Sunday, September 19, 2004

On "Controversial" Issues Concerning Martin Luther (My Motivations and Opinions)

By Dave Armstrong (9-19-04)

Protestant historian Roland H. Bainton (Here I Stand) is obviously very fond of Martin Luther (biographers generally are fond of their subjects). But he (like all fair and thorough historians) is not averse to reporting facts that reflect negatively on Luther. The fact that an admirer does so (and a reputable scholar to boot) gives the report more credibility and believability, since the possibility of bias is far less. A generally "positive" or favorable witness saying something negative, and a generally hostile witness expressing something positive, are both examples of more persuasive argumentation. I use these sorts of witnesses all the time in my apologetics, because they provide for forceful, less questionable presentation of one's case.

Everyone understands that Bainton will have a more favorable view of Luther overall, but that doesn't negate a scenario where he may agree with me on particulars.

People (mostly Protestants) may be out there thinking, "yeah, that Catholic Armstrong guy has such an ax to grind against Luther that we can't trust what he asserts in his papers. He is untrustworthy." I've been accused of "hating" Luther, of holding that he is a fundamentally immoral character or "bad man", etc. -- all sorts of nonsense. Again, these potshots are easy to say; much harder to prove from direct analysis and concrete example.

[T]he conflicts and the labors of the dramatic years had impaired his health and made him prematurely an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse. This is no doubt another reason why biographers prefer to be brief in dealing with this period. There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the veil . . .

(Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: New American Library, 1950, 292)
I am concerned with facts; namely: whether the older Luther had these negative characteristics or not. No more, no less. Bainton (the "positive" or "partisan" biographer) clearly agrees with me. In my research I was not dealing with this proposition:
x. Whether Luther partook of the characteristic of "greatness" and had a huge "impact" (or whether the same should be "dismissed").
But rather:
y. Whether the older Luther was (as Bainton put it) "an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse."
Note that proposition y does not intrinsically nullify x. In fact, it has nothing directly to do with it. The two considerations are entirely distinct. I could state, for example:
a. George Washington was a great man who had considerable impact on American culture and history and government.
At the same time, I could assert the following, which does not necessarily contradict the first statement:
b. George Washington had a huge problem with his temper, was often a nominal churchgoer, and held slaves.
Now, when I assert b (all of which is abundantly documented by historians, and quite unarguable), does this mean that I am somehow overlooking or denying a? Of course not. Not at all. I wholeheartedly believe that George Washington was a very great man, to be highly honored and revered as an American Founding father. We may say that there was some contradiction in the person Washington, just as there is in all of us, due to original sin and actual sin in our lives. But it doesn't follow that we must deny their greatness. The analogy to Luther is exactly apt. Obviously, as a Catholic, I don't have the favorable opinion of Luther that any Protestant would have (and that I used to have myself), but my opinion is not nearly as negative as many critics of mine in this regard seem to think (if only they could figure that out).

The facts of the matter of the nature of the later Luther's temperament, psychological shortcomings, etc., are well documented, and I could easily produce much more along those lines from my own library alone. That was my subject. Bainton paints a rosier "big picture," and sets the negatives in a larger context of Luther's overall life and accomplishment. One would expect a partisan biographer to do this. All the more significance, then, should be given to the fact that Bainton basically agreed with me in my criticisms. They came from a man who thinks very highly of Luther.

I could just as easily maintain that Bainton's accompanying qualifications are just as biased as my pointing out the "negatives," because they might be construed as a sort of "damage control" or "Luther PR." I don't see how one thing is any worse than the other. The partisan of Luther offers one interpretation of the same set of facts under consideration, and the critic offers another, and a different emphasis. All this shows is that all parties have bias. But it does not show that I have an undue bias.

I am simply criticizing an important historical figure, because Protestants have been lionizing him lo these many years. It is "setting the record straight." All I am doing is showing all the facts about Luther, not just solely or primarily certain, highly-selective ones that are routinely emphasized by Protestants. I fail to see what is wrong with that. Protestants may not like it (most people feel very uncomfortable about any criticism of their great heroes) but that doesn't make it wrong.

I don't see how it is somehow wrong for me, as a critic of Luther, to point out some uncomfortable facts that every Protestant biographer of any repute also points out. To go after me for this simply because I don't take a positive view overall of Luther's impact (as a Catholic) is no more fair than it would be to go after Protestant biographers who back me up in every particular I bring to the table. If I am wrong, so are they, if we understand that the topic at hand is whether the old Luther had certain faults, as opposed to: "everyone should have an equal estimate of how great and wonderful Luther was." People will differ on the latter, just as they do concerning any great historical figure.

You shouldn't expect a Republican to write glowing praise of Bill Clinton or LBJ or FDR, or a Democrat to go on endlessly about the greatness and historical impact of Ronald Reagan or the two Bush's. Likewise, an orthodox Catholic can only go so far in praise of Luther. It's almost as if to simply take a conventional Catholic view of Luther is to immediately be unfair and unduly biased, by that fact alone. This is unreasonable and unacceptable.

But back to the actual factual matter (supposedly) at hand: Luther's "irascible nature" in his old age. Is this some controversial thing? Is it (if granted) insignificant? I say "no" to both questions. All of this is well documented and not even controversial. I have done nothing wrong in this regard; I haven't misrepresented Luther, and I have done nothing that scores of Protestant historians have not also done. Here are "supporting" opinions of two more Protestant historians on the "later Luther":

1) Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546, by Mark U. Edwards, Jr. (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1983, pp. 150-155).

2) Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, translated by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart, New York: Doubleday Image, 1992, 290-292).

If anything, Edwards and Oberman take an even more negative view of Luther in this regard than I do myself.

In fact, even fellow Protestant "Reformers" held an opinion of Luther far lower than my own. For example, Heinrich Bullinger:
Everyone must be astonished at the harsh and presumptuous spirit of the man . . . The opinion of posterity will be that Luther was . . . a man ruled by criminal passions.
Luther’s rude hostility might be allowed to pass would he but leave intact respect for Holy Scripture . . . What has already taken place leads us to apprehend that this man will eventually bring great misfortune upon the Church.
(Letter to Martin Bucer, December 8, 1543; in Hartmann Grisar, Luther, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, 6 volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1917; V, 409 and III, 417)
Or how about Huldreich Zwingli?:
May I be lost if he does not surpass Faber in foolishness, Eck in impurity, Cochlaeus in impudence, and to sum it up shortly, all the vicious in vice.

(Letter to Conrad Sam of Ulm, August 30, 1528; in Grisar, III, 277)
If that weren't enough, what about John Calvin himself? Writing to Luther's right hand man Philip Melanchthon, Calvin stated:
Your Pericles [Luther] allows himself to be carried beyond all due bounds with his love of thunder . . .

But, you will say, his disposition is vehement, and his impetuosity is ungovernable; -- as if that very vehemence did not break forth with all the greater violence when all shew themselves alike indulgent to him, and allow him to have his way, unquestioned. If this specimen of overbearing tyranny has sprung forth already as the early blossom in the springtide of a reviving Church, what must we expect in a short time, when affairs have fallen into a far worse condition?

(28 June 1545; Letter CXXXVI in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, Volume 4: Letters, Part 1: 1528-1545, translated by David Constable, Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858; reprinted by Baker Book House [Grand Rapids, MI], 1983, 466-467)
He was even more critical in a letter to Bullinger (the "Reformers" had a knack of griping about each other in such letters):
I hear that Luther has at length broken forth in fierce invective, not so much against you as against the whole of us [referring to Luther's Short Confession Concerning the Supper] . . .

But while he is endued with rare and excellent virtues, he labours at the same time under serious faults. Would that he had rather studied to curb this restless, uneasy temperament which is so apt to boil over in every direction. I wish, moreover, that he had always bestowed the fruits of that vehemence of natural temperament upon the enemies of the truth, and that he had not flashed his lightning sometimes also upon the servants of the Lord. Would that he had been more observant and careful in the acknowledgment of his own vices. Flatterers have done him much mischief, since he is naturally too prone to be over-indulgent to himself. It is our part, however, so to reprove whatsoever evil qualities may beset him, as that we may make some allowance for him at the same time on the score of these remarkable endowments with which he has been gifted.

(25 November 1544; Letter CXXII, ibid., 432-433)
So if even John Calvin can severely criticize Luther in this fashion, while not denying that he also has good qualities, why can't a Catholic apologist like myself do so, and why can't I cite Bainton along the same lines without denying that Bainton likes Luther and says "good stuff" about him too? Is it simply because I am a Catholic? If I am wrong, are not Calvin, Bullinger, and Zwingli also, since they "attacked" Luther's character (and even more severely than I did, in some instances)? And if they aren't wrong, why am I considered to be? Just a few of the many questions my anti-Catholic critics ought to answer when they offer up these erroneous and thoroughly wrongheaded critiques . . . . .

As to Luther's commissioning of vulgar art to mock Catholics, Roland Bainton describes the "art" as "outrageously vulgar . . . in all of this he was utterly unrestrained." Bainton's personal opinion regarding why Luther commissioned this "art", and its precipitating causes has nothing to do (logically) with either the question of whether the art was in fact vulgar and objectionable, nor even anything directly to do with his own opinion of the art itself (regardless of how it originated).

What caused the outburst is secondary to the question of whether it was indeed vulgar or not. To offer "mitigating circumstances" might help us to better understand why Luther did this, but it has no bearing on the objective morality of the action. To give an analogy: say that a man had a bad day at work, got a ticket on the way home, had a flat tire, and fell into a mud puddle with his nicest suit on. He then proceeded to storm into the house and strangle his cat. Now, is the strangling of the cat justified by what came before? Of course not. The ethics and morality of that action exist apart from the factors of a "bad day" which preceded it. This is Christian ethics. We are not relativists or advocates of situation ethics.

