Thus far, having read critiques of my debate performance, two complaints have arisen: 1.) I offered arguments that were unfamiliar and therefore difficult to understand. 2.) I was rude, angry, condescending, and/or had a chip on my shoulder.
I already addressed #1 in this blog post so let’s turn to the second complaint. As the debate day grew closer I began to ask those around me, those I trusted, whether I should enter the debate “knives out”. That is, whether I should meet JW where he is and play the game the way he plays it. I explained to them that after watching so much of JW on the topic of Text and Translation that it seemed to me that he was often less than professional with his Christian interlocutors. What is more the moderator rarely if ever restrained either debater’s rhetoric so no one was going to stop JW if he started down that road. To illustrate JW’s lack of professionalism and restraint, consider the following debate which was part of my own debate preparation.
This debate was between James White and Pastor Jack Moorman. Beginning at around the [54:48] mark you will find the following (Click the time stamp if you’d like to watch it yourself):
[54:48] – JW is seen visibly shaking his head while his interlocutor is speaking.
[56:38] – JW is shaking his head and speaking over his interlocutor with the words “Not true.”
[01:01:58] – JW interrupts his interlocutor and then takes over the conversation.
[01:03:43] – A listener asks a question and JW laughs at the question with incredulity.
[01:03:50] – After being told earlier by the moderator not to comment JW comments anyway.
[01:09:30] – JW audibly scoffs and shakes his head.
[01:13:20] – JW shakes his head and speaking over his interlocutor with the words “Not true.”
[01:14:20] – JW laughs and then interrupts his interlocutor.
[01:19:02] – JW smiles then scoffs then interrupts.
[01:23:52] – JW smiles then scoffs at a listener’s question. The moderator then calls for summary statements. JW asserts that he will first offer a response to the listener’s question. After which JW offers his summary statement.
And all of this in under 30 minutes. At no point did the moderator step in and tell JW that such behavior was rude and unprofessional. By the time of the above debate JW had been on the debate scene for over 21 years and had already debated Bart Ehrman. Still, JW had not yet worked out of his system the laughing, interrupting, head-shaking, scoffing etc. and the above is only what was caught on camera.
And before we think that this kind of rhetoric is out of JW’s rhetorical system let’s not forget this chippy response from JW when debating Dr. Riddle.
Then of course after our debate JW posts the following meme on his wall which shows a thoroughly non-chippy, non-rude completely professional JW during our debate.
The point is that JW has set the tone of this debate years ago and it continues up until today and that tone includes making faces, shaking your head, speaking over your interlocutor, scoffing, and all the rest.
This is part of JW ‘s legacy. JW engenders heated, rude, and chippy debate because that is the way he debates, especially with Christians.
So as I saw it I could either wait for JW to do the same to me or, seeing that I spoke first, do it to him right off the bat. I chose the latter.
Now, was my rhetoric chippy, heated, and even rude? Indeed, it was. Is that a professional way to debate? No, it is not. I have no problem admitting this. Unfortunately, no one in JW’s camp, no close friend, has helped JW admit as much as I just did in the first couple sentences of this paragraph let alone have that admission lead to real change in JW’s rhetoric. So I tried a different tactic, the tactic of “How about a little of your own medicine.”
And it worked! JW fans were coming out of the woodwork declaring me to be heated, condescending, and having a chip on my shoulder. Right! That was the point. Now take that same critique and help JW see the same light. So every time JW gets short with his interlocutor or interrupts or scoffs or emotes remember that JW is cementing his legacy in this kind of rhetoric and don’t be surprised if a younger man comes behind him with the willingness to play the same kind of game.
To those on my side of the isle, I know many of you disapprove of my tactic here and I can see why. I apologize for throwing you for a loop without warning. But in the end it proved an excellent point. For JW and those who follow him, chippy rhetoric is a “definitely for me but not for thee” kind of relationship when JW debates with Christians.
5 thoughts on “Van Kleeck Was Rude”
I thought you did an awesome job – it is hard for me to listen to any JW debate because of the condescending demeanor and rudeness (along with the hyperbole, false hoods and deceptions) of JW, and you are correct he has always done it – and no one calls him out.
I must say that your 10 minute rebuttal was stellar and did put a smile on my face
~ grace and peace
Thanks for the encouraging words. We’ll just keep on keepin’ on and see where the Lord takes it. Blessings.
Let me first begin by saying that even before reading this blogpost, I more or less induced the same conclusion from watching the debate; I’ve watched Dr. James White debate countless times and while there have been plenty of occasions where I ultimately agreed with his side, I have almost invariably found his general temperament and tone less than charitable even against otherwise faithful Christian brethren. It is one thing to disagree very strongly with the other side, but it is another to emotively express disdain for them.
