Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Crimson Catholic on Soteriological and Trinitarian Issues I of II
07/01/2005 - James WhitePart of the reason I even responded to the assertions of Patty Bonds last evening was because I knew, in light of the current spate of "Hate White" posts following the Great Debate X, one of those, probably on Envoy, who are so highly impressed with themselves, would seek to jump all over it. That would give me the opportunity to 1) at least address a meaningful topic (the gospel, not how "lifeless" and heartless and mean-spirited I am), 2) within a meaningful context (Scripture), and 3) illustrate the massive explosion of pure hypocrisy in the RC apologetics community (at least as it is represented by Envoy and a large portion of posters on the CA forums) that has (whether they know it or not) shocked many who have observed it. I will not even honor those who have provided some of the most glaring examples of "hatred in the service of my own ego" of late--they don't deserve it. But one thing is for sure: there is nothing I can say, no matter how clearly, no matter how obvious the context, that cannot be twisted into an insult in service of Mother Church. And the double-standards embraced by entire communities (Envoy esp.) have simply been beyond belief.
"Crimson Catholic" is Jonathan Prejean, who called the Dividing Line a while back and apologized for his own part in the use of ad hominem argumentation. He has engaged Eric Svendsen in discussions, and is currently going back and forth with Steve Hays as well. Unfortunately, the repentance in reference to me did not last long, as the recent week has demonstrated. In any case, he has commented on my brief response to the assertion that one of the greatest truths of God's self-glorification in salvation, that being the perfection of the work of the Son in the salvation of the elect, is "the single most dangerous teaching being spread in the name of Christianity." Now, in light of all of the heresies that exist today--inclusivism, open theism, the denial of the deity of Christ or the resurrection, etc.,--the statement is highly suspect on its face, of course. But I did not even address that aspect. I wanted to provide a brief comparison, a fair comparison, knowing that folks like Mr. Prejean, if they followed the line of non-reasoning that has swept over the Envoy web forum of late, would leap upon it with glee, and I was not disappointed. Prejean begins:
As an elder brother, I had no small amount of ire regarding James White's latest rant against his sister Patty Bonds: http://www.aomin.org/index.php?itemid=512. I'd like to think that I wouldn't publicly berate my sisters for ignorance even if we had a sincere disagreement.Let's start there. Let's extend as much courtesy as possible (something unknown on the Envoy boards) and say Prejean is using "rant" in the modern sense of "blog article" and not in the negative connotation that would seem to fit the context better. Passing by that, why is pointing out the lack of clarity and the inherent confusion in the blog article (which appeared on Madrid's blog) equivalent to "berating" someone? Prejean demands perfection in anything I write--but no one else? Is Prejean "berating" me as well? One truly has to wonder. In any case, I truly wonder: if Mr. Prejean's sister joined a false religion and began teaching false doctrine, is he stating he would put family above gospel, blood above worship? I wonder if he has considered Jesus' words about this very subject so as to understand my position? But that would require a bit of fairness to appear in the context of what is going on over there, and that isn't going to happen.
But in this instance, it's particularly irritating, because I know for a fact that he's wrong, and I've only met Ms. Bonds once myself (in the bustling metropolis of Wylie, TX). For instance,Wrong? Well, let's see. Did she differentiate between a Reformed understanding of the perseverance of the saints and "eternal security"? No, she did not. Must one do so to be even semi-fair in one's comments? Of course. That's like saying Papal Infallibility means the Pope never sins: such shows ignorance of the dogma itself. Did Mrs. Bonds understand and read on the issue of the perseverance of the saints from a Reformed perspective prior to her conversion, say, reading Calvin's Institutes on the subject? One would have to ask her. I have no evidence that she did. The church she attended, while having some Reformed members, is not, itself, Reformed, so the chances of a meaningful discussion of this very issue taking place there so as to inform her of the issues would be rather small. I recently debated a leading proponent of the non-Reformed, "once-saved, always saved" viewpoint, and stood firmly in the camp of those who recognize the biblical reality that saving faith that perseveres is the gift of God given to His elect, and that those whom God regenerates He likewise sanctifies. I spoke clearly against presumption, against embracing and promoting empty faith, etc. So, since Mrs. Bonds began her article by naming me directly, fairness would require her to accurately represent me, yes? Or is that reserved only for those who defend Mother Church, whereas all forms of argumentation, including straw-man arguments, are "fair game" for those "outside the church"?
