of the Scriptures in the Creed, etc; the mere text of Scripture alone was insufficient; heretics also quoted Scripture but they did not read that Scripture in the context of the Tradition or the orthodox Faith of the Catholic Church;
  4. The Catholic Church alone has received the apostolic deposit of truth, for in her the Holy Spirit of truth lives (John 14:16f; 16:13f); the Church alone is the sole inheritor of the true Christian teaching from God through Christ to the Apostles;
  5. This Tradition -- the Church's Tradition -- is itself oral; and if there were no NT Scriptures it would have been sufficient for the Church to follow "the order of tradition" received from the apostles; in the minds of the early Christians it made no difference if the transmission was purely oral since there was an assured connection to the apostles through the Churches founded by the apostles to guarantee authenticity;
  6. Scripture was everything for the Fathers, and Tradition was everything also;
  7. What was the nature of the Church of the Fathers? It was one universal visible Church ruled by a hierarchy of bishops, presbyters/priests, deacons, etc in succession from the apostles;
  8. The entire activity of the Fathers demonstrates that they united three terms that were separated and set in opposition by the controversies of the 16th century -- these three terms were Scripture, Tradition, and Church; it was always affirmed that Scripture is the rule and norm of faith only when conjoined to the Church and her Tradition;
  9. Hence, the Scriptures were never considered by the Fathers as formally "sufficient" or exclusive.

Early church fathers believed in sola scriptura?

Summary from Protestant historians/scholars, Philip Schaff (Presbyterian/Reformed), JND Kelly (Anglican), and Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran/Orthodox):

Philip Schaff, Presbyterian/Reformed, History of the Christian Church --

"The church view respecting the sources of Christian theology and the rule of faith and practice remains as it was in the previous period, except that it is further developed in particulars. The divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as opposed to human writings; AND the ORAL TRADITION or LIVING FAITH of the catholic church from the apostles down, as opposed to the varying opinions of heretical sects -- TOGETHER FORM THE ONE INFALLIBLE SOURCE AND RULE OF FAITH. BOTH are vehicles of the same substance: the saving revelation of God in Christ; with this difference in form and office, that the church tradition determines the canon, furnishes the KEY TO THE TRUE INTERPRETATION of the Scriptures, and guards them against heretical abuse." (volume 3, page 606)

JND Kelly, Anglican, Early Christian Doctrines --

"It should be unnecessary to accumulate further evidence. Throughout the whole period Scripture AND tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content. To inquire which counted as superior or more ultimate is to pose the question in misleading and anachronistic terms. If Scripture was abundantly sufficient in principle, tradition was recognized as the SUREST CLUE TO ITS INTERPRETATION, for in TRADITION the Church retained, as a legacy from the apostles which was embedded in all the organs of her institutional life, an UNERRING GRASP of the real purport and MEANING of the revelation to which Scripture AND tradition alike bore witness." (page 47-48)

"Thus in the end the Christian must, like Timothy [cf. 1 Tim 6:20] 'guard the deposit', i.e. the revelation enshrined in its completeness in Holy Scripture and CORRECTLY interpreted in the Church's UNERRING tradition." (page 51)

Jaroslav Pelikan, Lutheran (now Orthodox), The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine --

