Monday, June 07, 2010

Apologist Interview: James White

Today's interview is with Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. He talks about how he became a Christian, how he got started in apologetics, and his apologetic methodology. He also gives advice to Christian apologists, talks about his numerous debates, his upcoming debate with Christopher Hitchens, and suggested disciplines for apologists.

James White's podcast, The Dividing Line, can be found here. His ministry blog is here. His resources can be found here.

Some of James White's books include:
The King James Only Controversy
The Forgotten Trinity
The Potter's Freedom
The God Who Justifies

Full Interview MP3 Audio here. (55 minutes)

Enjoy.

For more interviews, subscribe to the Apologetics 315 Interviews podcast here or in iTunes.

32 comments :

Reformed Thought said...

Brilliant interview, thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you.

Wes Widner said...

He makes such a big deal about being an elder you wouldn't think the truth is that he is an "elder" at a church is only he and one other guy (the senior pastor). What a hypocrite.

Aaron Brake said...

James has a newer revised edition of The Potter's Freedom available. I didn't see it on Amazon but I know you can get it directly from Alpha & Omega for those who are interested.

Davitor said...

I want to personally thank James White for he has single handedly made millions who listen to him on YouTube realize the absurdity of apologetic methodology and its literal interpretation of the bible. It’s people like James White who have millions of open minded Christians question the biblical God. So thank you James White you are helping thousand leave their faith. I heard once from an atheist that he believes James White has done more for them than Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins combined.

Ex N1hilo said...

Wes,

I have seen only two comments from you on this site so far and both have been unhelpful. If James White is a hypocrite, then, please do explain in detail why you think so. I don't get how "he is one of two elders in his local church" is hypocrisy. All you are doing is throwing bombs at the reformed. How about trying dialog?

Davitor,

I think that's why White's podcast is called "The Dividing Line." People should question why they are going to church and why they call themselves Christians. Better to find out now that one's profession is inauthentic rather than at the judgement.

Davitor said...

Not at all Wes, what makes James White such a shocker is his ability to communicate so eloquently what is really in tells to adhere to a literal interpretation of the bible. Even conservative Christians shy away from this approach because it makes God so unpopular. I know for a fact that many Armenian’s would rather accept the bible as errant than to accept this Calvinist interpretation of God. So what better way for atheist to have an insider breaking up the very fabric of the Christian belief of the inerrant word of bible.

Wes Widner said...

Ex, I'm not sure what you mean by "unhelpful" especially considering my comment was just that, my comment. Were you expecting a research paper on the failings of James White and why his credentials are rather laughable (and disturbing since I would agree with Davitor's assessment)?

Michael Baldwin said...

Actually I was also about to comment about Wes' comments on this blog and on others that I've seen; they seem particularly combative. Wes, you still haven't given us some reasons as to why it's hypocritical to say that elders are important and to have two elders at your church. I really cannot see the contradiction- can you point it out to me please?

And please try and refrain from ad hominems and just give me solid reasons, I couldn't care less what you think about his credentials, though I'm sure your credentials, in contrast, are impeccable. I'm just glad that God judges by the heart and not by human, superficial fixations on things such as credentials.

Ex N1hilo said...

Wes,

As I understand it, the subject of this blog and of this blog entry is apologetics. Giving a reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Your comment is, in my view, unhelpful because it detracts from, rather than contributes to that purpose. Your goal seems to be, as Michael pointed out, to be combative.

Which is why I invite you to add to the conversation by clarifying your comments about James White's alledged hypocracy. If there is something that we need to be warned about concerning this man, let's have it.

Also, Wes, I think you might want to reconsider your stated agreement with Davitor's assessment of White. Davitor ridicules White for his "literal interpretation" of the bible. Of course, literal interpretation is how all literature should be approached; that is, seeking to elucidate the author's intended meaning.

Nevertheless, critics of the Sciptures often use the term "literal interpretation" to mean that one takes the Scriptures as one's inerrant, infallible authority.