Likewise, the art by Cranach which Luther commissioned and was directly involved in is either vulgar or it is not. Most people who have written about it that I have ever come across (Protestant or Catholic) have readily agreed that it was objectionable and in very poor taste. Bainton minces no words. He describes it as "outrageously vulgar" and "utterly unrestrained" and Luther's general attitude as "more vituperative" and "more bitter" and an example of "hurling vitriol."

Note that Bainton qualifies his opinion: "His railing against the pope became perhaps the more vituperative . . ." He doesn't know for sure; he is merely speculating. Bainton thinks that Luther "compensated" for his frustration over the lack of a public hearing by "hurling vitriol." Well, this is an interesting theory, and possibly true (it's plausible) , but it is doubtful that it could be proven, short of a direct confirmation from Luther himself.

In any event, I don't see how any of this relative minutiae demonstrates that Bainton approved of the art, and that was, again, my subject matter (whether this art was objectionable). He uses very definite language of disapproval. "Outrageously vulgar" and "utterly unrestrained"? That sure sounds to me like Roland Bainton was opposed to this "art" and didn't think much of it. So he gives some possible mitigating factors? So what? It doesn't follow that he therefore approves of the art itself. Every indication is that he did not. And insofar as he took a negative opinion of it, he agreed with my assessment, which is why I cited him (particularly and precisely because he is such a well-known Luther biographer).

The whole charge of one critic of mine, was that Bainton was "sympathetic" and did not "come down hard" on Luther, whereas I supposedly was not, and did, and cited Bainton incorrectly because I left out this aspect. But our tasks were different in the first place. Bainton's task was to produce a biography from a Protestant perspective. His work might be called "Protestant semi-hagiography." My project, on the other hand (as explained very carefully in several places) was to highlight some of the unsavory aspects of Luther's life that are less well-known.

I urged readers to read Protestant biographies too, to get a fuller picture (to read both sides), but my purpose was not conventional biography. Nor was it "digging up dirt" or a "hit piece," as many of my critics falsely assume in their incorrect understanding of my motivations and goals in my writings about Luther. It was simply to bring out lesser-known, more controversial aspects of Luther's life and teachings.

I cited above the book, Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546, by Protestant scholar Mark U. Edwards, Jr. He described Luther's work, Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil (March 1545) , as "Without question . . . the most intentionally violent and vulgar writing to come from Luther's pen" (p. 163).

Here are the texts of the eight commissioned "cartoons": their titles, and Luther's silly accompanying verses (from Edwards, pp. 190-198; originally appearing in vol. 54 of Luther's Works, Weimar edition, pp. 346-373; along with my descriptions -- having seen the pictures):

1. The Kingdom of Satan and the Pope. 2 Thessalonians 2

In the name of all devils the pope sits here, now revealed as the true antichrist as proclaimed in Scripture.

[the pope is seated in the "jaws of hell," surrounded by demons]

2. Just Reward for the Most Satanic Pope and His Cardinals
If the pope and cardinals were to receive temporal punishment on earth, their blasphemous tongues would deserve what is rightly depicted here.
3. The Pope, God of the World, is Worshiped

The pope has treated the kingdom of Christ just as his crown is here being treated. If you have doubts about it, the [holy] spirit says [Rev 18] pour it in with good cheer, God Himself commands it.
4. Birth and Origin of the Pope

Here is born the antichrist. Megaera is his wetnurse, Allecto his nursemaid, [and] Tisiphone who walks him.
5. The Monster of Rome, Found Dead in the Tiber, 1496

What God Himself thinks of the papacy is shown here by this horrible picture, which should horrify all who would take it to heart.

[A hybrid naked, demon-like female creature (standing), half lizard and half donkey, with two demon-heads comprising a "tail"]

6. The Pope Offers a Council in Germany / Pope, Doctor of Theology, and Master of Faith (double illustration)

Sow, you must allow yourself to be ridden, and well spurred on both sides. You wish to have a council: for that here is my turd.

[The pope rides on a pig, holding excrement in his hand]

Only the pope can interpret the scripture and sweep away error, just as a donkey can pipe and sound the right notes.

[just as the verse describes]

7. The Pope Thanks the Emperor for His Immense Benefits

The emperor has done much good for the pope and checked evil. For that the pope thanked him, as this picture truly shows you.

[The pope is an executioner, about to behead the kneeling and praying emperor with a huge sword]

8. Kissing the Pope's Feet
Don't frighten us, Pope, with your ban, and don't be such a furious man. Otherwise we shall turn away and show you our rears.

[The pope is seated on a throne, with tiara, holding a decree, with two attending cardinals. Two disrespectful men -- Lutherans no doubt -- are turning away from him, looking back, sticking out their tongues. Further description would be too vulgar; knowing Luther's "young teenagers in the locker room" mentality by now, the reader can easily imagine the rest, extrapolating from the text]

The Introduction for this hideous tract, in Luther's Works, the 55-volume American edition, describes it as "the most bitter of Luther's polemic writings" (LW, 41, 259-290). As is to be expected, some justification is also given for this tirade:
Luther seemed to know that he had not much time left-death would come soon, but not before the fiercest enemy of his cause, the papacy, received his scorn and violent condemnation. This polemical tract, like Against Hanswurst, reveals the faith and wrath of the old Luther. Yet one should not forget that his tracts usually originated as replies against equally abusive and violent attacks. "Dogmatic, superstitious, intolerant, overbearing, and violent as he was, he yet had that inscrutable prerogative of genius of transforming what he touched into new values."

[footnote: Quoted in Schwiebert, Luther and His Times, p. 747, from Preserved Smith, The Age of the Reformation.]
I happen to have one of two paperback volumes of Preserved Smith's book, mentioned above. Smith is quite sympathetic and complimentary to Luther (I have no problem with that at all), but is also very frank about the man's faults, on the same page where his words above appear:
During his later years Luther's polemic never flagged. His last book, Against the Papacy of Rome, founded by the Devil, surpassed Cicero and the humanists and all that had ever been known in the virulence of its invective . . . Of course such lack of restraint largely defeated its own ends. The Swiss Reformer Bullinger called it "amazingly violent," and a book than which he "had never read anything more savage or imprudent." Our judgment of it must be tempered by the consideration that Luther suffered in his last years from a nervous malady and from other painful diseases, due partly to overwork and lack of exercise, partly to the quantities of alcohol he imbibed, though he never became intoxicated.

(Reformation in Europe, Book I of a two-volume edition of The Age of Reformation, New York: Collier Books, 1962; originally 1920, 102)
Again, Smith as a fair, careful biographer, tells the truth about the nature of the work and also includes factors in Luther's life which might account for its severity and extremity. This is reality: human beings are radical mixtures of good and evil. Would that most movies could present characters in the multiform complexity typical of good biographies and novels. That's all fine and good. But the fact remains that this art and the work it accompanies are vulgar and outrageous, as well as ridiculously, grotesquely slanderous of the Catholic Church.

I don't see that Catholic descriptions of these pathetic cartoons or the similar tract with which they were associated surpass by far, if at all, Protestant descriptions already observed above in Bainton, Edwards, and Smith. Catholic Luther biographer Hartmann Grisar, for example describes them as "crude defilement," "vulgar beyond all description," and "repulsive." He continues:
The entire collection has become extremely rare, owing probably to the outraged sensibilities of those who were offended by them. In recent times, these cartoons have been re-submitted to the public in the interests of history, but not by partisans of Luther.

Luther's active participation in the "Illustrations of the Papacy" has been placed beyond question by recent research . . . [he] contribut[ed] the ideas and the crude verses that accompanied the cartoons. His name is attached to the illustrations of the series, as well as to the cartoon of the pope-devil. The drawings themselves were without exception the product of his confidant, Lucas Cranach, . . .

Hence, it is historically untenable if Protestant authors hold Cranach solely responsible for the disgraceful cartoons of the papacy and ascribe only the text to Luther. These illustrations are his spiritual property in the fullest sense of the word, and Luther himself described them as his last will and testament to the German nation.

(Martin Luther: His Life and Work, translated from the second German edition by Frank J. Eble, edited by Arthur Preuss, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1960; originally 1930, 547-548)
Bainton described the "art" as "outrageously vulgar" and "utterly restrained." I don't see much difference.

In 1530 Luther advanced the view that two offences should be penalized even with death, namely sedition and blasphemy . . . Luther construed mere abstention from public office and military service as sedition and a rejection of an article of the Apostles' Creed as blasphemy. In a memorandum of 1531, composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, a rejection of the ministerial office was described as insufferable blasphemy, and the disintegration of the Church as sedition against the ecclesiastical order. In a memorandum of 1536, again composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, the distinction between the peaceful and the revolutionary Anabaptists was obliterated.

(Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: Mentor, 1950, 295)
I repeatedly have written about how Luther had a tolerant position early on, adopted a more persecuting position around 1530, then returned to his earlier position later on. My paper on the Peasants' Revolt is filled with several dozen "peaceful" remarks of Luther from 1521-1525. In my first paper about Martin Luther, written in 1991 (since removed from my site), I cited historian Will Durant, stating exactly all these things. I knew this about Luther in 1984, when I first read Bainton's book.

Bainton talks about both whether Luther advocated the death penalty and why he did. I was always writing about the "whether" aspect, because I am concerned about Protestants who are unaware of this, or who flat-out deny it. Why he did so, or how tolerant he was compared to others, are interesting and important questions, but different ones from my subject-matter. Therefore, to not cite Bainton in that regard is not incorrect or objectionable, because it is a distinct, separate question, beyond my purpose and purview. If I am seeking to establish that Luther held these views, I can cite Bainton in support of my view. I don't have to go to the next step of analysis.

My papers have demonstrated that Luther held a position of capital punishment for what he called "sedition," not the rationale for why he did so. He thought belief in adult baptism was so subversive of society that it was seditious as well. I would contend that the criteria for death were at bottom theological and doctrinal.