"The catholic response to this claim [of the Gnostics], formulated more fully by Irenaeus than by any other Christian writer, was to appeal to 'that tradition which is derived from the apostles.' Unlike the Gnostic tradition, however, this apostolic tradition had been preserved publicly in the churches that stood in succession with the apostles....Together with the proper interpretation of the Old Testament and the proper canon of the New, this tradition of the church was a decisive criterion of apostolic continuity for the determination of doctrine in the church catholic. Clearly it is an anachronism to superimpose upon the discussions of the second and third centuries categories derived from the controversies over the relation of Scripture and tradition in the sixteenth century, for 'in the ante-Nicene Church...THERE WAS NO NOTION OF SOLA SCRIPTURA, but neither was there a doctrine of traditio sola.'...So palpable was this apostolic tradition that even if the apostles had not left behind the Scriptures to serve as normative evidence of their doctrine, the church would still be in a position to follow 'the structure of the tradition which they handed on to those to whom they committed the church.' This was, in fact, what the church was doing in those barbarian territories where believers did not have access to the written deposit, but still carefully guarded the ancient tradition of the apostles, summarized in the creed -- or, at least, in a very creedlike statement of the content of apostolic tradition....The term 'rule of faith' or 'rule of truth' did not always refer to such creeds and confessions, and seems sometimes to have meant the 'tradition,' sometimes the Scriptures, sometimes the message of the gospel." (volume 1, page 115-117)

"Fundamental to the orthodox consensus was an affirmation of the authority of tradition as that which had been believed 'everywhere, always, by all [ubique, semper, ab omnibus].' The criteria for what constituted the orthodox tradition were 'universality, antiquity, and consensus.' This definition of orthodox Catholic tradition was the work of Vincent of Lerins... To identify orthodox doctrine, one had to identify its locus, which was the catholic church, neither Eastern nor Western, neither Greek nor Latin, but universal throughout the civilized world (oikoumene). This church was the repository of truth, the dispenser of grace, the guarantee of salvation, the matrix of acceptable worship. Only here did God accept sacrifices, only here was there confident intercession for those who were in error, only here were good works fruitful, only here did the powerful bond of love hold men together and 'only from the catholic church does truth shine forth.'...[It was] the tendency of heretics to teach doctrines that were not contained either in Scripture or in tradition. But the church of the four Gospels and the four councils [Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon] was faithful to Scripture and to tradition and was universal both in its outreach and in its authority." (volume 1, page 334-335)

Case closed (whether I read these quotes aloud on the "Dividing Line" or not). :-)


common Catholic Apologetics 

claim << The council of Jamnia never existed, it was only a discussion, nothing declarative. Which flies in the face of a common Catholic support for the deuterocanonicals. >>

Not a big deal to me, some Catholic apologists I've heard use this in the past that some Jews disagreed about the OT canon at a c. 90 AD council. Gary Michuta (Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger) argues there isn't good evidence for a council of Jamnia. The criterion for inclusion of the deuterocanonicals in the OT canon is Church usage of those books from the beginning, not what Jews before or after Christ thought of the books.

claim << And, that there was a clear consensus on what OT books were to be included prior to Christ's life. >>

Depends on whether you buy all of Roger Beckwith's OT Canon of the NT Church arguments, or Gary Michuta's counter-arguments and explanations in Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger. Michuta also debated White on the issue a few years ago.

Note: Real Presence vs. transubstantiation claim in next post.

claim << Council of Rome (an early listing of the NT canon) never having existed and "is an anachronistic interpolation of Gelasius' listing" >>

I've heard this, but again not a big deal. There is still Hippo and Carthage (c. 393/397/419) in the west laying out the same canon (with the deuterocanonical books included). The point is it took time for the full 27-book NT canon to be collected and recognized by the Church (late 4th century AD).

claim << That much of the NT was in the hands of the apostles pretty early on. Including Paul quoting from Luke calling it 'scriptures'. >>

I've heard this also, Luke is supposedly quoted by 1 Timothy. This is also argued in prominent evangelical books such as A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler/Nix (1986 revised). Not a problem to Catholics since this shows the early Church recognized the canonicity of the Gospels very early on. It argues for the canonical Gospel's reliability whether you are Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant and is an argument we can use against Bible critics. So 1 Timothy (c. 60 or 90 depending how you date him) is either quoting Luke, or an oral tradition that was later preserved in Luke's Gospel.



Real Presence vs. transubstantiation 

claim << The early church believing in Real Presence, not transubstantiation. (claiming there is a difference) >>

This is more important, but White accepts neither the Real Presence nor transubstantiation. Remember: White is a baptist (i.e. no sacraments to speak of)....