Now, whether Davitor meant simply that White uses a literal hermeneutic for interpreting Scripture, or that he takes the Scripture to be his inerrant, infallible, authority--in either case, White is right on this issue and Davitor is dead wrong. To agree with Davitor's assessment puts you on the wrong side of the issue of literal interpretation and authority of the Bible.

There is, however, one thing that Davitor got right: Arguing from the Scripture as one's inerrant authority is today, as ever, unpopular--even among those who identify themselves as Christians. It is liable to drive away the goats. But it is nutricious food for Christ's sheep.

Roberto G said...

James White is strongest in theology and exegesis. He would be a sort of Fedor Emelianenko of evangelical apologetics if he added philosophical theology to his set of tools. His debates with RC's and biblical studies opponents are very profitable. As are Potter's Freedom and God Who Justifies.

Wes Widner said...

It's not hypocritical to have two elders at your church., It is hypocritical to bash others for not "being under the authority of elders" (which is also a bastardization of the text) when you are one of the two elders at the church where you are supposedly "under the authority of the elders". In other words, White is effectively answerable to only one man who, himself, is not a debater.

Further, my agreement with Davitor only extended to his statement that White has done much to help the cause of atheism both with his illogical theology as well as with his un-christlike attitude towards just about everyone he meets who does not share his particular (and peculiar) brand of theology.

Finally, White is not a scholar so his pretending that he is any more educated or somehow a professional while others who labor in teaching apologetics is simply misguided (not to mention highly and exceedingly arrogant). His title of "Dr" comes from a school that is not accredited and White's work was only supervised by one man (rather than the standard academic counsel found at accredited universities).

In short, White's arrogance stems from the fact that he demeans, diminishes, and attempts to prematurely claim authority (because "I'm an elder you know) over just about everyone he meets that he disagrees with.

If anything, White is the perfect model of what not to do if one wishes to be a faithful ambassador for Christ.

Mike Felker said...

Wes, I go to a very small church with only 20 people on a given Sunday, with only one elder. We'd like to have another elder to fit the biblical model, but it is all that God has blessed us with thus far. However, I can still tell others, "Obey your leaders (elders) and submit to them" (Heb. 13:17) without being hypocritical. Why? Because its a biblical command.

Also, i'd judge someone by what they actually produce verses an "accredited" piece of paper. If you think that White is a bad scholar who produces complete trash, then that's fine. But it is a pretty poor methodology in judging someone by their diploma as there are guys like Peter Ruckman and D.A. Waite who have better credentials than White but put out complete theological rubbish.

pds said...

Please backup your statements Wes. Where is White illogical in his theology? Or un-christlike in his attitude?

Make no mistake, I disagree with White on various issues but I don't fail to see the good he is doing.

Phil Duncalfe said...

Wasn't expecting to see people bashing White here. I was really glad White discussed being in a local church, I didn't hear any emphasis on the fact he was an elder other than that he really enjoyed being part of the church and wanted others to do likewise.

Only heard a few things of his but as far as I'm concerned he seems like a sound guy rather than a hypocrite. Better he has one person to be accountable to than none at all.

Davitors un-literal interpretation of the bible sounds like a crowd pleaser rather than a God pleaser. The gospel is divisive, we should not set out to make it more 'popular' and Ex N1hilo's response is correct - it is good to see the seperation of the sheep and the goats.

Davitor said...

Phil, atheist love Christian's that emphasizes a divisive Gospel because it makes them the nice guy and proves their moral issues. It's the mother Theresa's and Gandhi that have them divisive.
So please keep it up Phil, make the atheist be the nice guy and make your divisive Gospel tear down those who do not believe in it. Just please keep reminding everyone Christian you meet that the bible saids they have all been pre-elected whether they like it or not, to a definitive place.
Hey "it’s in the bible”

Haecceitas said...

It's obvious that White is a character that you tend to either love or hate. Some of the criticism here seem a little unfair. Yes, his doctorates are from an unaccredited school, but one that requires solid work, so it's not a "diploma mill" type of thing.

