First, I’d like to thank all those who helped me prepare for this debate. I had an email chain going with 6 other men who really understood James White’s [JW] proclivities. Their advice proved prescient. Then there were those of you who watched/read JW’s material and shared your own insights. Thank you.
As for the debate, at some point we are going to have to get into the nitty-gritty but today’s post is simply some initial observations.
Regarding JW, yes his white beard is as epic as you would expect. He was smaller in stature than I had originally thought, but the thing that caught me most by surprise was his handshake. After watching/listening to over 1500 minutes of JW’s material and witnessing JW’s extreme confidence I was expecting to shake the hand of a mountain man, but instead to my unpleasant surprise his hand was small and his grip had almost no strength. There is nothing necessarily wrong with having a weak handshake, it’s just that it caught me off guard in a visceral/tactile way. With the confidence he so easily exudes I was fully expecting him to offer a meaty break-your-hand-off kind of handshake, but quite the opposite happened.
I was surprised by the moderator asking me a question though it made some sense seeing that the moderator was the pastor of the church so instead of showing bias toward JW he may have simply been too comfortable on his Church’s platform at that moment.
JW’s insistence in dodging my questions was at first frustrating because I was told JW was a scholar with vast debate experience and he could barely answer my first five questions. At that point I recognized JW was poser or a faux scholar or a pretender. At which point I found it funny kind of like that painting of dogs playing poker – the art of absurdity. It was simply absurd in a funny kind of way that an experienced debater and purported scholar seemed incapable of answering simple questions especially seeing he had been asked some of them before.
After JW got done with his opening statement my confidence shot up. He literally did not prepare to debate me. He used a tired warmed over PowerPoint presentation with its typos and even the silly joke about who made the slides. The sad part was that JW failed us all.
It was my job to present a robust positive argument in defense of the debate topic. The burden of proof rests with me in giving a positive case. JW’s job is equally burdensome but in a different way. First, he must know my argument so well that no matter what I offer in my opening statement he is prepared to offer a rebuttal. In the end though, JW did not know my arguments even after he said that he read my work.
As a result, JW did not so much as lay a scratch on any of the three arguments I offered in my opening statement let alone offer an undefeated defeater. He did nothing with my “Autographic Terms” argument, he challenged my Reformation argument but that never returned after my rebuttal, and he never even attempted to touch my probability argument.
He had one job, defeat my positive arguments offered in my opening statement. He didn’t. He failed. That’s an “F” and he let us all down – me and the audience. He let the audience down because it wasn’t a debate. It was me offering a positive case and JW saying whatever he wanted with a healthy dose of dodging-the-question on top. He let me down because he offered nothing to assist me in sharpening my own arguments. As such, I won. I won because I offered a positive case, which was my job to do, and he no where provided an undefeated defeater against that positive case.
For my part, this was my first moderated debate. I felt myself going way too fast. I think I had way too much material in nearly every aspect of the debate except for perhaps the cross-examination periods though I still had an entire line of questioning remaining. I certainly could have been more winsome and maybe a little less business. On several occasions JW tried to drag me into his evidentialist/naturalistic paradigm as the sole arbiter for what counts as a true reading for Scripture. I recognized and resisted that trap and for it some thought I was dodging the question. So I had two choices, abandon the Spirit/word/faith paradigm and follow JW’s evidentialism OR stick to my guns and be accused of dodging. It seemed to me that the former was the worst of the choices.
In the end I gave JW the benefit of the doubt that he was some great apologetic warrior, but as it turns out he has plenty of dark clouds and wind but not a whole lot of rain at least on the topic of Texts and Versions.