Transubstantiation is a later philosophical explanation and more detailed defense of the "conversion" view (Greek metabole and other terms, Latin conversio or transformatio and other terms) held by St. Ambrose in the west, and in the east by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. John Damascene:

All the main examples from the Church Fathers found here.

Darwell Stone's Conclusion of the Ante-Nicene Fathers:

"...THROUGHOUT the writers of the period the identification of the ELEMENTS WITH THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST appears to be the ruling idea."

"The belief that the Eucharist IS A SACRIFICE is found EVERYWHERE. This belief is coupled with strong repudiations of carnal sacrifices; and is saved from being Judaic by the recognition of the ELEMENTS AS CHRIST'S BODY AND BLOOD, of the union of the action of the Church on earth with that of Christ in heaven, and of the spiritual character of that whole priestly life and service and action of the community as the body of Christ which is a distinguishing mark of the Christian system." (A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, volume 1, page 54, emphasis added)

JND Kelly's Summary of the Ante-Nicene Fathers:

"....the eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian SACRIFICE from the closing decade of the first century, if not earlier. Malachi's prediction (1,10f) that the Lord would reject the Jewish sacrifices and instead would have 'a pure offering' made to Him by the Gentiles in every place was early seized upon by Christians [Did 14,3; Justin dial 41,2f; Irenaeus ad haer 4,17,5] as a prophecy of the eucharist....It was natural for early Christians to think of the eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfillment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering, and the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmosphere with which our Lord invested the Last Supper....The eucharist was also, of course, the great act of worship of Christians, their SACRIFICE. The writers and liturgies of the period are UNANIMOUS in recognizing it as such." (Early Christian Doctrines, page 196-198, 214 emphasis added)

NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA under Eucharist (as Sacrament)

"Nothing is more solid than the UNANIMITY of belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for the first 1,500 years of the Church. The spontaneous uproar caused by men such as Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088) only attests the more to the unquestioned acceptance of the Real Presence. This UNANIMOUS belief of 1,500 years is itself an argument to its truth. For it is impossible that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, could leave the Church in error over a long period of time about one of the central doctrines of Christianity, according to the argument from prescription." (NCE, volume 5, page 604)

White's "baptistic" non-sacramental view rejects every teaching of the Eucharist from St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD) to St. John Damascene (750 AD) whereas the Catholic/Orthodox view of transubstantiation/Real Presence and Eucharistic sacrifice is perfectly compatible with all the Fathers, east and west. The exact technical term ("change of substance") became more explicitly defined later, based on the Eucharistic controversies of the later centuries (see Darwell Stone, and Ludwig Ott for an account of these).

Theodoret and Gelasius

Two more points: White mentions Theodoret and Pope Gelasius as somehow denying or compromising 'transubstantiation'. These are dealt with in detail by Darwell Stone (I have to check his volumes again), and mentioned by Ludwig Ott (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 382):

"In order vividly to represent the mystery of the Eucharist, the Fathers employ analogies such as the change of nourishment into the substance of the body (St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Damascene), the change of water into wine at the Marriage of Cana (St. Cyril of Jerusalem), the change of the Staff of Moses into a serpent, the change of the waters of the Egyptian rivers into blood, also the Creation and the Incarnation (St. Ambrose of Milan).

"In the old Liturgies the Logos or the Holy Ghost is called down in a special prayer (Epiclesis) in order that He may 'make' (Greek given) the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, or in order that the bread and wine might 'become' (Greek given) the body and blood of Christ. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says in his description of the Mass.... (quotes from Cat Myst 5, 7).