The wife of a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) whom I encountered on the Internet flat-out denied that Luther ever advocated the death penalty for heresy (or sedition, but applied to these groups with a different theology). She went and wrote to a Lutheran scholar, and he asserted the same thing. I simply referred them to Bainton, and wondered aloud how it was that two highly-placed Lutherans did not know something that I learned in 1984 when I read Bainton's book??!! But of course the reason is because of the success of the Protestant mythology of origins, which causes many people to believe these silly falsehoods and a bunch of lies about the Catholic Church of that period and today.

Now, the point is, if someone is denying the very facts of the matter, then that is how one must respond. One doesn't necessarily have to get into the "why's" because the fundamental dispute has to be dealt with first. Some atheists deny that Jesus existed. So with them, you have to deal with that before going onto analyses of the Sermon on the Mount, etc. All that is irrelevant if the person thinks you are dealing with a fictional character and not a real historical person. Likewise, if someone denies that Luther advocated the death penalty, it is pointless to talk about why he did so, and how "lenient" he was compared to others, because the very fact which is the subject of the speculation of "why" and "how?" is in dispute. First things first . . .

In 1536, the distinction between peaceful and revolutionary Anabaptists was obliterated, as noted by Bainton. In other words, this was an increase in violence against them, not a decrease, because the peaceful Anabaptists were regarded in the same way as the revolutionary ones: as seditious and thus worthy of death. Bainton stated that the change back to the earlier position (regarding a distinction of types of Anabaptists) came in 1540, and then Durant informed us that right before he died, Luther returned to his pre-1525 position of relative tolerance and freedom of religion.

I noted all this in my earliest papers about Luther. The whole insinuation that I somehow have done otherwise is a total bum rap, without a shred of truth. Sure, I have emphases in accord with my clearly-stated purpose, but I've never hidden any of this stuff that some of my critics have emphasized.

Nor is there any rule written down which states that "Dave Armstrong has to always cite Roland Bainton's 'positive' remarks about Luther if he cites any 'negative' opinions." It's ludicrous. I include these considerations where relevant. It matters not if they come from Bainton or someone else because Bainton is not my sole source, and my subject is Martin Luther.

Martin Luther's stand on the bigamy of the Landgrave Philip of Hesses is also brought up by historians of all stripes, not just Catholic ones, and Catholic apologists like myself, because it was truly a scandal. Thus I cited one Lutheran scholar: "This double marriage was not only the greatest scandal, but the greatest blot in the history of the Reformation and in the life of Luther" (J. Kostlin, Life of Luther, Stuttgart: 1901, 2, 481, 486).

Remember, it was Luther and the early Protestants who were supposedly on a much higher moral plane than the corrupt Catholics and their church that was being opposed (Protestants describe their motivation as purely "reform," but Catholics tend to view it as a revolt, insofar as it separated institutionally and adopted new doctrines not held before within institutional, historical Christianity).

There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the veil . . . The most notorious was his attitude toward the bigamy of the Landgrave, Philip of Hesse . . Luther counseled a lie . . . Luther's solution of the problem can be called only a pitiable subterfuge.

(Bainton, 292-293)
My critics on this score have confused the "whether" and the "why" once again. Since I was writing about the former, it was not necessary to include the latter. I certainly could have if I wanted to expand my paper and my own presentations of these incidents and beliefs, but it was not necessary, and failing to do so does not "prove" that I was misrepresenting Bainton, or using citations incorrectly and wrongly, because we are dealing with two different propositions, and a does not equal b.

If I were writing a paper entitled something like, "Roland Bainton's Treatment of the Scandal of the Bigamy of Philip of Hesse" (which sounds more like an article in a theological journal rather than lay apologetics on a popular level), then I agree, I should have included all the additional clarifying and nuancing material. But I wasn't doing that. This particular paper was an eleven-part treatment of some of the scandals and unfortunate consequences of the Protestant Revolt, not a treatise on Bainton's in-depth opinions of Luther with regard to one particular incident.

The relevant question is: "what does a Catholic writing about Luther have to do in order to 'exploit' Luther"? Obviously, if I cite Bainton's own opinion of the incident, then I am not exploiting Luther simply by doing that, lest Bainton would be guilty of the same thing, since he is the one I cited! This is obvious. So my critics can only nitpick and complain that I didn't include massive context. But does this establish unethical, citation and misrepresentation? I don't think so. I cited Bainton describing the scandal as one "over which one would rather draw the veil," and a "most notorious" incident. He admits that "Luther counseled a lie" and was guilty of what "can be called only a pitiable subterfuge." That's the bottom line.

This is Bainton's appraisal of the incident. He doesn't agree with it or condone it. But as in the other cases we have treated, he does proceed (as a good biographer who wants to present the fullest, most nuanced picture of his subject) to try to explain why Luther did what he did, and offer some sort of semi-sympathetic rationale. One might call this "damage control" or "softening the blow" of the scandal. I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with the charge that, simply because I didn't include all of this material in what was simply an introductory treatment, that I was either misrepresenting Bainton's opinion or "exploiting" Luther. The historical facts are unimpeachable, and no one denies them. This shouldn't be controversial: this thing was a scandal anyway you look at it. I was simply pointing it out for those unfamiliar with it. I was under no obligation to examine the in-depth questions of "why" and the motivations, etc.

I cited a shorter part of Bainton's opinion (we shall call it x) ; I shall call the longer, more detailed version y. Now does y somehow make x untrue when x is by itself? No, of course not, because x is part of y, so that if y is true, x is also. It is a fact along with an explanation of the fact (an action -- counsel or advice -- in this case). It would be like arguing about the following two propositions:
1. The night sky is black.
2. The night sky is black because the sun is on the other side of the earth; hence the sky is not illuminated by it on the dark side of the earth.
According to illogical and unreasonably demanding complaints, to cite the portion of #2 which is contained in #1 is to cite incompletely and misleadingly. But I vehemently deny this. #1 remains true whether it is explained or not, and it is not wrong to cite it, in and of itself. Thus, with regard to the discussion at hand:
1. Luther sanctioned bigamy and later lied about it. He was guilty of "pitiable subterfuge" in so doing.
2. Luther sanctioned bigamy and later lied about it, because of a, b, c, d, and e. He was guilty of "pitiable subterfuge" in so doing.
According to fallacious criticism, it is wrong to state #1, and this is an "exploitation" of Luther because it fails to contain the additional explanatory material contained in #2. This doesn't follow, if the subject is whether Luther did in fact do what is described in #1. And all historians agree on this (whether Catholic, Protestant, or green-eyed, three-toed, redheaded, left-handed atheist historians). Most Christians are agreed that this was wrong for Luther to do. Therefore, it is not absolutely necessary to include a brief treatment of "what" he did, explanations, or rationales. None of these are particularly acceptable.

Part of the reason why I didn't include such material was precisely because I assumed that my readers would not accept the reasons given, and that we all agreed that it was wrong. It needed no further explanation because none was adequate, anyway. I see nothing wrong with any of this.

I am not claiming to be a Luther biographer, nor to present an in-depth discussion of this one incident. I leave that to the biographers like Bainton. That's their job, as questions of "why" are much more complex and difficult to ascertain than factual matters are.

What I specifically was referring to in my earlier papers, was the particular lie of misrepresenting and caricaturing opponents. It is unarguable that Luther did this, and it has been pointed out innumerable times, by historians of all stripes. For example, Desiderius Erasmus, considered the greatest scholar in Europe at that time, very much held this opinion:
I shall show everybody what a master you are in the art of misrepresentation, defamation, calumny and exaggeration . . . In your sly way you contrive to twist even what is absolutely true, whenever it is to your interest to do so. You know how to turn black into white and to make light out of darkness.
(Hyperaspistes, [1526], I, 9, col. 1043)
I cited fellow Protestant "reformer" Martin Bucer writing to Heinrich Bullinger (Zwingli's successor):
We have treated all the Schoolmen in such a way as to shock many good and worthy men, who see that we have not read their works but are merely anxious to slander them out of prudence.
(Letter of 1535, Corp. ref., 10, 138)
They said this, not me. I'm just the messenger. If two Protestant "reformers" agree that such lying typified their "reform," then who am I to disagree with their self-report? I believe them, especially knowing what I do about what went on in those days.

Crucial distinctions and simple logic have often been ignored, in the rush to "prove" that I "misuse" or "exploit" Luther (and Roland Bainton) for my own ends. I have not, as I think I have amply shown, above.

* * * * * 

Thursday, September 16, 2004

James White's "Doctorate" Degree: Is it Legitimate? (vs. Mark Bainter)

Heretofore, I have stayed out of this controversy about anti-Catholic Baptist apologist James White's doctorate, or lack thereof. But it has been pointed out by several folks that if a person hasn't really earned his "doctorate" degree with the usual amount of work required in most legitimate institutions of higher learning, that this in effect cheapens the achievements of those with real doctorate degrees, and grants the person with the bogus degree a level of respectability that he doesn't deserve, which he then improperly uses in order to bolster his own academic "credentials." I think this is a valid point, so I have decided to weigh in on this issue and present some hard evidence.

Fortunately for my time's sake, the research has already been done, by some Mormons. Apart from the natural animus against White because he refutes Mormon teachings (and I would concur wholeheartedly with him in that effort, because Mormonism is no Christian religion), this issue stands distinct from theological disputes, and it is irrelevant who found out this information, if what they present is valid of its own accord. We mustn't commit the "genetic fallacy."

