Responding to James White (Part 4)

I had assumed that White was finished with his third post, but I was mistaken. He had posted a fourth response to my comments. After reading over it carefully a number of times, I don’t feel there is much that I could say about his argument that hasn’t already been said. White is appealing to the same fallacies to which he appealed in earlier posts. I do have a couple things to point out, though.

In this fourth post, White argues that I am wrong when I say that “Mormonism claims to be Christian just like James claims to be Christian.” He evidently interprets this to mean “Mormonism claims to be Christian in the exact same manner that, and based on the exact same perspective from which, James claims to be Christian.” From their he dives into Mormonism’s claim to be the only church with God’s authority, and thus the only true church of Jesus Christ. He distinguishes this from his own claim to be Christian and insists that Mormonism is too audacious in their claim to be then allowed to turn around and identify generally with the Christian faith. Of course, my comment had nothing to do with the nature of our separate claims to be Christian. It only had to do with the simple fact that we each claim to be Christian.

Another statement White makes, however, problematizes his earlier rhetoric. In showing that he does not have the unmitigated gall to claim to be the only church with God’s authority he states,

I recognize the reality of God’s Spirit working in men and women who disagree with me on the non-essentials, and see a world-wide body of believers, the elect of God, united by a common confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and the Scriptures are sufficient for life and godliness.

Here the fundamental definition of Christianity appears to be the “common confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and the Scriptures are sufficient for life and godliness.” Why was this not put forth as the fundamental definition of Christianity in earlier posts? He repeatedly stated that Christianity is fundamentally defined by its doctrine of God. Others have even commented to me that it is odd that White fundamentally defines Christianity without ever talking about Christ. I have argued that his definitions are begging the question and are trying to construct an artificial definition of Christianity that can help him to draw Mormonism outside the circle. I have argued he isn’t really addressing true defining issues. I think White’s slip-up above shows that my assessment has been perfectly accurate. When the rhetoric is over and it comes time for White to define Christianity for those we don’t want to a priori exclude from Christianity, White’s definition actually overlaps quite a bit with Mormonism. I don’t know any Mormon who would disagree with the first two confessions. Of course, White’s definition, asserting sola scriptura as it does in its third confession, is more an Evangelical set of confessions than a simple universally Christian set of confessions. He’s intentionally excluding Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, but since that last confession is so ingrained in his own tradition’s fundamental identity, it’s to be expected.

I would conclude that White here has come full circle and finally proven that the fundamental criticism I provided in my original critique of his video was exactly on target. I would reiterate it:

What James is arguing throughout his video is that Mormonism is not Evangelicalism. This hardly needs a 14 minute video to point out, though. The implication, however, is that because it is not Evangelicalism, it is not Christian.

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14 responses to “Responding to James White (Part 4)

  • Eric

    He obviously reads your blog. (Nothing like backtracking to legitimize and seal your argument, eh Mr. White?) We should be pained to say that it is individuals such as he are who giving Christians a bad name. The public in general are more anti-God and anti-religion than at any other time in American history. (one could even argue – “of all time”). When asked the reason for their reluctance to support or endorse organized religion the answer generally given is that religion has become antiquated and is no longer relevant to “modern society”. Why? Because mainstream Christianity in America, more than any other country, has become repressive, judgmental, unloving, and is filled with superstitions of one sort or another. Many of the “Christian Right” i.e. self-identified Evangelicals (yes, they have become synonymous – ask any of them if a Democrat can really be a Christian and see what they tell you) are so self-righteous and so conceited that not only do they reject anyone who doesn’t fit their description of a Christian but they also reject the legitimacy of alternative interpretations of Scripture, including topics such as the Rapture, the pre-millennial or post-millennial return of Christ, the antichrist, and time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. My point in mentioning that is what he terms “non-essentials” are in /actual practice/ very essential to them and to dissent with them marks one as blinded or lacking of the holy Spirit and in danger of eternal torment. So, in the final analysis, of whom do Jesus’ words best apply, Mormons or Evangelicals? Perhaps it is expecting too much but I’ll let the reader answer that for himself, trusting that he will answer truthfully having removed the rose-colored glasses of prejudice and church tradition.

    • Arlin

      Hold your horses there Eric, you seem utterly personally unfamiliar with the topics you are talking about.

      First, nothing you said has anything to do with Doctor White or what he has written here.

      Second, at best you are maybe familiar with some unpleasant fundamentalist (in all the wrong ways)sect of evangelicalism.

      I am an Evangelical. I am a Reformed Baptist, like Dr. White. I am also a political Independent.

      I go to a pre-millenial dispensational school, namely BIOLA University. It is very open to a wide variety of conservative Christianity. Reformed, Calvinistic, Arminian,Covenental, Dispensational, ect.

      What you have described is so far off the mark of reality for the majority of evangelicalism, it is sad.

      The rapture, dispensationalism, and the other thigns you mentioned are secondary and non-essential.
      Almost everyone understands this, even if they are very dedicated to their hobby horse.

      Myself, I am a Covenental Historical Amillenial Preterist.
      I am a CHAP.

      • Eric

        Thanks for your reply, Arlin. I appreciate your thoughts. Perhaps I should clarify that my comments are based upon my personal experience in dealing and dialoguing with thousands of American Evangelicals over the past twenty years. My observation is that you are actually in the minority. I would encourage you to fellowship with a wider array of Evangelicals from around the country. I have made this a study for nearly twenty years. Your experience and perspective is naturally going to be different from those who are ‘outsiders’ that look at it from the historical or sociological perspective. There are many studies that back up what I’ve said.