"Theodoret of Cyrus (d. 460) teaches that the Eucharistic elements 'do not emerge from their nature after consecration' but 'remain in their former essence and in their appearance and in their shape.' On the other hand, he attests that these are 'something else before the invocation [Epiclesis] of the priest, after the invocation, however, they are changed and become something else' (Eranistes dial 2). As the change is clearly expressed here, many theologians take the first utterance to mean the continuance of the external appearance of the bread and wine after the mutation of the substance.

"In association with his Antiochian Christology, according to which the human nature exists independently side by side with the Divine nature, but participates in the name, the honor, and the adorability of the Divine nature, this conception tends towards the argument that in analogous manner the Eucharistic elements after the consecration continue unchanged, but participate in the name, the honor and the adorability of the celestial Christ, who has united Himself with them at the Epiclesis.

"Thus the mutation maintained by him is not to be understood as a mutation of the substance, but as a mysterious attachment of the unchanged elements to the body and blood of the Lord (moral mutation)." (Ott, page 382)

Similarly, Pope Gelasius I (492-496) observes: The Sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are "a Divine matter" on which account we are through them partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), "but still the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease to be." Bread and wine go over into the Divine substance through the efficacy of the Holy Ghost, "but nevertheless remain in their peculiarity of their nature" (De duabus naturis in Christo 14). Also pseudo-Chrysostom, an Antiochian, teaches that the bread after Consecration is called the body of the Lord, "even if the nature of bread remains in it." (Ep ad Caesarium), see Ott, page 382ff.

So we have some differences on the nature of the "change" among some of the Fathers, while most of them argue "change" in the sense of a conversion which approximates a "transubstantiation" view. A few use the analogy of Christ's two natures (divine and human) and thus hold more a "consubstantiation" view. The Catholic Church had not yet (c. 500 AD) explicitly defined the issue as there was no real 'controversy' and thus no reason to do so. As we can see, there was development and fluidity in the terminology used by the Fathers and analogies invoked to explain the Eucharist and what happens at consecration, just as occurred for the development of the language involving the definition of the Holy Trinity in earlier centuries, etc. Both the Holy Eucharist and Holy Trinity are 'mysteries' (Greek mysterion, where we get the Latin word sacramentum or 'sacrament') and can never be fully explained or exhausted in meaning.

As for sacrifice in the Eucharist, I quote this again from Darwell Stone on the west and St. Augustine:

"There is like terminology in the West. A canon of the Council of Arles, held in 314 A.D., like the Council of Nicaea eleven years later in the East, incidentally contains the word 'OFFER' to describe the work of the presbyters which the deacons might not perform [Canon 15]. St. Optatus of Milevis uses the words 'SACRIFICE' and 'OFFER' in regard to the Eucharist [2:12]. St. Ambrose says that it is part of the work of the Christian ministry to 'OFFER SACRIFICE for the people'; that Christ 'is Himself on earth when the body of Christ is OFFERED'; and that the word of Christ 'consecrates the SACRIFICE which is OFFERED' [In Ps 38 Enar 25]. St. Augustine refers to the Eucharist as 'the SACRIFICE of our redemption,' 'the SACRIFICE of the Mediator,' 'the SACRIFICE of peace,' 'the SACRIFICE of love,' 'the SACRIFICE of the BODY and BLOOD of the Lord,' 'the SACRIFICE of the Church' [Conf 9:32; Enchir 110; In Ps 21 Enar 2:28; In Ps 33 Enar 1:5; De civ Dei 10:20]. St. Leo speaks of 'the OFFERING of the SACRIFICE' as an act of Christian worship [Serm 26:1; 91:3]." (A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, volume, page 113)

Needless to say, White holds neither the Real Presence nor Eucharistic sacrifice of the Fathers, neither consubstantiation nor transubstantiation. His baptistic / non-sacramental views of the Eucharist have nothing to do with any of the teaching of the Church Fathers, nor the Bible.

sacrifice in Fathers 

claim << But what of the Sacrificial nature and the transubstantiation of the bread? >>

My view on that: transubstantiation is obviously a later technical term, it shows up first in the 11-12th century discussions on the Eucharist. The Fathers used different terms for "transform" and "change" and "convert" in Greek and Latin.