The first page to start with in the determination of whether White earned a real doctorate or not, is the "SHIELDS" (Scholarly and Historical Information Exchange for Latter-Day Saints) page: "James White's Th.D." One Gary Novak was the first to tackle the question head on. He kicks off his research query in his page, "Does James White Have a Genuine Doctorate?" First off, he links to White's own defenses of himself. Here they are:

"Of Doctorates and Eternity" (first essay)
"Of Doctorates and Eternity (Part 1)" (second essay; I know; it's confusing)
"Of Gary Novak and the Columbia River"

Now that the links are provided, readers can look these over if they are curious enough about this topic to pursue it in depth. In a nutshell, his reasons for choosing an non-accredited institution are the following:

1. Many of these accredited theological institutions are theologically liberal.
2. Accreditation works similarly for religious and secular schools (which ought not to be so).
3. He found his own private studies to be more fruitful.
4. He didn't want to close his ministry and uproot his family, and wanted to stay close to his aging parents.
5. Expenses of a conventional higher education were prohibitive.
6. He was already a published author with some influence [White's words will be in green hereafter]:

I knew a number of Ph.D.'s who had never written a book that was read by more than a dozen people in their life---yet they were "scholars" and I wasn't? Something wasn't making sense. I began ordering doctoral dissertations for use in some of my writing projects and debates, and I discovered that most of these works, which had been accepted in fully accredited schools, were far shorter, and far less involved, than many of the books I was engaged in writing and publishing on a national level . . . Most dissertations sit in a dusty closet or on a shelf somewhere, never read by anyone outside the review committee, never making a difference in anyone's life. I began to realize that this attitude did not come from within the Christian community, but from outside of it. That is, especially in this area, Christian education should part ways with secular education in recognizing that the work done in seminary should benefit the church at large, and the church in the local setting. Instead, we have adopted the standards of the world, rather than looking to the standards of the Scriptures.

7. He could design his own curriculum:

Most importantly for me, I was able to design a program around my writing projects, making classes out of entire books. Of course, when I look back, I realize that I did far more work for my own program than I would have had to do in any secular setting, but that's OK. Everything I did ended up helping others, which made it seem, to me anyway, like a truly Christian experience of education.
. . . I gladly encourage anyone who questions the value and worth of the work I’ve done with Columbia to do something rather simple: read the following works [he lists eight of his own books] and ask yourself whether they demonstrate sufficient mastery of the subject matter—a mastery equivalent to that which is expected of a scholar on the doctoral level.
8. He could do a dissertation on the Trinity, for the benefit of the person in the pew, rather than an elite cadre of scholars. But White is quick to defend his choice:

That is not to say that my dissertation is unscholarly. Instead, I'd suggest that it takes more scholarship to take a complex subject like the Trinity, eschew technical jargon, and instead explain the doctrine in a fashion helpful to the non-specialist. The work contains a great deal of scholarship in its endnotes, but it makes that scholarship relevant to the individual believer. I believe that Christian scholarship, if it is to be honoring to God, must be directed toward His glory, and the edification of His Church. That's what I tried to do with my dissertation.
9. Columbia Evangelical Seminary was "too young" to be accredited (White put the latter word in quotes).

10. "A person's scholarship is not determined by the name of the school he or she attended, but by the quality of that person's writing, speaking, and teaching. Anyone who thinks that just because you went to Yale you must be a real scholar hasn't put much thought into the subject. I ask only one thing: look at what I have written, all that I have written, and ask yourself one question: does the nature of the writing, the depth of the research, and the understanding of the subject, indicate a doctoral level of education? As I said above, anyone who wishes to question my degree need only stack up his or her published works against mine and demonstrate that I just haven't done the work."

Now, as a professional apologist who has no formal theological training whatsoever from a seminary or college, but tons of informal training and reading and writing and evangelization and apologetic experience on my own (so much that people often think I have a master's or even doctorate degree in theology), I resonate with a lot of this reasoning, if taken in isolation from White's overall point. I despise academic elitism and snobbishness and liberalism of every sort. I understand very well the distinction between academic credentials and ministerial work for the furthering of the Kingdom of God.

But where I must part company is in White's simultaneous trashing of the conventional educational requirements, while still using the title of the degree (with all its attendant associations) and thus gaining all the prestige and wider hearing that comes from such credentials. I would say: "you can't have it both ways. If you want to trash accreditation and the way education is done today, then do so, but then don't turn around and use titles like 'Th.D.' as if you have done the work those with real Th.D's have done. Make your anti-elitist, anti-secularist point, but then don't hypocritically claim the title with such pride." He seems to think all consideration of this question is merely a personal attack:

I recognized, when I enrolled with Columbia, that given the nature of my work in apologetics, I'd undoubtedly hear attacks upon my school and my scholarship because Columbia is too young to be "accredited." Such ad-hominem argumentation is the norm for many of those with whom I have dealings. It wouldn't matter where I go, or what school I attend, that kind of attack will follow. I have experience teaching in accredited schools, and a Master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. That hasn't stopped such folks from using ad-hominem argumentation against me. And any person that would be impressed by such argumentation isn't going to be giving me a fair hearing anyway, and I can't worry about that.

. . . various folks opposed to our work, and specifically antagonistic toward me personally, are using the wonderful resource of the Internet to make charges against me, . . .

In his reply to Gary Novak, one of White's main gripes was that Novak had failed to contact him personally before writing his critique of his educational credentials:

I had never heard of the man, and to my knowledge, he had never even had the temerity to contact me and ask for my side of the story. As far as I can tell, he has no idea what work I did, nor how long it took, to complete those studies. While his page gives the appearance of having done his homework, all he really did was briefly visit the offices of Columbia Evangelical Seminary. If he really wanted to know the truth (and be truthful in his presentation), he missed a golden opportunity, for he failed to do the most important thing: talk to me.

. . . When I encountered Mr. Novak’s web page, I immediately scanned my outgoing mail for the past six months to see if he took the time to contact me. It seemed incumbent upon a person making the kinds of allegations Mr. Novak is making to be honest enough, and to show sufficient integrity, to do the necessary homework. My e-mail address is readily available, and since Mr. Novak links to our website, it’s obvious he knew how to contact me. But, no record existed of my writing a response to anyone with his e-mail address.

. . . Both he and Novak decided that it was totally disingenuous of me to assume that someone would bother to contact me before writing a hit piece about my doctoral work on the web.

I find this extremely interesting in light of the present controversy that White is embroiled in, concerning a Dr. Mark Seifrid. It seems that White now takes exactly the opposite view: he attacked Seifrid as a soteriological heretic (mainly over the issue of imputed justification, I believe, but I have only glanced at the critiques). Seifrid, of course, took issue with this, and objected that White had not contacted him personally before setting out to prove he was a serious heretic, outside Protestant or Baptist "orthodoxy" (whatever that is). Thus, Seifrid was in almost exactly the same position that White had been vis-a-vis Novak. But (amazingly) he doesn't comprehend why Seifrid would have a desire to be contacted first before a "hit piece" was done on him in public. Seifrid wrote:

We Christians must be aware of the danger of depersonalization of our discourse which the Internet presents. Had they been true, the charges which James White brought against me in his blogs on his website would have resulted in my dismissal from Southern Seminary. A calling to teach here is contingent without qualification on fidelity to our confessional statement (“the Abstract of Principles”). Yet, as far as I can tell, before posting these charges Dr. White made no attempt to contact me to see if he had understood me correctly, or to ensure that he had understood the issues correctly, or to urge me to retract any statement I had made. Nor, as far as I know, did he contact Southern Seminary to express his concerns. Love surely requires that we seek to correct one another gently.
White shot back, in his "open letter" on his blog:

Have you contacted every person with whom you have disagreed in print? When you cite someone and say, “in opposition to…” do you stop and call them on the phone? Does anyone handle published materials in this fashion? Surely not. To my knowledge, sir, we have never met. I do not know you on a personal level. But you have placed in the public realm through the publication of a book your statements regarding what you call “Protestant orthodoxy.” Do you seriously expect every person who would see themselves in that camp to call you on the phone and have a “chat” prior to saying anything about what you have said in a published and publicly distributed book?
White clearly doesn't get it. And this is nothing new. Those of us who have dealt with his apologetics and unsavory methods for years know that he is most reluctant to engage people on a personal, "non-debate" level. He has habitually refused to even eat lunch with Catholic apologists who asked him. On some occasions he wouldn't even shake hands after a debate. He doesn't want to call someone up, even when invited to do so (Jimmy Akin again noted this in a recent controversy with White). He won't reciprocate apologies or follow up on good faith efforts at reconciliation.

In my case, he was far more interested in pulling me into an oral debate than personally reconciling, when we have had troubles in our "relationship" going all the way back to 1995. This is the "depersonalization" that Dr. Seifrid refers to. He is exactly right. The only difference between myself and Seifrid in White's eyes, is that the latter is at least a Christian, whereas I am not. But I don't see in Scripture a license to be rude and uncharitable, even to non-Christians, so that doesn't let White off the hook.

White goes on and on and on in his self-defense against Novak in the third article linked above, yet I find it beyond bizarre and hilarious that whenever I make any defense of myself on my blog against White's outright lies about me, or his silly caricature that he posted on his site, or his five-part critique of one radio appearance of mine, he mocks all that as mere empty "verbosity", devoid of all "substance" whatsoever. I'm never supposed to defend myself against false charges, but White can do so ad nauseam when he feels he is being attacked. All of this smacks of an elitism and spiritual pride that is at odds with White's self-perception as a selfless "man of the people" -- devoting himself to the unlettered, biblically undereducated masses, teaching the Trinity, etc. He seems to assume a different set of ethics for himself, because, well, he is right, and the other guy is always wrong (and often deceptive as well, so he thinks).

But anyway, back to White's Th.D. degree and whether it is legitimate. Gary Novak continues his searching criticisms:

Now "Dr." White would like you to believe that CES is merely "too young to be 'accredited.'" But the simple truth of the matter is that CES probably could not be accredited by a regular, recognized accrediting institution. (To its credit, CES is very open and up-front about its lack of accreditation.) One reason among many is that CES allows students to write their own syllabi. All of the class work is done off-campus . . . and the curriculum seems to be designed without the benefit of regular curriculum committees and reviews. Hence there are no fixed course competencies such as one would find in a traditional school.