I had written last evening:
Now, it is very possible--in fact, highly likely--that the author of this statement on Patrick Madrid's blog, Patty Bonds, is reacting to "once saved, always saved" as found in the likes of a Bob Wilkin. I would be shocked if she had read anything in the Lordship Controversy area or regarding the nature of saving faith (the list of verses at the end of the post indicate no familiarity with the issues involved). But in any case, since she not only fails to differentiate what I have so clearly differentiated in my writings, and instead begins this article with a reference, if I am not mistaken, to an article by none other than Dan Corner (!), then she is, at the very least, very confused.Mr. Prejean replies:
Nonsense. Someone raised this very point in the comboxes on that thread; it's not that we Catholics are unfamiliar with the argument. The problem is that they both stem from a fundamentally defective Christology that separates justification from sanctification, human righteousness from divine righteousness (can you say Nestorianism?). Antinomianism, the rejection of "lordship salvation," and the "fire insurance" mentality are all just symptoms of rejecting the Trinitarian theology of the Church Fathers. By their lights, you've denied the commonality of God and man that even makes salvation possible, and the logical implication is that your theology is not going to be sufficiently robust to prevent this sort of perversion.What? Is this supposed to contain a compelling argument? Or do I detect an admission on Prejean's part that Mrs. Bonds was, in fact, incorrect, in that he admits that "they both stem from a fundamentally defective Christology..."? Both what, Mr. Prejean? Perhaps both refers to the anti-Lordship viewpoint of Arminianism and of the "free grace" folks that I have been consistent in repudiating and rejecting, as well as the position I myself hold? Is that the "both"? Then why did Mrs. Bonds conflate the two, Mr. Prejean? Is it to be assumed that a valid argument against the one is a valid argument against the other? You may assume all the arguments you wish, but the fact remains that in the material I was commenting on the two positions were conflated. That is not "nonsense," that is a simple fact. All the smoke produced by other issues will not cover over that reality.
Next, it seems that over at Envoy, the phrase ipse dixit has become law. To what do I refer? There is an epidemic of unsubstantiated authoritarian statements appearing with regularity, where "it is because I say it is" is enough to not only prove the point but convict yours truly of every form of error and sin. I am sure there are many who are quite impressed with charges of defective Christologies and Nestorianism, but in serious dialogue you cannot just throw terms around at your opponent without demonstrating the connection you allege to exist. In reality, Prejean is assuming his position and, as a result of that assumption, making highly contestable arguments regarding the alleged reasons why I, or others, believe what we believe regarding soteriology. I reject the assertion that I have a defective Christology, and challenge Prejean to do something more than just make the allegation. I further challenge him to demonstrate the connection, not just in his theology, but from biblical truth, of how this alleged Christology is relevant to the confusion, in Roman Catholicism, of justification and sanctification. I would like to hear Mr. Prejean comment on Romans 5:1 and dikaiwqentej and its syntactical relationship to ecomen. I would challenge him to not just assert, but prove, how the recognition of the need of a divine righteousness imputed to us (Christ's righteousness) amounts to Nestorianism (as if the recognition that there is no good thing in sinners means we cannot consistently believe in the hypostatic union, for example).
Prejean simply assumes some kind of completely consistent, monolithic "Trinitarian Theology of the Church Fathers." And just what is that? Given the wide divergences of opinion in patristic writings, how can Prejean even pretend to judge on the basis of such a concept?
If by "commonality of man" Prejean is referring to the broad area of incarnational theology, surely he must be aware that Reformed theologians are more than ready to meet any such challenge head-on with a full and firm affirmation of the Incarnation, but that unlike many Roman Catholic theologians, the Reformed theologian should refuse to compromise his foundational belief, that being the sufficiency, perspicuity and clarity of Scripture, so that the divine Word becomes the "hedge" defining the boundaries outside of which one only has speculation, not divine truth. Hence, Calvin's wisely repeated statement that "here the Scripture makes an end of speaking, and so shall we."
I challenge Prejean to go beyond mere assertion and actually provide some kind of meaningful basis for his broad condemnations. But I also point out once again that this entire paragraph does not begin to substantiate his dismissal of my observations as "nonsense." [ continued in part II ]