On sacrifice, the Catholic teaching incorporates all that the Fathers taught on that: first, the sacrifice of praise (e.g. Hebrews 13:15) --

"The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation....The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him." (CCC 1359,1361)

-- the re-presentation (making present) of the one propititatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross, with his intercession and presentation of his sacrifice in heaven

"Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution...The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit..." (CCC 1365,1366)

-- and the uniting of the Christian worship with Christ's one sacrifice

"The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men....The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ." (CCC 1368,1369)

All three of these aspects of "sacrifice" are found in the Fathers.

propitiatory sacrifice 

claim << Wouldn't you agree the view of a propitiatory sacrifice came significantly later? >>

Not really since Origen (c. 200) was explicit:

"You see how the ALTARS are no longer sprinkled with the blood of oxen, but consecrated BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST." (Origen, Homilies on Josue 2:1)

"But if that text (Lev 24:5-9) is taken to refer to the greatness of what is mystically symbolized, then there is a 'commemoration' which has an EFFECT OF GREAT PROPITIATORY VALUE. If you apply it to that 'Bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the world,' that shewbread which 'God has offered to us as a means of reconciliation, in virtue of faith, ransoming us with his blood,' and if you look to that commemoration of which the Lord says, 'Do this in commemoration of me,' then you will find that this is the unique commemoration WHICH MAKES GOD PROPITIOUS TO MEN." (Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 9)

Of course Catholics interpret the Eucharist institution narrative itself as sacrificial and one with the sacrifice of the cross. Since the cross was propitiatory (1 John 2:1-2; Romans 3:25), the Mass is too since the Mass applies the fruits of Christ's one sacrifice. And that one sacrifice "continues to cleanse us" from all sin and unrighteousness, whenever it is applied (1 John 1:7-9).

"[The Mass/Eucharist is called...]...The Holy Sacrifice, because it MAKES PRESENT the ONE sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church's offering....The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit." (Catechism CCC 1330, 1366).

The Fathers saw that too, at least Origen forward. And St. Cyril of Jerusalem was even more explicit:

"Then, upon the completion of the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that PROPITIATORY victim we call upon God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted; and in summary, we all pray and OFFER THIS SACRIFICE FOR ALL WHO ARE IN NEED.

"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this HOLY AND MOST SOLEMN SACRIFICE IS LAID OUT.

"For I know that there are many who are saying this: 'If a soul departs from this world with sins, what does it profit it to be remembered in the prayer?'...[we] grant a remission of their penalties...we too offer prayers to Him for those who have fallen asleep though they be sinners. We do not plait a crown, but OFFER UP CHRIST WHO HAS BEEN SACRIFICED FOR OUR SINS; AND WE THEREBY PROPITIATE THE BENEVOLENT GOD FOR THEM AS WELL AS FOR OURSELVES." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 23 [Mystagogic 5], 8, 9, 10)

James White was answered on this long ago in an article "Fatally Flawed Thinking" (June 1993 This Rock). Even White agrees that Christ's work and sacrifice continues in heaven through his intercession and presentation before the Father. White says the fruit is applied through "faith alone" and the "limited [or definite] atonement" while Catholics (and the early Fathers) extend this to the sacraments.