. . . Does James White have a genuine doctorate? Here is what we know. The degree is granted by an unaccredited correspondence school. There are no set course syllabi; students write their own syllabi. CES has no library, student services or bookstore. The school has no curriculum committees and no course review procedures. There appears to have been no committee and no thesis or dissertation defense; the only signature in James White's Masters Thesis is that of CES president, Rick Walston. White's "contract" was also with Rick Walston. Does James White have a genuine doctorate? What do you think?
Novak then describes the routine procedures for the conventional attainment of a doctorate, and posts links for no less than 31 letters back and forth between he and White, from October 1998 on. Of course, it almost goes without saying, that White's rhetoric became increasingly shrill and insulting as time went on. Hence (some typical examples):

[C]ould you let me know when you contacted me to ask me about my credentials? I mean, it would be unthinkable for someone to post something like you have on your page without asking me about your allegations. Such would be the yellowest of yellow journalism, and would tremendously damage your credibility. So, could you send me the e-mail where you inquired concerning the issues you raise on your web page?

(October 16, 1998 1:27 PM)

[Y]our actions speak to the issue of motivation, and honesty. Your lack of research will, of course, figure in a response to your personal ad-hominem attack upon me.

(October 16, 1998 6:11 PM)

For someone who didn't think it necessary to contact me before calling my doctoral work "bogus," you now seem downright fixated . . . you didn't even bother to drop me a note indicating the presence of your hit-piece on me, so you have precious little reason to be impatient now.
(October 20, 1998 10:52 AM)

. . . you have no interest in investing any of your time in honestly examining the issue . . .
(December 11, 1998 6:08 AM)

Please have the kindness and maturity to either use the title of my earned degree, or refuse to do so. I find the use of quotations childish, disrespectful, and given that you know nothing of my work, egregiously silly.
(December 17, 1998 8:51 PM)

I doubt your sincerity, Mr. Novak. I believe I have reason for so doubting it.

(December 18, 1998 6:36 AM)

Since I have asked you to be courteous, and you cannot, and since you have no interest in the truth, nor in fairness, and are unwilling to engage in any meaningful give-and-take, I see no reason to continue our correspondence.

(December 18, 1998 8:41 AM)

Novak's lengthy web-reply showed many of White's fundamental misunderstandings as to his critic's opinion:

Now I am not interested in a whole host of issues with which "Dr." White seems to believe are critical to any discussion of his Th.D. I am not interested in his books, articles, tapes and virtually all of the materials that he sells on his website and on the website of his church. The content and competence of those materials is not the issue. I am simply shelving that question for the time being. Neither am I calling into question "Dr." White's scholarship. As he correctly notes, scholarship and degrees are two separate things. Again, I am shelving that question for the time being. The one question with which I am interested is the validity of "Dr." White's Th.D. Did "Dr." White do the things that normal doctoral students do to achieve his degree?

"Dr." White loves strident language. Littered throughout his apologia one finds words like "strident," "nasty," "false religions," "hysterical ranting," "raving," "sarcastic," "disrespectful," "attack" and "hit piece" to characterize my investigation of his doctorate. Clearly "Dr." White has a point to make and is willing to pull all of the rhetorical stops to make it.

He noted the unanswered questions that White refused to deal with:

1. Did "Dr." White take a class from anyone other than Rick Walston?
2. Who was on "Dr." White's dissertation committee?
3. Did "Dr." White take a comprehensive exam?
4. If there was a comprehensive examination, what books were on the reading list?
5. Did "Dr." White do a dissertation defense? If so, who sat on that committee?
6. Who, besides Rick Walston, signed "Dr." White's dissertation?
7. How were exams administered and proctored?
8. Did "Dr." White have interaction with any other CES students involved in his program?
9. Was there any system of lectures? If so, how did they work?

Finally, Novak visited the fabled school where White received his "doctorate" and produced photographs of the campus (huh? no campus? . . . ) on a web page. The school consists of one office in a building, with two rooms. I have posted his pictures of the building and the actual school (i.e., the room) above.

* * * * * 


MDHughes wrote:

I am a CES student, and anyone who would call CES a "diploma mill" has not the slightest idea of the incredibly heavy workload involved in getting a degree from CES . . .

Seriously, who are people going to listen to in this matter man like Dr White, a respected elder and author, or someone who just seems obsessed with tearing him down by attacking his credentials? I would encourage anyone reading this stuff to visit Columbia's website, email Dr Walston, and clear up these misrepresentations.

You're entitled to your opinion. One hopes that you will actually make an argument and engage the topic. As for being obsessed with tearing down his credentials, I would note briefly that (as I stated before) I have never made this an issue until last night. I've heard about this for six years, but never cared about it, and used "Dr." to refer to James White. But recently I became convinced that it is dishonest to act as if a doctorate was achieved, without the proper rigor and process. It is a slap in the face of others who have done so.

I'm also an author, of course, and not without some influence in the apologetic world. That is neither here nor there. White going on and on about his credentials and accomplishments wears thin after a while (and believe me, he does it constantly when encountering critics).

White said it himself, over and over: "don't judge me by my degree, judge the work I have done." Well, I have plenty of that, but I don't see White engaging it. He refuses to do so. Ranting and raving on 4-5 webcasts about a talk which had ten points and about 3 minutes time alloted for each is not a proper critique. He needs to deal with my written papers on sola Scriptura which are many magnitudes more in-depth than that radio presentation.

So as usual, he applies a double standard.

Mark Bainter (aka "Shamgar") defended Mr. White at length. His words will be in blue. I replied with equal vigor:

Offensive Dave. Truly offensive. I thought I'd said enough on the prior post, but this . . .

Why is it offensive? And do you think any of the tons of garbage White has written about me "offensive" too? Just curious. We can either have a conversation, or just be ships passing in the night, like White and I are. White won't do it; maybe you will actually talk and discuss things.

White thinks accreditation doesn't matter, and the usual rigors of obtaining a doctorate irrelevant. Is that not a debatable topic? Using his reasoning, I could easily start calling myself "Doctor" (as someone here argued) because I have written about as much as he has, I think (he mocks how much I write all the time, and mocks my 12 books because they're not all published like his are), and have done plenty of research and evangelism and teaching (i.e., "ministry") for 23 years. But that would be dishonest because using such titles means something, and what it means is understood.

As I argued, I am not so opposed to White's reasoning for what he did (many of his reasons make sense to me), as I am opposed to taking that stand and still trying to obtain the honor and respect that "Dr." grants one. He wants it both ways.

* * * 

Thanks for your long response. You do indeed show that you will have a conversation, and for that I commend you. Now on to particulars.

But first, let me ask you: why is it that James White cannot respond to such things himself, and always has to have some sort of representative or "papal legate" to give his side to things? If someone did a critique like this about me (on any belief or action of mine), you better believe I would be there as soon as I found out about it, and offer a counter-response. That's just how it works in the intellectual sphere. Challenges are good: they keep us on our toes.

Wow Dave. This is a real low point for you.

I will read on to discover why you think that.

ME (previous): "I think this is a valid point, so I have decided to weigh in on this issue and present some hard evidence."

Hrm…no…no, I don't think that's going to flush.

I see, so now I am lying or insincere or equivocating? Already you "argue" very much like White: upon strong disagreement: immediately attack the person's word and their honor and claim that some kind of lying is taking place. This is a classic White tactic. He did it with me the first time we ever interacted, and we saw him do the same thing to Gary Novak. I'm sure he has also used it with Dr. Seifrid by now, as well. He's used this tactic with virtually all the major Catholic apologists (Madrid, Akin, Keating, Ray, etc.) One can't simply disagree with James without somehow being a lying scoundrel. I find this a fascinating approach to discourse with those who disagree. So you're not off to a very good start.

This is a very old argument, and this point has been around for ages in regards to education of any sort.

What does that have to do with my particular opinion? Nothing, of course . . .

Instead, what I think we have here is a severely hurt ego.

I think what we have here is a severely wrong misunderstanding. Ego has nothing whatsoever to do with it. I couldn't care less what White thinks of me because I have no intellectual respect for him. You can't be hurt by people whom you don't respect in the first place. I think he is a sophist and an intellectual coward, and have stated so for nine years now.

Obviously, this is just one mans opinion, but from where I sit, this is how I see it.

This is not a Christian method of analysis, I must say. Faced with a disagreement, you immediately move to (1) question my honesty, and (2) psychoanalyze my inner state of mind and heart and conclude that I have a bruised ego. You can't ascertain the truth of either one, and it is wrong, anyway, by NT ethical standards. White himself objects when others do this to him, and I agree with him.

When I call him a sophist and a coward, that is by direct observation for nine years, based on repeated actions. I've demonstrated both many times over, as far as I am concerned. You may say I am judging him, too. Perhaps. But his behavior leaves me with no choice but to conclude these things. I wish it were otherwise. I hate to see sharp men waste their abilities by such unworthy actions.

In the present case, on the other hand, you have no basis to conclude these things based on the facts of the matter. You simply don't have enough information. But the charges are implausible, anyway, as others in this thread have maintained.

I think you were very proud of your appearance on catholic answers. It's really easy for all of us (we're all human) to get into a place where we're surrounded mostly by people who agree with us and thus think our points are valid.

I thought about it what I think about all my radio appearances so far: "I did okay." It's not that big of a deal to me because I don't see myself as a speaker. In fact, I was gonna say when someone was criticizing me for being such a "poor speaker." I don't even consider these things "speaking" at all. I regard them as conversations, just like if you and I were sitting on a bus or a plane together and we started gabbing. I'm just giving my thoughts . . . Someone may like that or not, but it is not a "lecture" or a "talk" in the commonly understood sense of those terms. I'm a conversationalist. No more, no less.