      • Arlin

        For the record, I define this:
        “My observation is that you are actually in the minority. I would encourage you to fellowship with a wider array of Evangelicals from around the country.”
        as being talked down to.

        Of course I am in the minority.
        I am a Reformed Baptist!

        Being Calvinistic, Covenantal, Confessional, CreedoBaptismal, Ammillenial, and Preteristic places me in a very tiny minority in broader Christianity.
        Heck, it places me in the small minority of Reformed believers!
        I am fully aware of that and hold to my convictions because they are Biblical and internally Consistent, far more so that the other perspectives that are rightly Christian, albeit mistaken.

        For the record, BIOLA University is representative of ‘Evangelicals from around the country’ and indeed ‘around the world’.

        I was raised as a Charismatic, left that for a conservative (rare!) mainline Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and then transitioned to my current Reformed Baptist home.

        I certainly am familiar with most if not all of Evangelicalism beyond that.
        That is why I am a Reformed Baptist. =)

        If you want an honest opinion, the term evangelical has no meaning anymore. Everyone and their mother is an evangelical, and almost none of them know why or what the term originally meant.

        There are certainly some confused, fundamentalist republican dispensationalist segments of evangelical Christendom that are rather fanatical and turn eschatology into fundamental doctrine, but they have largely been sidelined these days.

        By the way, you said “Rapture, the pre-millennial or post-millennial return of Christ, the antichrist, and time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.”

        But post-millenialism is ENTIRELY different from pre-millenialism. The gap there is astounding and the fact you stick them together in that list is telling that you don’t really understand these terms.

      • Eric

        You have consistently called into question my “understanding” of these various issues, and have made several long-winded assumptions about some of my statements that have fewer words than I have fingers. I made a couple of short comments on someone’s blog. Short comments rarely contain in-depth analysis. I would have liked to address some of your other concerns but you have shown yourself to be one fond of argument and confrontation and so this will be my final reply to you. My statement that you are in the minority is in reference to yours that you are politically independent, etc…, and that only certain fundamentalist sects quibble over non-essentials. That is simply not true and I speak from two decades of experience which includes individuals of the Christian Coalition of America who have great political clout. As for my reference to pre/post millennialism you obviously didn’t read carefully enough. I said “alternative interpretations of”, i.e. that many self-identified Evangelicals are unwilling to consider the views of others (whether they be pre- OR post- millennial) as legitimate. Arguments between the two go back now centuries, but what makes it different today is that those who have the view opposite to the one taken by a self-identified Evangelical are no longer considered Christian at all. Surely you have heard the phrase “Actions speak louder than words”? The claims do not fit the realities. Mr. White has done the same – sectarianism has blinded him and he has made harsh judgments about other Christians which he himself would not endure.

  • Arlin

    McClellan, Doctor White did not “slip up”.

    You are not interacting at all with what he said and claimed.

    He never claimed that his first post gave an exhaustive outline of the entire fundamental definition of Christianity.

    He specifically stated in his posts that he was pointing only to those particular defining issues that were “relevant” to discussing the claims of a polytheistic religion, such as Mormonism.

    In that first post he also mentioned the gospel of Grace as definitional, and relevant, but you had not said anything that warranted expanding on that point.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Arlin-

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, but I’m going to have to disagree with you. First, I believe I am interacting with everything White is saying. If there’s something you believe I’ve missed please point it out and I’ll do my best to correct it. Second, he did slip up, and he did claim to give an exhaustive outline of the fundamental definition of Christianity when he stated the following:

      /The nature of God as eternal, unique, self-existent, is not one defining issue among many possible defining issues. It is the foundation, the definition./

      The claim that he is customizing his response to Mormonism specifically only proves my point that he’s begging the question. If he wants to return to those issue he mentioned as being peripheral to his doctrine of God in subsequent responses to my comments he is welcome.

      • Arlin

        I responded to this post, I saw it after it posted, and now it is gone.

        Did you delete it or did it get eaten by the digital nether realm?

      • Daniel O. McClellan

        Arlin, I told you I would not allow you to post another comment in which you appealed to putative monotheistic biblical texts without first directly engaging the blog post to which I linked you that directly addressed those texts:

        http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/james-white-mormons-are-not-christians/#comment-1757

        You’ve now appealed to those texts, and quoted them at length, without even acknowledging my arguments, so your post has been deleted. I am trying to be fair with you, but you are not being fair with me. I’ve provided several arguments against your assertions and you’ve flatly ignored them in each instance only to reassert yourself. I will not tolerate that on my blog.

      • Arlin

        Actually, McClellan, you didn’t say that I could not post more comments regarding this topic.

        I even indirectly responded to some of your claims in the post you deleted.

        If you are going to delete long comments that take me a lot of time and effort to compile, then I see no reason to continue this discussion.

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    Arlin-

    You’re the one who decided to commit a lot of time to writing a post that simply ignored the requirement I very clearly placed on your continued participation here. If you don’t want to follow the rules then you are free to leave, but don’t try to make it sound like it’s my fault.

    • Arlin

      You never “clearly placed requirement on my continued participation here”.

      That is a rather strange thing to do anyway.

      If you didn’t like the post I posted on a different comment chain because I didn’t respond where and exactly to what you determined was important, you should have simply replied with a link and say “Can you respond to this please?”

      Frankly my post that you deleted directly applied to the post that you wanted me to respond to anyway.
      I could have used that as a springboard to highlight and expand on the issues you wished to circle around some more.

      But no, you deleted it. Oh well. =)

  • Are Mormons “Christian”? | Diglotting

    [...] the past few days Daniel McClellan (here, here, here, here, and here) and James White (here, here, here, here, here, and here) have been engaging in a bit of [...]

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