"....White admits Christ's work is still being presented to God. 'His work of intercession is not another or different kind of work, but is the presentation of the work of the cross before the Father... by presenting his finished work on Calvary before the Father, he assures the application of the benefits of his death to those for whom he intercedes.'....This shows White's argument, that the Mass adds to Christ's sacrifice, is wrong. The Mass does not accrue any new merit on Christ's part; it serves as the means by which Christ's work on the cross is applied to us, just as in White's scheme it is applied to us through Christ's intercessory ministry apart from the Mass. The fact that Christ's merits remain to be applied to us does not mean one is adding to the sacrifice of the cross, just that the results of the cross are being played out over time." ("Fatally Flawed Thinking" by Akin)

A.L. has an article on this on my site: "The Relationship of the Cross and the Mass"



Question on fallible decision

claim << Now at this point I could present a number of responses that have been offered by Roman Catholic controversialists, but they all share the same circularity: the decision to embrace Rome as the final authority in all things is a fallible decision. It can produce no more certainty than any other human decision. >>

The "fallible decision" argument was demolished by Cardinal Newman in the 19th century, from B.C. Butler's reply to the "Abridged" Salmon:

Confusing Infallibility with Certainty

"It is however encouraging, on reading on a few lines further in the Abridgement [to Salmon's Infallibility of the Church], to discover what this argument is. It is that 

"...our belief must, in the end, rest on an act of our own judgment, and can never attain any higher certainty than whatever that may give us." ... "I do not see how a Roman Catholic advocate can help yielding the point that a member of his Church does, in truth, exercise private judgment, once for all, in his decision to submit to the teaching of the Church." ...."The result is, that absolute certainty can only be had on the terms of being infallible one's self." (Salmon, pages 15f, 17, 21) 

"Now no one, so far as I know, has ever maintained that an act of faith, in one who has reached the age of reason, does not involve or imply an act of personal decision, and a Roman Catholic advocate has no inclination to contest this point. The Church teaches that an act of faith is a virtuous act, and no act can be virtuous unless it comes from the intelligence and will of the agent. We do not merely concede the point, we strongly maintain it. But it does not in the least follow that when I say 'I believe the Church to be infallible' I am in effect saying 'I believe myself to be infallible.' On the contrary, I am saying, 'God, in giving the Church as a reliable teacher of his truth, has of course made her recognizable precisely by fallible people like me. She is recognizable, and I recognize her.'

"Salmon has confused the notion of infallibility with that of certainty, and he appears to identify the notion of belief with that of certainty, so that (on his showing) any act of belief, whatever the object of the act, is a claim to personal infallibility -- a conclusion so paradoxical that it can hardly have been intended by him."

".....But though I am certain of my own existence, I am not infallible. Infallibility connotes that one is not liable to error within some whole province of truth -- as the Church, according to the Vatican definition, claims infallibility in the province, not of science or politics, but of 'faith and morals.' But though I am certain of my own existence, I am not free from my liability to error in the province of metaphysics; I am certain of a particular proposition, I am not infallible in a given science, and many of my judgments in that science may prove to be erroneous, though not the particular judgment (of whose truth I am certain) that I exist."

As usual Cardinal Newman states the distinction between certainty (or as he styles it, certitude) and infallibility with luminous clarity:

"It is very common, doubtless, especially in religious controversy, to confuse infallibility with certitude, and to argue that, since we have not the one, we have not the other, for that no one can claim to be certain on any point, who is not infallible about all; but the two words stand for things quite distinct from each other. For example, I remember for certain what I did yesterday, but still my memory is not infallible; I am quite certain that two and two make four, but I often make mistakes in long addition sums....

"A certitude is directed to this or that particular proposition, it is not a faculty or gift, but a disposition of mind relative to the definite case which is before me. Infallibility, on the contrary, is just that which certitude is not; it is a faculty or gift, and relates, not to some one truth in particular, but to all possible propositions in a given subject-matter. We ought, in strict propriety, to speak not of infallible acts, but of acts of infallibility....I am quite certain that Victoria is our Sovereign, and not her father, the late Duke of Kent, without laying any claim to the gift of infallibility....I may be certain that the Church is infallible, while I am myself a fallible mortal; otherwise, I cannot be certain that the Supreme Being is infallible, until I am infallible myself....It is wonderful that a clearheaded man, like Chillingworth, sees this as little as the run of everyday objectors to the Catholic Religion..." (Cardinal John Henry Newman, Grammar of Assent, pages 224f)