Then Dr White had the temerity to bring challenges to your weak argumentation. Now, though it was not your desire, you were subjected to cross-examination and what you said didn't hold water. Now your pride has been hurt, and you're lashing out in response.

LOL You couldn't be more wrong than you are. I explained my position on all this. Basically, I said: "this is a brief, introductory ten-point presentation of a complex issue. I had very little time, and not nearly enough. I've dealt with all these issues in much more depth elsewhere. If White wants to 'cross-examine' me, that is where he should go."

I thought his replies were the usual fare from him: obfuscation, sophistry, non sequiturs, juvenile mockery habitually mixed in, and clever but fallacious argumentation. That being the case, I refused to spend much time counter-replying, with the exception of one point that I used as an example: the Jerusalem Council. I answered that at extreme length, and of course White ignored it. What else is new? Why don't YOU try to reply to it, if you are so certain I am wrong, and since White won't do so? It's fine to talk about someone having a "weak" argument, quite another to demonstrate it. So I challenge you. You want to talk about "egos" and "hurt feelings." I want to argue the ISSUES.

Well, I'm here to tell you Dave that this is despicable.

Thanks for your opinion. At least you have the guts to come here and express it, and I admire that, though you are dead-wrong in this instance.

Worse, you used the shoddy research and reasoning of Mormon apologists. You have sought to assist them in discrediting Dr White, only giving them further credibility in the eyes of others.

I stated clearly that the issue of educational credentials has nothing to do with Christian theology. You keep engaging in ad hominem: you attack my honesty and do psychoanalysis, and now you discount the entire case simply because it was made by a Mormon. If it is "shoddy," then by all means, show us why, rather than dispute it simply because the source of it comes from folks of a different, non-Christian religion.

Particularly Mormons that might otherwise have been reached by Dr White's work there.

I've done plenty of cult work myself. Don't go there, is my advice. It won't help your case and you will look rather silly.

Further supporting this argument is the end of your post where you admit that you are not calling into question the content or competence of his materials, or his scholarship. So, this is entirely an attempt to discredit him and his credentials.

It is an attempt to raise questions about whether his is a legitimate Th.D., yes, of course. Whether that discredits "him" is for individuals to determine. I think it is an improper use of the title "Dr."

Yeah…I could be wrong, I'm certainly not able to see inside your head, but from this angle it sounds like your nursing a bruised ego.

Yep, you're wrong. Since you admit this as a possibility, I take it that you will accept my report, then, and we can hopefully get back to substance.

ME (previous): "But where I must part company is in White's simultaneous trashing of the conventional educational requirements, while still using the title of the degree (with all its attendant associations) and thus gaining all the prestige and wider hearing that comes from such credentials."

This would be a valid point if Dr White were complaining that the standards were set too high. Or that there was no value whatsoever in higher education as an idea. These are not what he is saying though. Dr White's assertion is that the standards are too LOW, and the work he did in his studies surpassed that of most Doctoral Candidates. He worked harder for his degree than others.

I could say the same for myself. In fact, much of my work over the last 23 years was for no pay at all. So if White wants to play this "I worked so hard and did all this ministry" card, I can match him all down the line. I could claim a "doctorate" on that score just as he does (and many have thought that I indeed have one). But you don't see me doing it, do you? Quite the contrary: I take pains to say loudly that I am no scholar and have no formal theological education. But I do claim some significant knowledge and expertise of my topics from my own individual studies and apologetic experience. That is simply not what a degree is about.

I think most of these things White refers to in terms of his ministry efforts are helpful and valuable. I respect much of his non-anti-Catholic work, and have said so many times, on the record: whether it is anti-cult, or opposing KJV-only nuts, or liberal scholars, or pro-life or pro-family. That's all great stuff. I agree with his Mormon critic that he seems like a great husband and father and no doubt he loves Jesus and cares for his flock as an elder. None of that is at issue at all. It is strictly a matter of how and when one should claim a "doctorate" degree, and what is entailed by that. How can you claim your own honorary degree? That is, in effect, what James is doing. He says, basically, "I don't care if it is accredited or gained by the usual methods or not. I worked harder than most others who have a 'real' degree, so I am claiming it as my right." This is absurd . . .

He did more work, and he actually made his work useful to more than a handful of people, while still having to pass the same scrutiny.

It wasn't the same scrutiny; that is the issue. I agree with him that dissertations ought to be more practically useful. I think that is a great point. But whether his is actually a dissertation is the dispute. It may be a fine work indeed (since it is about the Trinity, I'm sure it is), but it is not a dissertation, any more than me calling one of my twelve books a "dissertation" would be valid.

His other major reason for "trashing" academia today is the complete lack of accountability to the local church. This is not expressed in a desire to do away with all higher learning. There is no need for him to eschew a degree from an institution that rejects theological liberalism, and is accountable just to make that point.

I think he makes a lot of good points in his critique of liberal and academic excesses and errors, but that does not make his degree legitimate.

Then you again try to harp on the Seifrid issue obviously still not bothering to really find out what's going on. It's all there, you don't even have to talk to Dr White to read it.

Of course, that was one limited point of analogy: White complained about his critic not contacting him, but then he was amazed when someone he criticized expressed the exact same thing. This point is valid regardless of the subject matter under dispute, because it is an ethical and procedural matter, not a theological one.

Considering how much you write you'd think you'd have time to do a little research before commenting.

Why do I have to do research for a simple comparison of x with y? I don't. The larger subject matter is completely irrelevant to that.

Instead, you again fail to compare apples to apples. Novak was attacking Dr White's credentials. He was making assertions regarding the work Dr White did for his doctorate, and since he didn't contact Dr White, he obviously had no source whatsoever to support his assertions.

One needn't necessarily contact the individual if the program he went through is consulted.

In the case of Dr White and Dr Seifrid, Dr White is discussing a published work of Dr Seifrids. He is discussing the content of that work, not how long it took him to write it, not whether or not he's qualified to write it.

That doesn't change the hypocrisy of White: he complained about not being contacted, but then he didn't contact his target, in such a serious matter which would place Dr. Seifrid outside "Protestant orthodoxy" and possibly get him fired. If anything, the Seifrid case is far MORE serious than discussing White's bogus degree. White was in no danger of being fired or considered a heretic.

ME: "he attacked Seifrid as a soteriological heretic."

Source please. If you want to make a statement like this, you better have some documentation on exactly where Dr White accused him of being a heretic. I've read all of his blog entries on this, and didn't see that show up anywhere. I saw questions. You claim to despise academic snobbery, but it sounds like you're saying that if one has the temerity to question a scholar on a published work, that it's the same as attacking him and decrying him as a heretic.

Sure (though this is a side issue and a waste of my time; I'll do it anyway):
[White's words will be in green]

As time allows, I wish to continue reviewing these comments and considering this form or presentation which questions, and ultimately rejects, the Reformed teaching on the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

(7/9/04: Dr. Seifrid on Imputation)

[if one rejects the "Reformed" teaching on so-and-so, one is a heretic in Reformed eyes vis-a-vis so-and-so — in this case imputation]

7/10/04 "More in Response to Southern Seminary Professor's Denial of Imputed Righteousness":

One could wish these words were not being written 'within the camp,' but such is the situation we face today . . . We must reject Seifrid’s mischaracterization of both the biblical evidence and the theology of the Reformation.

[all July entries are on the web page linked under the comment for 7-9-04]

[Seifrid denies what White thinks is plainly biblical and the theology of the Reformation with regard to imputation. "Heretic" doesn't mean "damned" or "non-Christian," it means, strictly-speaking, "picking and choosing." So if Seifrid denies a key doctrine of the "Reformation," he is a heretic insofar as he does so, with regard to that one doctine]

I confess, reading this coming from “inside” the camp makes one feel very much like Mel Gibson’s character in We Were Soldiers when he sent out the “broken arrow” notification: the lines had collapsed and it was no longer possible to tell friend from foe.


["Friend and foe," huh"? Already, the discussion becomes a dramatic battle for good and evil and we know that White is always the White Knight slaying the evil heretics within the camp. Note the quotes around the word inside . . . White later used this metaphor on 7-18-04 with reference to Clark Pinnock, who is an extremely liberal process theologian. Draw your own conclusions . . .]

You have conservative denials of elements of what we thought we all agreed on, and you have non-conservative denials as well.


But one thing is for sure: I’m simply amazed that a few blog entries interacting with a theologian’s denial of what used to be assumed to be a central, important aspect of theological teaching and belief (the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer as the sole ground of his or her standing before God, not as some separate thing outside of Christ, but as a vitally important truth regarding why we have true and full peace with God through Christ) could produce such an amazing amount of 'chatter.' . . .

. . . This continued, we believe, erroneous representation of historic Reformed theology’s presentation of the truth of justification and especially the reality of the imputation of the “alien righteousness” of Christ to the believer continues on page 176, . . .

And it is just here that we see one of the main problems that arises when the world’s view of scholarship invades the church: the great truths of the gospel itself become mere 'theological paradigms' to be discussed in the classically academic fashion, but never to be passionately defended, never to be discussed in such a way that it might just be said that someone is wrong in what they are saying. What is worse, it seems that in that all-too-common context, one can hold almost any position, and then 'nuance' it enough to make it 'fit' into any confessional mold, even if it is self-evidently not what the original writers of confessional statements intended. Such a framework is death to meaningful apologetics, and, we would further add, to the clear proclamation of the truth in the church.


I expressed the same thoughts in that context, disagreeing strongly with the assertion on Seifrid’s part that to speak of imputation in the way Reformed theologians have presented it for centuries is to go beyond the biblical warrant . . .

The doctrine under discussion is vital, central, and precious. Serious pastoral practice cannot pass over the debate in silence, for it speaks to the very ground of our peace with God. It impacts the proclamation of the gospel, the message of salvation to be preached by the church . . . My concern is indeed deeply personal, for the issue goes to that which is central to my faith and life, the doctrine of justification itself. I confess I do not seek to be dispassionate about the gospel, . . .


