The Proclivities of James White (Part 2)

Two days ago I began laying out the proclivities of James White while in a debate setting with fellow Christians. In that post I offered 15 and in this post I will offer an additional 15. Again, the purpose of sharing this list of JW proclivities is to help prepare any other Christian who would seek to debate JW on this topic. Of course it is possible that he would change his tactics so late in the rhetorical game, but that probability seems low to me.

But before addressing that list I wanted to say a word about my chosen debate method. Having read many of the responses to the debate I found that both sides of the debate really really wanted me to address certain of the data behind JW’s Erasmus claims as to get into the nitty-gritty evidence for this or that reading. Let me give a little insight into my approach.

First, in the 5th century BC Chinese military tactician, Sun Tzu, wrote down his tactics in a book we now call The Art of War. In this book he declares that when you go to battle you must dwell in impenetrable darkness. That is, it is of utmost importance that your opponent not know where you or when you will attack. As a result I purposefully employed arguments that I had not yet written or expressed so as to dwell in impenetrable darkness. This is also why the vast majority of posts on this blog during that time was not my own material. I wanted to give no hint of my approach.

Second, Sun Tzu further says that if you desire to prevail in every conflict you must know yourself and your enemy. I offered new arguments in an attempt to show that JW did not know his enemy. If JW knew my arguments well enough he should have been able to address my arguments on debate night. He was not able, and therefore did not know my argument well enough and the first step was achieved. As a result, he did not prevail.

Third, Sun Tzu goes on to say that when you strike you must do so with speed and ferocity of a thunderbolt. In order to do this, it was necessary that I never let off the gas – always be on the offensive. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If you must strike a king, be sure it is a death blow.” I considered JW a king and that the debate was in the midst of the king’s court. As one FB comment put it, “The gloves were off.” And I believe appropriately so.

Fourth, in a successful attack one must choose the ground, the place upon which his attack should be launched. As a result I clearly and distinctly told the crowd and JW that the debate was not about subjective interpretations of evidence and that JW’s robust but narrow historical argument would not do. I reframed the discussion in theological and philosophical terms on purpose. I was choosing the place where the fight was going to take place and I had the right to do so seeing that it was my responsibility to offer the positive argument.

As a result, we did not get to JW’s foibles regarding Erasmus or the evidence regarding Revelation 16:5. That would have been predictable thus negating points 1 and 3 above. It would have also meant that JW got to pick the place upon which the fight was going to take place and thus negated point 4. To borrow a phrase, “Everyone has a plan until the rhetoric starts flying.” In my case I believe I was able to stick to my time, place, and angle of attack even when the rhetoric started flying.

I hope this helps people understand why I chose the topic and method in the way I did.

Now to the proclivities of JW. Let me first point out that in knowing his proclivities I knew my “enemy” and that in knowing my “enemy” it was going to be very difficult for JW to dwell in impenetrable darkness and therefore very difficult to attack with the speed and ferocity of a thunderbolt. This is why I declared his arguments to be tire, old, and dead because he ignores these basic features of rhetorical conflict. Second, seeing that I ended at 15 proclivities in my last post I am going to pick up with 16 today.

16.) JW regularly attempts to establish ethos [i.e., credibility] by appealing to his debates with Ehrman and at a South African mosque. Ethos is difficult to attack without attacking the person [ad hominem]. Still the fact is that if there is a mosque in your town you could call them up today, tell them you are a Christian, and ask to meet with the Imam and they would meet with you. This has been my experience wherever I have lived. In the end, debating Muslims and Atheists on their turf is eminently available to all of us, it’s just that JW has done it.

17.) JW regularly attempts to establish ethos by appealing to the number of moderated debates he has had. Though he has had many moderated battles, his establishment of ethos doesn’t seem to indicate how many times he was mortally wounded or died in those battles. As such, this play to ethos falls flat. In short, JW never admits to losing.

18.) JW derides our textual positions because we don’t see textual tinkering as progress. When asked why his tinkering matters, he attempted to redefine “tinkering”. earlier, when speaking to a crowd of lay-people he made no attempt at such a redefinition. JW tinkers out of both sides of his mouth. Out of one side he wants us to believe the text is settled and all we are doing is tinkering and out of the other side of his mouth he wants us to believe that tinkering is meaningful enough to continue modern textual reconstruction.

