The Proclivities of James White (Part 1)

In studying Dr. White’s method and approach to fellow Christians regarding the Text and Translation debate coupled with the advice of others who knew Dr. White’s teaching quite well I was able to identify 30 or so proclivities which Dr. White regularly employed.

I share these with you first and foremost as a help to those who may debate Dr. White in the future. He seems quite stuck in his ways and so his method and content is also stuck. If you are aware of what he is apt to do, then you will be aware of his angles of attack. Lord willing I’ll share half today and then the other half tomorrow.

In the context of the Text and Translation debate with Christians Dr. White regularly does the following:

1.) He claims we have more manuscript evidence than ever before. This of course in an inscrutable claim. There is no way he can know the evidence count in all places of ecclesiastical importance at all times of church history and yet he will assert this claim with considerable but unfounded confidence.

2.) Knowing what the Originals originally said is a matter of evidence. Given #1 this claim is also unfounded because the totality of evidence available is only a fraction of the total amount of evidence which the Church had over the centuries. Simply put, the vast majority of manuscript evidence has perished. We only have a small fraction of that vast majority. Furthermore, from a merely evidential perspective we do not have the Originals and according to Dan Wallace we wouldn’t know we had the Originals even if we did have them.

3.) Those who assume a theological grounding for determining what is Scripture have no method. This is patently false. We do have a method and it includes evidences, particularly Background, Prior, AND Posterior evidence. Our method is first and foremost the Spirit/word/faith paradigm or the Spirit of God speaking through the words of God to the people of God who then receive God’s words by faith.

4.) Those who assume a theological grounding for determining what is Scripture believe the evidence is irrelevant. This is also patently false. We believe the evidence has much relevance in apologetics, history, archeology, linguistics etc., but it is has almost no authority to determine what is and is not a word of God.

5.) Those who assume a theological grounding for determining what is Scripture are a-historical because they can’t account for pre-TR eras. We do account for pre-TR eras through a distinction between preservation of the words of God in general, Christian belief in history, and the preservation of the words of God between two covers.

6.) TR advocates are basically or functionally KJV only. This of course is an emotional play to get the audience to feel poorly about our position. It’s emotional manipulation at its best. A reasonable analysis of our position would show the conflation of Confessional Bibliology with KJV Onlyism to be unwarranted.

7.) TR advocates cannot do apologetics. This of course is a silly claim. Simply take a look at the Protestant Scholastics who regularly did apologetics against the Roman Catholic apologists of their day and in fact were victorious. This claim is practically and historically false. What is more, it seems that Dr. White is nearly identical with that of Dr. Ehrman though they each conclude differently. It is hard to claim you do apologetics when you agree with your interlocutor on everything except the conclusion.

8.) Dr. White is prone to offer the same old stale dead arguments. This makes him very predictable. Never underestimate your debate opponent but in this case the probability that Dr. White is going to make the same lame arguments he has for years is very high.

9.) Dr. White regularly pulls the “Have you ever done textual criticism” line in order to attack his interlocutor’s ethos or credibility in discussing these topics. In the end this is the same dumb tactic used by abortion advocates who claim that unless you have a uterus you can’t have an authoritative position on abortion.

10.) Dr. White is apt to say, “Most scholars believe X”. This is called the Bandwagon Fallacy. Simply because most scholars believe X doesn’t make X right or true. Most of the Pre-Civil War South believed slavery was good but that didn’t make slavery right. Most of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day rejected Jesus but that doesn’t excuse their murder of Christ or make their position any more right or true.

11.) Dr. White regularly compares his Christian interlocutors to Muslims or Mormons. This is again an act of emotion manipulation like in #6. What is more Muslims believe that God is one, that Jesus existed, that God is merciful and on and on. Does that mean that Dr. White should compare himself to Muslims when debating Muslims on issues of the oneness of God, Jesus’ existence, and divine mercy?

12.) Dr. White regularly accuses his Christian interlocutors of committing category errors. I am convinced Dr. White uses this term when he doesn’t understand something or needs more intellectual space to think about a solution. He certainly does not know what it means or how to use it. In the debate I compared inspiration of the Canon and inspiration of words and the preservation of God’s people with the preservation of God’s words. I was accused of a category error. A category error is often something quite stark as in “How many megahertz is Sunday?” or “How far is it from blue to D-flat?” If the category error is not stark it is the responsibility of the one claiming a category error to demonstrate that it is a category error. In short, to successfully accuse someone of making a category error it takes a lot more work than simply saying, “Category Error!”

13.) Dr. White has recently liked to stray into philosophical waters. This has been a bad experience for him. It didn’t go well for him when talking with William Lane Craig about Molinism. It didn’t go well for him and Masters Seminary a couple weekends ago. It doesn’t go well with his use of category error. It doesn’t go well when he critiques Dolezol or Thomas Aquinas or the Great Tradition or Platonism or Bayes’ Theorem or Reformed Epistemology or Warrant or Basic Belief. This will always be a source of embarrassment for him though he may not realize it.

14.) Our argument is not rational because it is not primarily discursive and evidential. Here Dr. White seems to think that all apologetically meaningful data must be discursive and evidential in nature. Plantinga has proven this to be false and even Bart Ehrman in his debate with Dr. White affirms that faith is a reliable means of knowledge.

15.) Dr. White regularly conflates textual reliability with historical reliability. Modern textual scholars have finally wised up and concluded that it is a logical fallacy to conclude regarding manuscripts that “a larger number and an earlier date necessarily equate to more reliability.” [Myths and Mistakes, Chap. 3 Kindle Edition]

I hope these can be a help to you all. Lord willing I’ll do the other 15 tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “The Proclivities of James White (Part 1)

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