How can I say I believe sola scriptura and then turn around and say the heart of the gospel is a Protestant addition that is unbiblical and in fact misleading? And so I will respond, . . .


I believe passionately in the very elements of 'traditional Protestant orthodoxy' you seem to wish to say are sub-biblical or simply non-biblical . . .

But might we agree on at least one thing? Would you agree that the distinctives you maintain over against “Protestant orthodoxy” would preclude you from being an elder in a Reformed Baptist Church that uses the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689? Does not that confession embody the very same “Protestant orthodoxy” that you seek to differentiate your own views from in Christ, our Righteousness?

(9-14-04; An Open Letter to Mark Seifrid, Part I)

The nature of justification, imputation, and the nature of the righteousness imputed to us is part and parcel of the message of the cross. Hence, since I find your views confusing and in fact in error, and since I find them causing confusion for others, I will not 'back down' when told to do so when that command does not include the very necessary answers to the very issues at the heart of the controversy.

(9-15-04; Response to Seifrid, Part II)

Is that sufficient, or do you have to actually have the word "heretic"? I was not trying to imply that the actual word was there, but the concept (which certainly is, all over the place).

Then I read your selections of Dr White's supposed nastiness. Wow. Debilitating. Horrible. I'm all white-faced and trembling before the shocking diatribes. My goodness, how can that poor mr Novak even stand to get up in the morning after abuse like that! I'm about to pass out just reading it!

If you can read all that I and others have documented of White's slanders and personal insults and conclude he never does this, I must say that I am extremely impressed by your ability to deny reality. What more can one say? Some things are self-evident and require no argument.

Now, all of these issues have been fully addressed in the past. I will provide some thoughts of my own on accreditation however. Have you seen the statistics on what people in seminaries today believe about christianity? The percentages of people who don't believe in hell, don't believe in the trinity, don't believe in the deity of Christ?

Sure; that's not my issue.

We're not even talking about distinctives between you and me here Dave. These people walk in normal healthy Christians and come out with twisted liberal theology, with degrees from accredited schools. Fat lot of good that little seal did them.

I agree. I would never suggest that anyone attend a liberal college. This has nothing to do with our topic.

CES is concerned with practical education. No, a doctorate from them doesn't mean the same thing as from some other institutions. But it does mean something.

Great, but just don't call it a doctorate.

There are quite a few of us that have problems with the entire academic model. Those in other instutions don't like this, for obvious reasons. They paid a fortune for their worthless education, and now they're bitter towards those who paid a reasonable price, and got a good education and now have an effective ministry that actually touches the lives of real people.

I have no vested interest in academia, since I am not in it, and I make no bones about criticizing academics when they deserve it. Few are less impressed by mere academic credentials (absent rational argument and demonstration) than I am. And I speak as one who has been active in ministry for over 23 years. I have no beef with that. I think it is great.

This whole argument of being at the school, having resources there, etc is baloney. Resources are available everywhere, you don't need a schools library to do research. you don't need a classroom to learn.

That's right. But there is such a thing as a college, and it means a certain thing.

My wife and I homeschool 4 children.

So do we.

We definately aren't accredited. Yet I'd put our kids education up against most, if not all, private school kid's education any day, let alone public schools.

So would we. This has nothing to do with a doctorate. Would you teach them enough to gain a doctorate degree and use the title "Dr." also? I highly doubt it.

For a long time, people like us were similarly put down, and marginalized. Yet in time, colleges began to notice that homeschooled kids were better candidates. To the point where major institutions like Yale not only accept them, but seek them out.

No argument there, but off-topic.

I think given time, and some more proliferation of schools of its type, schools like CES will see the same kind of benefits. There is no reason to put yourself in debt to your eyeballs just to try and get an education in theology.

And there is no reason to act as if you earned a doctorate when you didn't. One can become educated all they like in theology. I did it, with a minimum of expense. But I don't call myself a "doctor" because I wrote a book. See the difference?

As for the rest, I'll let someone better acquainted with Dr White and with his history and time at the school address the specifics if they so desire. I don't know, and I don't care. I have read what he has written, and held it up to the light of scripture. I have seen the work that he has done, and its results. I have watched his interactions with others, and on occaision with me, and that is sufficent. His work stands on its own.

Be that as it may, it has nothing to do with the question at hand.

One more thing…you decry his comments to Dr Seifrid, which I've already noted contained no personal attacks.

Apparently, you've never seen a personal attack that you regarded as one.

You've also supported the argument it seems that he should've contacted Dr Seifrid.

I think that in a case that serious, Dr. Seifrid is right, and Mr. White should have done so. I don't think it is necessary to personally contact everyone who has something out in public. The public nature of it is sufficient to be critiqued. But my own opinion on the matter was irrelevant to my analogy. White had a double standard, because he complained about not being contacted, then blew off Dr. Seifrid's exact same concerns. The only difference is what side of the dispute White happens to be on at the moment.

I'm curious. Did you contact Dan Rather?

I don't believe it is necessary in this instance, per the above.

Was your statement that he's gone "cuckoo" made in love and with respect?

No, it was made with humor and sarcasm, according to the accepted "rules" of political satirization.

Or do your standards only apply to Dr White?

Political satire is a far cry from accusing one of serious heresy.

Or is it only if you question theologians, but newscasters are fair game? What're the rules here Dave?

Again, one is a well-known journalist who is almost certainly upholding documents which are forgeries. It is entirely proper to satirize the stonewalling going on there. You want to talk about mockery and satire? What do you think of White's caricature of me where he had me doing voodoo and wishing him bodily harm and gleefully laughing about it, and his public accusations that I am some sort of twisted weirdo who hates him (all based on lies)? Or about Patrick Madrid being stoned to death in a "non-violent" caricature? Good grief!

I don't see that there is anything here which overthrows my opinion at all. But thanks for sharing your opinion.

* * * 

In Mr. White's third piece, "Of Gary Novak and the Columbia River", we see how he (inevitably) reduces the discussion to a merely personal level and engages in further obfuscation of the issues and non sequitur. He begins with a reiteration of the genetic fallacy (an idea is false simply because of its origin):

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the more fair you are in your criticisms of a false religion, the more strident will be the response. That does not sound logical, does it? Normally, you would think that if I were to engage in hysterical ranting and raving in criticizing such a group, that would increase the likelihood of a strident, nasty response. But that simply has not been my experience.

I can certainly relate to nasty cultists, but this has nothing to do with the subject at hand, which is not Mormonism, but whether White's Th.D. is legitimate (so why does White commence his reply with such a non sequitur?). Even if we grant that Mr. Novak was a nasty scoundrel, it still doesn't affect the question at hand. It is simply an extraneous factor to ponder and consider.

Then he repeated his insistence that he should have been contacted first (a charitable courtesy that he refused to grant to Dr. Mark Seifrid in his current controversy with the latter over imputed justification):

I had never heard of the man, and to my knowledge, he had never even had the temerity to contact me and ask for my side of the story . . . If he really wanted to know the truth (and be truthful in his presentation), he missed a golden opportunity, for he failed to do the most important thing: talk to me.

White posted a letter from Novak, where he asked:

"Why would I need to question you about your credentials via email?"

And White replied:

I think the terms 'fairness,' 'honesty,' and 'integrity' have something to do with it, Mr. Novak.

Novak again:

"And why would it be 'unthinkable' to respond to your webpage without contacting you?"

Bishop White:

Generally, most folks take the time to make sure of their facts before attacking someone's work, that's all. Again, possibly I follow a code of behavior that is old and passe? I mean, my e-mail address was well known to you. It would have been fairly easy, if, of course, you wanted the 'whole story.'
. . . Both he and Novak decided that it was totally disingenuous of me to assume that someone would bother to contact me before writing a hit piece about my doctoral work on the web.

Now, to refresh readers' memory, here is what White recently wrote to Dr. Mark Seifrid in an open letter, after attacking his work and making out that he is a soteriological heretic:

Now, sir, many have pointed out, upon reading your statements, that they simply do not make a lot of sense on a practical level. Have you contacted every person with whom you have disagreed in print? When you cite someone and say, 'in opposition to…' do you stop and call them on the phone? Does anyone handle published materials in this fashion? Surely not.
. . . Do you seriously expect every person who would see themselves in that camp to call you on the phone and have a 'chat' prior to saying anything about what you have said in a published and publicly distributed book?

(Open Letter, Part I, 9-14-04)

So the "need to contact" version of James White obviously occurs when he is on the receiving end of serious criticism, but "no need to contact" White #2 shows up when he is critiquing someone else in at least as serious of a matter (outright heresy, as he sees it — enough to warrant about ten lengthy treatments on his blog, and an official reply from a seminary).

White goes on and on in his Open Letters to Seifrid about how he wasn't engaging in "personal attack" but simply honestly disagreeing. Yet he blithely assumes that this is the entire motivation of Gary Novak when he questions his credentials:

Speculate as you wish: your actions speak to the issue of motivation, and honesty. Your lack of research will, of course, figure in a response to your personal ad-hominem attack upon me. While some could care less, the honest person, who really does want to know both sides, will take your lack of concern to 'get it right' to heart.

Novak opined (already clearly familiar with White's usual reply to any criticism):

"Please let us now hear about how everything is a personal cheap shot directed at you."

And White replies:

Well, if you wish to identify your writings in that way, I won't stop you.

LOL! White goes on to defend his degree based on hours of work and numbers of published books:

So far, then, my own program, combining an 'accredited' M.A. and a non-accredited Th.M., has amounted to more than four times the number of credit hours Mr. Novak has indicated. But there’s more. My doctoral program included the writing of six nationally published books. Most doctoral programs require papers and a dissertation. Four of those six books would, taken individually, be substantially longer than many standard dissertations. And while they are written at a popular level so as to communicate with their audience (major publishers do not publish books written so that only a few people could possibly read them), anyone who takes the time to examine the endnotes and the sources used (something that, again, Mr. Novak 'skipped' in his research) can see that they required extensive study and research. They do, in fact, demonstrate an ability to do first-level research in my chosen field: apologetics.