I consider White a very good all-round apologist who is close to the top scholarly level (though not quite there) on many subjects.

For example, I don't think that you will find many countercult apologists that surpass White in the bredth or depth of knowledge in the relevant fields of study. The mere combination of knowing the original languages of the Bible well enough to teach them, knowing a decent amount of church history, and being knowledgeable on both Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses would be enough to make White a notable person in the apologetics scene, and adding his solid debating skills to the mix means that his knowledge can be in regular use in the actual practise of apologetics. But he also combines all of this with other areas of competence (textual criticism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, defense of Calvinism, etc).

I do think that White is sometimes a bit unbalanced in his critiques of non-calvinist perspectives, and his critiques of Molinism and classical/evidential apologetics in particular tend to show that philosophy isn't among his strongest subjects, but overall, I don't know how an impartial evaluator could fail to see him as a significant figure in today's apologetics scene.

thoughtfulfaith said...

I like James White. What I can respect is his commitment to God, and to the truth. What he said in the interview about being involved in a local church, and having theology being more important than apologetics is certainly important.

If any Christian wants to contribute to his page on the apologetics wiki that'd be great!

http://www.apologetics-wiki.com/wiki/index.php/James_White

Davitor said...

Yes, James White, please help does Christian's who a bit shy to take the stand and proclaim to the world a God who pre- elects.

Lockheed said...

If Mr. Widner took the time to read up on Reformed and Baptist church polity he might discover the concept of the "plurality of elders".

I realize the multiple-pastor model is popular these days, but it's not normative in Reformed Baptist circles.

That said, Mr. Widner, a self-proclaimed middle-knowledge devotee, has made his dislike of Dr. White known across the net and seems to find pleasure in taking issue with him everywhere. I recommend you tune him out until he bothers to study the issues he claims to understand.

Mark said...

A brief note on James White's church and eldership. He is one of two elders listed because in 2006 one of their elders went home to the Lord at 85 yrs old. He has not yet been replaced.

The other elder is listed as pastor. Biblically and per the church's constitution he is one of the church's elders. Using the title pastor is more for distinguishing duties.

Dr. White is also responsible both for and to the congregation. As far as I can tell, the church is congregationally ruled which is in-line with baptist ecclesiology of the past and present. The congregation approves and removes both elders and deacons.

Mark

P.s. It is true that Dr. White's doctorates are from an unaccredited school. He has never kept this a secret. However, the school is not a diploma mill. He did work for them even if one believes the work was not sufficient. There are popular universities over seas such as University of South Africa which is unaccredited in the USA, done via distance yet are accepted here.

Haecceitas said...

"There are popular universities over seas such as University of South Africa which is unaccredited in the USA, done via distance yet are accepted here."

Well, aren't Oxford and Cambridge also "unaccredited in the USA"? That seems to be quite a meaningless standard. The university of South Africa is accredited in (surprise) South Africa.

And like I said, I don't make a big issue of White's doctorates being unaccredited, so don't take my comment that way.

Also, I think James mentioned at one point that he's looking into getting a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. Presumably that would be an accredited Ph.D. I hope he can fit that to his busy schedule, so his critics would have one less excuse to criticize him unfairly (and so they could perhaps focus more on the actual issues).

Phil Duncalfe said...

Davitor, is God a nice guy? Is that what we Christians preach now? I believe in the God of Justice (as well as mercy, grace and forgiveness) who deserves reverence, fear and worship. I believe in the God who rescued me from my sin because I am not able to save myself. Be that pre-election or whatever - God saved me through Jesus while I was still an enemy of God because of my sin - I didn't save myself.

I'm not quite sure what you believe in but if you think Christianity is just nice then why was Jesus killed so brutally? Surely if the gospel wasn't divisive then Jesus would have had a very peaceful death. If you tell people the whole gospel - Jesus saves but there is judgement - not everyone is going to like it.