From Reply to Salmon's Infallibility (chapter "Alleged Argument in a Circle")

In short, to suggest one has to be 'infallible' to believe the Roman Catholic Church is infallible, means likewise one has to be 'infallible' to believe God, Christ, or the Scriptures are infallible. However, using the right terminology, one can be reasonably certain that the object of one's belief is infallible (i.e. incapable of erring) and thus warrant faith in that object as completely trustworthy, based on Christ's promises, e.g. Matthew 16:18f; John 14:16f; 16:13f; 10:35; 14:6 cf. 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 3:16f, etc.

Not much else in that White article requires a response.

Debating Superman White? And in Defense of Debates

Fr. Peter Stravinskas on James White, on a proposed debate on the Immaculate Conception:

"I want to stress that throughout the planning process, Mr. Arnzen was nothing but a genuine Christian gentleman. I cannot say the same for the man for whom he seeks speaking and debating engagements; one need only read Mr. White's post to discover nastiness and arrogance writ large."

"My fundamental (no pun intended) mistake was even entertaining a Round Two [Round One was on purgatory] with the man. As someone noted earlier here, he had packed the audience for Round One with groupies from hundreds of miles away. At the outset of that debate (by the way, I coached high school debate for years), I said that I was not enthralled with the idea of theological debates because they rarely accomplished much; I noted that the Church's participation in debates with Jews (in the Middle Ages) and Protestants (at the Reformation) did little to win either men's minds or hearts. I would have preferred a friendly theological conversation or dialogue...."

"Debating White just gives him a forum. Let him wallow in silence, conducting his meetings in some now-unused phone booth. As I noted at the end of my entry, experience -- both personal and historical -- demonstrate that little or nothing is gained from debates." (From the CA Forums, Sept 2010) 

Thanks for the clarification, I stand corrected. Love your books, I have several....

Groupies? What are we talking, a 1970s rock band here? Just kidding....I might disagree on the merit of 'debates'.....especially for those 'on the fence'....

Now I don't want to start a "debate" on the topic -:) but it can be argued that Jesus (with the Pharisees) and Paul "debated" (the Greek word means = argue, debate, discuss, reason). Acts 18:28 "For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." (NIV) or "....with powerful arguments in public debate....." (NLT) or "For with much vigour he convinced the Jews openly, shewing by the scriptures, that Jesus is the Christ." (Douay-Rheims).

But debating someone who cannot be convinced, cannot admit when they are wrong, is close-minded, and / or is out to ridicule the opponent after the debate, might be a waste of time. That may be true of White, and many people think it is.

Mainly I see debates as benefit for those in the audience (or the general public) who have questions, and are "on the fence" willing to be convinced one way or the other. This is best done when both sides represent the best possible case for their position respectfully (whether it is Catholic vs. Protestant, Christian vs. atheist, etc). Plus they can be fun to listen to. Written debates are probably best for this purpose, as oral / formal debates require a special skill to be successful. Although I haven't debated formally, so I don't really know, but I have watched / listened to my share. I think they are fun if they don't get too "heated".

I have many on this page here (but no White online since AOMIN doesn't allow it)

Fr Peter << Let him wallow in silence, conducting his meetings in some now-unused phone booth. >>

Sorry I keep thinking of this image:  :-)

James White is Superman?

Brings a different meaning to the biblical phrase "put on the new man"....


Alms-Giving and the Church Fathers

In defense of Fr. Peter Stravinskas and almsgiving (YouTube clip "Pay Now, or Pay Later" -- from the White vs. Fr. Stravinskas purgatory debate....)

As for the almsgiving quotes from Tobit, here are several references to the Fathers in support...