Granted, that is likely a character flaw that Dr. White is very well aware of and personally carries as a cross. I have no doubt that he wishes, as any Christian should, to be as Christ-like as possible when debating with brethren, let alone with the lost. But it’s something that seems to carry through in every single debate I’ve ever watched. So, when I saw that you, to a certain extent, mirrored his longstanding behavior, I actually did not get the sense that you were being rude, but standing toe to toe. I actually liked that, for once. Because it exposes the emptiness of that approach on Dr. White’s side as well.
I was surprised by his arbitrary appeal to you that you’d be more charitable in your questioning of him simply because he did not want to answer your questions with a “yes” or “no”, and because he dismissed your questions as insincere. However, that’s ultimately his own opinion, and if you believe those questions expose a flaw in his reasoning, then it’s not insincerity but tenacity that’s driving the line of questions as presented.
Anyway, I thought it was a very interesting debate. I think the general line of argument you and Dr. Jeff Riddle have presented against White is certainly new for many viewers, but those of who are more theologically-inclined are a bit more likely to pick up on exactly what you’re getting at here, and I do think Dr. White has failed to address those fundamental premises. That, of course, doesn’t prove your position to be correct. But it does, in my opinion, show that he has not sufficiently disproven it.
Whether it’s admitted or not, there is certainly a naturalistic undertone in much critical scholarship, and to deny or diminish that reality is why the substance of your position is often overlooked.
Just my thoughts.
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I think the issue that people are pointing out is more precisely seen in what you have written here: you set out to teach White a lesson. That came through loud and clear. To my ears, even though I had not heard of the debate prior to watching it, it was evident that you were on a mission to bring the seasoned debater down — similar to the old westerns where the young gunslingers want to make a name by taking down the famous gunhand. 1 Timothy 5:1 says, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren…”, even if you believed White to be rude, the “taste of his own medicine” approach ended up making you look more like a petulant youth than a robust adversary which, I think, significantly hurt your image and therefore distracted from your arguments. You went nearly to the point of saying that White was outside the Christian faith, making you appear unrestrained. May I sincerely encourage you change tactics before you alienate those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. I have know many who, in their zeal for Christ, think that they are Elijah taking on the prophets of Baal when they take on viewpoints differing from their own, even viewpoints that are well within orthodox Christianity.
Though it does not have to do with this specific subject, something that I could not shake throughout the debate was that I could not decide whether you lean Reformed or Charismatic. This is not meant to cause insult whether you are one or the other, but I honestly could not tell where you are at theologically. At times you seemed to defer to the Reformers’ views, or at least you respected their thinking (making me think you are Reformed). But the backbone of your argument seemed to be that you rely on direct divine revelation to discern which text is inspired, making me think that you might be Charismatic or lean that direction. Clarification on this point would help me in understanding your perspective. I was reminded during your arguments of the Jesus Calling series, in which the author “listens” for the voice of God.
Thanks for the comment, J. Clark. Again, I think your observations rather prove my point. In this article I pointed out Dr. White’s lack of professionalism with Pastor Moorman. Again, Pastor Moorman. Dr. White did not treat Pastor Moorman, who was obviously older than Dr. White, as a father. The same goes for Dr. White’s debate with Jeff Riddle. Dr. White did not treat him as a father either. The point is that Dr. White, now that he is the older man, has set the table over and over to not be treated as a father as well. Indeed, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount plainly teaches, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. Apparently, Dr. White would have us not treat him as a father. Indeed, he would have us answer a fool according to his folly.
On the point of Reformed vs. Charismatic, I believe my arguments are firmly in the Reformed tradition. Consider the following from the Westminster Confession of Faith:
1.4 – “The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.” Here it says that the authority of Scripture depends wholly upon God and not men [i.e., textual critics or textual criticism or Ph.D.’s] and because of this it ought to be received as the Word of God.
1.5 – While there are many external arguments as to why we believe the Bible is the word of God “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” Here again “our full persuasion” comes from the Holy Spirit witnessing in our hearts by His words [i.e., the Spirit/word/faith paradigm]. Note again the conspicuous lack of textual critics or textual criticism or Ph.D.’s.
1.9 – I was accused of circularity in Dr. White closing statement yet consider the WCF when it says, “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself.” Because Scripture is a first principle it is necessarily circular that I appeal to it when defending it. Dr. White seems to misunderstand this point.
1.10 – “The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” Our debate was certainly a “religious controversy” and how are we to settle religious controversies according to the WCF? By “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” to us. Yet Dr. White didn’t quote a single verse to defend his position and then took issue when I called his method naturalistic.
In the end, the Spirit of God speaking through the word of God to the people of God who then accept those words by faith is very Reformed.
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