I will keep telling people about Jesus and I will keep living my life in a way that honours him. I'm not going to water down scripture because it is difficult or doesn't look 'nice' to atheists.

Davitor said...

Phil, is God a bad guy? You seem eager to say otherwise as long as it agrees with your dogmatic understanding of Him. But what if it does not? What if God has pre-elected you to Hell. Do you have a choice? If not why even bother posting. Does God need your help for pre-election. If I already know the score of who will win the NBA championship, does it matter who I'm cheerleading for?

Phil Duncalfe said...

Davitor, interesting questions. You seem to assume that anyone with a slight calvanistic leaning will go down the extreme route of ignoring Jesus' command to go out and preach the gospel.

Somehow I get to say yes to God though it is only by Jesus that I have salvation. Somehow in that same mix God wants to use me and other Christians to preach the gospel. On one hand I know God saved me for I was an enemy to him in my sin, on the other hand God tells me to spread the gospel to help save others. Do I know how the exact balance works? Not really, I'm not God.

I am not quite sure what you mean by my 'dogmatic understanding' - I go with what the bible says and what Jesus taught and then take my understanding from that. I don't see how you think I've made God a bad guy - is a God of justice bad? No...but those receiving justice probably won't really like it.

If you can biblically show me otherwise how you have assurance of your salvation I'm willing to study your points. Though it looks like I'll get a load of rhetorical questions without biblical substance.

Anonymous said...

James White is not a very good scholar or apologist. Often in debates with atheists, the two sides talk past each other. Both sides seemingly not trying to understand where the other is coming from. But at least on the Christian side of the debate, there should be love and our arguments should be put forth from a position of grace. I don't see this James White. He takes swipes at Dawkins and Hitchens. Implying that they are just too intellectually dishonest to accept that there is a God. Of course Dawkins and Hitchens take the opposite position. But Christians should have more grace. John Lennox puts the case for God in a far more forceful, logical and, most importantly, sensitive way than James White ever could. White has no sensitivity to the other side it seems.

Also, concerning White's countercult apologetics, it seems that he has made little intellectual headway here too. The best illustration of this is a series of videos on Youtube where he is debating Sola Scriptura with Mormon scholar Daniel Peterson on Martin Tanner's show. They wiped the floor with him. It's unfortunate because I think that a better apologist could have done much better. It seems now that White has turned his attention from Mormonism onto Islam and atheism. I suppose he justifies this by the fact that these are far more important areas than Mormonism. But we really do need better apologetics against them. The bottom line with the Peterson debate was this: Daniel Peterson is just a smarter guy than James White.

James White is politically conservative. This shows up very clearly in his Youtube posts. His rant after Obama was elected was just shameful. He could hardly disguise his disappointment at the election result. Now there's nothing wrong with being politically conservative, but don't let this interfere with your ministry. Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat or have any other political affiliation. The problem with U.S. "evangelical" protestantism is this notion that you must be politically conservative to be a true Christian. What nonsense. James White loses intellectual credibility again with his rants about leftists and anti-Obama nonsense. (As an aside, anyone could see that to take such politically conservative stance in the face of the universally acknowledged failures of the conservative Bush administration is not a intellectually defensible position - thus he loses much intellectual credibility when he positions himself with the Rush Limbaughs of the world).

Lastly, just a note on his qualifications. His PhD is from an obscure, non-accredited institution. Now this does not mean that his work leading to his awarded PhD is not quality scholarship. And we know that he is probably a reasonably capable scholar because he did get a Masters from Fuller. But wouldn't one of the considerations for doing doctoral work be to actually get recognition for it? When you do your PhD at some obscure institution, it almost defeats the purpose. I read his testimony on Columbia Seminary's website, and it makes some sense (e.g. the cost of going to a recognized university is prohibitive etc). But doing your doctoral work at such an obscure place does not do your work justice. And so we can't take it on face value that his work is quality. We'd have to read his thesis ourselves or get some other knowledgable person to read it and validate its quality. Thus defeating the purpose of doing the PhD in the first place. Furthermore, James White is not currently publishing in academic journals, so he is not engaged is much academic research at all. This leads us to the last point about James White and his credentials, that is: James White is not a scholar, he is an apologist. There's a difference. James does not work in an academic institution, he is not publishing in academic journals - but rather works for his own private ministry involved in apologetics (not particularly good apologetics at that). This is not the same as scholarship.