19.) Our position doesn’t doubt our Bible enough. If I doubted a small part of my TR then Dr. White would not have as much of a problem with my position. If I claimed that the TR AND the NA 28 (including the apparatus) were equally God’s word we probably wouldn’t have debated. In short, JW is only fine with my position if I include a measure of doubt which he deems appropriate. If too much doubt, he calls me Bart Ehrman. If too little doubt he calls me KJVO. In short, JW main and bare thesis is “Pete, you don’t accurately doubt your Bible like I do.”

20.) Certain manuscript evidence is an undefeated defeater for JW. Apparently it must be for us too otherwise we are to feel the wrath of JW.

21.) JW regularly declares the Bible to be merely reliable/adequate and yet offers no exegesis. He calls himself a Biblicist when talking about the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas but when talking about manuscript evidence he has no exegesis to defend the Bible as merely adequate.

22.) JW regularly presents a merely historical argument with a little bit of providential preservation garnish on the side. Here I charged JW with naturalism because the vast majority of his argument could be argued by a godless, Christless atheist. There is nothing distinctly Christian about his argument even after he calls himself a Presuppositionalist.

23.) JW regularly quotes Scripture in order to make his audience doubt it. Every Scripture he brought up he did so in order to show that it was worthy of doubt to some measure. Matthew 5:18 doesn’t mean jot and tittle. Revelation 16:5 which reading is it? “In” the temple or “out” of the temple. JW rarely if ever employs Scripture to defend Scripture.

24.) JW only emphasizes the res [meaning] and ignores the verbum [the actual inspired words] of the Scriptural words. Furthermore, he does so based on no other authority than his own doubt concerning certain text of Scripture. We must doubt like JW doubts or else.

25.) JW seems wholly unaware of the meta-didactics of Scripture. The Scripture teaches by simply existing because it is the sui generis sacred words of the living God in time and space. Scripture equals God’s word and God’s word equals a product of divine special revelation. If a product of divine special revelation is mixed with the product of fallen human ingenuity then Scripture by simply existing teaches us that God’s word as a product of divine special revelation is mixed with the product of fallen human ingenuity. This is an indefensible theological position if one desires to remain orthodox.

26.) I have heard JW on several occasions accuse brothers of putting to much stock in the Reformation like they were Reformation worshippers. The irony though is that he makes this claim while claiming to be a Reformed Baptist. He has taken the name of the thing he think people put too much stock in. It’s like a woman who takes the name of her husband only to then turn around and tell others that her husband isn’t as great as you think he is. The irony is so obvious JW’s accusation of “Reformation worshiper” is ridiculous – a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

27.) JW has said on many occasions, even in our debate, something to the effect, “I want to know the words of the Apostles.” This is an affective plea or an emotional plea and he states it in such a way as to make it seem his opponent doesn’t want the same thing. We all want to know the words of the Apostles as well as the words of Luke who was not an Apostle. The question is, How do we get there?

28.) In the sphere of philosophy I have observed that JW learns his opponent’s position while in the midst of the debate. I observed this when JW discussed Molinism with William Lane Craig as well as in JW’s treatments of Aquinas and Reformed Epistemology. This is yet another reason why I leaned toward some semblance of a probability argument. I had a strong hunch that JW simply would not understand and that he would be learning right there in the moment and therefore not be able to properly respond to my arguments. My hunch paid off.

29.) JW has no paradigm for the preservation of God’s words among the manuscript tradition AND what the Bible calls us to believe, that God has preserved His words between two covers. He only ascribes to the former. This is an enormous hole in his Bibliology which he does not seek to mend. He merely puts the “reliable” or “adequate” Band-Aid over the wound and hopes things don’t get worse.

30.) Finally, JW seems incapable of offering a robust defense for showing one’s arguments AND knowing one’s arguments. JW does not seem to realize that people can know the truth but are unable to show/explain that truth in a way that is convincing. As a result, he treats those people as wrong when in fact those people very well may be right; they just don’t know how to explain it. Of course this is not always the case, but JW doesn’t seem to even have a category for such a thing.

To be honest, I was so sure of JW’s proclivities that I began to construct a Bingo card that had 25 of these 30 proclivities represented on it. Then as he continued in his rhetorical rut I was going to declare “BINGO!” each time I got 5 in a row. Of course I didn’t but I could have been a winner in more than one way had I done so.

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