The Early Church and Alms-Giving (ironically from a "Puritan" site):

Rewards for almsgiving

  • When you can do good, do not hesitate. For "alms delivers from death" [Tob. 4:10]. [Polycarp (c. 135, E), 1.35]
  • Therefore, almsgiving is a good thing, as is repentance from sin. Fasting is better than prayer. But almsgiving is better than both. "For love covers a multitude of sins." [Second Clement (c. 150), 7.522]
  • As Solomon says, "He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord." For God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose: that He may grant us a reward from His own good things. For our Lord says: "Come, you blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat." [St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 180, E/W), 1.486]
  • Sins are purged by alms and acts of faith. [St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.363]
  • It is written, "Alms do deliver from death." Assuredly, this is not from that [original] death that the blood of Christ has extinguished and from which the saving grace of baptism and of our Redeemer has delivered us. Rather, it is from the death that creeps in afterwards through sins. [St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250, W), 5.332]
  • Be earnest in righteous works, by which sins may be purged. Frequently apply yourself to almsgiving, by which souls are freed from death…Let good works be done without delay. [St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250, W), 5.447]
  • Make Christ a partner with you in earthly possessions, that He also may make a fellow-heir with Him in His heavenly kingdom. [St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250, W), 5.479]
  • The matter comes to this: whatever has bestowed upon another person with thought of receiving an advantage from him he really bestows upon himself. For such a man will receive a reward from God. God has also admonished us that if at any time we prepare a feast, we should invite to the entertainment those who cannot invite us in return. [St. Lactantius (c. 304-313, W), 7 A 76]

Tobit is Scripture, part of the deuterocanonical OT, and that alms aid our salvation the earliest Fathers believed. Of course not the crass caricature that White presents, but:

"In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year's Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: 'You cannot serve God and mammon' (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor's needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church." (Pope Benedict XVI for Lent 2008)


From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on "alms" --

Dikaiosune and eleemosune are both used in the Septuagint to translate chesedh, "kindness," and are also both used to translate tsedhaqah, "justice." Almsgiving was regarded not merely as a plain evidence of righteousness in general but also as an act of justice, a just debt owing to the needy. "No one refuses directly," Mackie says, hence, possibly, Christ's teaching in Luke 11:41, "Let your righteousness (charity) be from within," "Give your hearts to almsgiving."

Defined by the old Catholic Encyclopedia: "(Greek eleemosune, "pity," "mercy"), any material favor done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity, is almsgiving."

"Scripture is rich in passages which directly or indirectly emphasize the necessity of contributing towards the welfare of the needy. The history of the Church in Apostolic times shows that the early Christians fully realized the importance of this obligation. Community of goods (Acts 4:32), collections in church (Acts 11:29ff; 1 Cor 16:1; Gal 2:10), the ministry of deacons and deaconesses were simply the inauguration of that world-wide system of Christian charity which has circumscribed the globe and added another testimony to the Divinity of that Church which directs her ministrations towards the alleviation of human misery in every shape and form...The Fathers of the Church frequently and unequivocally inculcated the necessity of almsgiving."

(Then follows references to St. Cyprian, St. Basil, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St, Augustine, etc).

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)

Thought I'd help a little.


From Randy Carson on the Catholic Answers Apologetics forums, who reminds us about White's degrees....

Mr. White holds the following degrees:

Th.D., Apologetics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary, 1998
D.Min, Apologetics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary, 2002

At Columbia Evangelical's website  -- I read the following from the President Rick "Josh" Walston's statement on the "accreditation issue":

"Columbia Evangelical Seminary is not accredited. However, as stated above, if you do not absolutely need a degree from an accredited school, why spend the extra money earning one when a degree from a non-accredited school may serve your purposes just as well?"

I understand distance learning. I also understand "not accredited". I guess one reason people should "spend the extra money" is to establish legitimate credibility in the eyes of the academic community. Bona fides it's called, I believe. Perhaps Latin is not one of Mr. White's languages.


Selected Books by James White:



The Fatal Flaw (Crowne Publications, 1990)
Answers to Catholic Claims (Crowne Publications, 1990)

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