Anonymous said...

In short, James White may be a vocal apologist, but not a very good or effective one. He might be good a preaching to the choir, but he's not terribly good at convincing anyone else. This may be due to his intellectual deficencies when coming up against formidable opponents like Dawkins, Hitchens and Peterson, but even the lowly, Christ tells us, can be used to further his kingdom. Rather, I think White's fundamental problem is that he is insensitive and probably lacks love, especially towards those who have different views than he does. Again, a good model here is John Lennox. Lennox does not budge on the gospel (and he shouldn't), but is gracious enough and kind enough to win the respect of his opponents. Until James White learns to be more gracious towards his intellectual opponents, then I think that he will simply be a clanging cymbol.

Danny said...

The silence of the moderator says a lot about his view of Dr. White. Those who fall in the William Lane Craig philosophy camp continue to discredit or cheer on those who attempt to dicrecdit Dr. White. Let's get this thing over with and have your hero Dr. Craig debate Dr. White on the subject of Molinism. Or can a philosopher actually debate a theological apologist?
BTW, Whites perceived conceit regarding elders is misconstrued. He points it out often in love of the Church. His point is that he is first a Churchman and then an apologist. Those who don't listen to the show wouldn't get that. It's easy to sit in the bushes and take shots with your scope dialed in.
Wes, why don't you call the show and have it out with Dr. White's hypocrisy. Careful with your tone...you might come off as a hypocrite yourself.

Brian Auten said...

I have absolutely no interest in hearing anything else about who's better than whom. This is petty and divisive and I'll publish no further comments about this.

I am interested in good content and good conduct here.

Russell said...

Hi Brian,
In case you weren't aware, there is a podcast feed in itunes with James White sermons. It's titled "Dr. James White - SermonAudio.com".

Hoops said...

I agree with Phil here. Despite the different views in the Christian church on election and predestination, two facts remain unchanged. 1) None of us know who the elect are regardless of which view you hold concerning how God elects
2) The command to spread the Gospel is clear in the New Testament(Matt. 28: 19&20, Mark 16: 15&16)
This should dispel many of the arguments that remain and create some sense of unity in the body, but it doesn't always work that way. We know that not all people will be saved, but it's still our job as Christians to spread the word and plant the seed. It will not return to Him void. God's sovereignty and man's free will. Perhaps impossible to comprehend, but both principals are Scriptural.

Ken said...

"Dr." James White is a very divisive and polarizing force in the realm of Christian apologetics. He is unprofessional and can come across as unloving. The biggest shame is the very fact that he is a loose canon diminishes his apologetic material. He has called out and insulted both william lane craig and Norman Geisler... I have corresponded with him both on the dividing line and via email and found him combative and insulting. I'm sorry Brain but you should remove this mans material from your page.

lance bunton said...

you guys know that all this talk is feeding White's ministry. Good or bad, makes no difference White wins either way. I'm just glad the debates keep God and Jesus alive because after all THEY are TWO who need the hearts of men.
Personally I think that White uses his skill as a debater and gift of gab to win. I wish he would consider that real Christians just want the truth and he and buzzard, Sean and others have the ability to teach that. Radical forms of teaching are inherently dangerous because it detracts or adds to the scriptures. i.e. People like white are the reason the trinity was fabricated. White says there are only 2 categories of creation, the creator and the created. But how does he know God's method of creation in the real since. It would be like explaining how God created something from nothing. One can only speculate, using the knowledge and logic we have. ... Far from adequately knowing. You can not make statements like that without being God.Using the scriptures is such a way (to win) could jeopardize your salvation. Heed the warning in Revelations.

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