I've already noted that if the main qualification White cites as having earned his doctorate is number of apologetic words written, then I could easily have earned a doctorate also, maybe two. If hours of work put in, in apologetics and ministry are key, I can match him there, too. Length of books? Ditto. He talks about how they are written on a popular level (so are mine), but "required extensive study and research" (same here). The only difference is that White has more published works. I'm behind him in that regard, but he got a ten-year start on me. I had to wait a bit and go through the usual frustrations of most authors.

White seems to have been spared that, and I am happy for him, believe me, despite all our conflicts. But then I can claim to have had a rather significant effect on the public by means of my website, which has received many thousands of hits in the last seven-and-a-half years. If these are the reasons why his degree is legitimate (apart from accreditation and proper review) then I ought to start calling myself "Dr. Armstrong" today. But remember, this is white's reasoning, not mine. I am only demonstrating how, by his reasoning, I can claim a doctorate by almost all the same criteria that he claims in his own case.

White appeals to his Masters degree from Fuller Seminary. But that is not in dispute. Another non sequitur . . . He agrees with the goodness of "examination of the thesis by a group of professors" and indeed state (italics his):

There is everything to be said for the necessity of such examination. It is indeed one of the main advantages of campus-based education to have a ready cache of such folks available.

So far so good. But then his reasoning immediately breaks down again:

You see, one of the reasons I am so thankful to the Lord for how he has worked to join my educational experience with my ministry work is that the results of that work are open for the whole world to see. That is, since the majority of my doctoral work has been published by one of the largest and best Christian publishers in the United States, I can simply point to a pile of work and say, 'Well, there it is! If you wish to demonstrate a problem, get busy.' That is, I don’t have four or five folks reviewing my work. I have thousands. Mr. Novak is right: his thesis has probably been read by half a dozen people, grand total, in the world. My Th.M. thesis has been read by multiplied thousands, and I can tell you this: a number of them were anything but friendly to me.

Wow! Where to begin? So now a doctorate degree and use of the prestigious title "Dr." is justified by:

1) The link of one's study to ministry.
2) Numbers of laypeople (not professors or academic peers) who see this work.
3) Being published by a reputable publisher.
4) Thousands of lay "reviewers" vs. academic reviewers.
5) Readers who are hostile and take a different view.

Well, if this is true, then again, I pass on all five counts, with flying colors. I would be able to start calling myself "Dr." too. I consider all of my work (many hundreds of papers and 12 books and dozens of published articles, among other things) "ministry." Lots of folks have read my stuff; I've been published twice now by one of the most reputable Catholic publishers: Sophia Institute Press, and twice by the largest and perhaps most influential one: Our Sunday Visitor, and have had articles in all the leading Catholic apologetic periodicals (This Rock, Envoy, The Catholic Answer).

I have plenty of severe critics (many whipped up by White's own lies and disinformation about me). One can see a few in these very threads (one called me "scum" — that's a new low). There are many others like me, too, of course, in both the Protestant and Catholic worlds, who don't start claiming that they have doctorate degrees because they have done a lot of work in apologetics and have "thousands of reviewers." It's ludicrous. G.K. Chesterton had no earned degree at all, not even a Bachelor's degree. But based on this criteria he should have had five degrees (he was granted at least one honorary degree, but that is something different from what White claims).

Mr. White goes on to compare legitimate peer review to "lay review":

While Mr. Novak’s professors would feel a need to be rigorous in their review (if they really had time to be), it is highly doubtful that his work was exposed to the refutations of those who hate him with unrelenting hatred.

I see. So if hatred (another constant theme in White's dealing with his critics — so much so that a suspicion of literal paranoia might perhaps be justified) is a particularly important qualification to receive a doctoral degree, then President Bush must have fifty of them. Rush Limbaugh (who also never finished college, as I recall) would have 750. I would (arguably) have quite a few myself (see the negative comments on my sidebar about myself). All of this is completely irrelevant. White's reasoning and self-justification have become increasingly ludicrous.

Anyone who has read the web pages written about me by KJV Only advocates knows what I mean when I say that my work has been reviewed by those tremendously hostile to me and my position.

Then great will be White's reward in heaven for the persecution endured. It has nothing to do with whether he has a genuine degree. And it is astonishingly embarrassing to even have to point this out to him.

The same is true of many of the books written as part of my doctoral work: The Roman Catholic Controversy has been cited in numerous works since its publication, . . .

So now being cited is another criterion for a doctorate degree . . . this gets stranger by the minute. If I had read this nonsense three years ago, surely I would have changed my position on White's "doctorate" then. But better late than never.

. . . and can anyone seriously think that a work like Mary—-Another Redeemer? will not be held up to serious scrutiny as well?

Sure, it will (but what that has to do with obtaining a doctorate is lost on me). It has been scrutinized and found severely wanting: e.g., in my paper: "Whitewashing History": Critique of James White's Book, Mary — Another Redeemer? (with William Possidento)

Perhaps Mr. White will trouble himself to do a do-do bird rare counter-response. That would be nice.

. . . given the fact that I was involved in front-line apologetic work all through the time I was working with CES, we all recognized that my work was going to be reviewed over and over again by those with a very, very big ax to grind.

More irrelevancies. By this "reasoning," those with the most reviews of a book on (especially hostile ones!) would have earned advanced degrees.

And, of course, since the published versions of my work are sent to a wide variety of scholars and writers for their review and endorsement, one might well point out that there is more review throughout the process I underwent than there would be in a normal university situation.

Oh, right. Let me get this straight: if a scholar reviews a book, then that is the equivalent of the grueling process of academic review of a dissertation at an accredited university. A-ha! Why didn't anyone think of that before? One must at least credit White for sheer chutzpah and an original (almost singularly unique) mind indeed.

The only meaningful criticism that could possibly be raised against my dissertation is this: it is not 'focused' enough. That is, conventional wisdom is that your dissertation topic must be very narrow, very focused, and the resultant work must be extremely in-depth, showing an ability to do original research. Such is the standard dissertation. And while there is more than sufficient scholarship in my dissertation as far as original languages, or in-depth discussion is concerned, I gladly and openly confess that it is not your every-day dissertation. The 'Trinity' is FAR too wide a topic to qualify in most doctoral programs. Of that we can all be sure.

So now White gets to define what a dissertation is! His view is radical and controversial, but of course, he glories in that, because it is all for the sake of the Kingdom. He is influencing people by his work, so it is a dissertation, and indeed, more so than the obscure, irrelevant rot that most doctoral candidates produce: stuff that sits in an obscure corner of an ivory tower library, gathering dust and affecting few or none.

Again, I am delighted that White has defended the Holy Trinity and helped thousands to better understand it. That's wonderful. I commend him. There ought to be a hundred books of such crucial importance. But none of this demonstrates that this work is a doctoral dissertation. One can't simply change the rules as to what a dissertation is. It is not an arbitrary matter, subject to one person's revision and overhaul.

What better dissertation could I write for a Th.D. in apologetics than a unique, helpful, solid work providing a focused, biblical defense of the single doctrine most often attacked by cultists and unbelievers?

Just call it a "paper" or a "book" rather than Th.D. dissertation and I dare say no one would have any problem with it at all. The work itself or its utility are not at issue: only the dishonest reference to it as a dissertation.

Mr. Novak is rather inconsistent to refer to my work as 'bogus' when I more than adequately met his standards for what one must do for an advanced degree, . . .

You have?!?! I must have missed it. But I'll keep reading in hopes of finding a justification that can stand up to scrutiny.

I do have one thing to point out. When did I become the issue?

I must have missed that, too. I thought we were talking about the nature of your claimed degree, Mr. White, not you. Maybe that is a subtle difference that you find exceedingly difficult to grasp, but not all of us are logically challenged in such a way.

Why don’t I find Mr. Novak providing a meaningful response to my latest book, Is the Mormon My Brother?

I have no idea. Good question. But what does it have to do with the topic?

Yet, LDS apologists choose only to attack me personally rather than deal with the documentation in the book. Why? The answer is simple. Ad-hominem is the stock-in-trade of defenders of Mormonism.

Maybe so, but again, this has nothing to do with an analysis of White's eccentric reasoning about degrees. That can be done without attacking him personally. Even if Novak stooped to personal attack (or if I have, inadvertently — all of us being human and subject to sin), there are still many substantive issues here to be dealt with that do not get erased by these patented bait-and-switch tactics of Mr. White.

It is little more than the throwing of dirt and dust to obscure the issues. I invite the reader to consider well how in politics the person who has lost the debate immediately turns to this kind of desperate argument.

And I invite the reader to wonder why it is that Mr. White almost invariably does so as well, and why it is that he (and/or his followers) can't be made to see that?

Students do write their own syllabi—in conjunction with, and with the approval of, the student’s mentor. The two are to work together to craft a program that will meet the student’s needs, but it is the student who is responsible for putting the final form together, not the mentor.

How convenient . . . perhaps they grade themselves too? This sounds more and more like the typical liberal sort of education that I am sure White would despise.

Mr. White says that his "dissertation" was also signed by Phil Fernandes, in addition to Rick Walston. Good, so now there are two people. Most universities require more people than that. But then, White cares little about such facts, because it is ministry and that doesn't matter . . . it's almost as if White wants to be educated, yet retain the traditional animus and anti-intellectual, anti-institutional bent of fundamentalism. That works well in the anti-Catholic milieu in which he moves. It's a very strange, contradictory mixture of divided allegiance.

I shall leave it simply at this: how many professors in theology have the list of publications that I can present, and in as many different fields?

That would apply to me as well. Shall I start calling a bunch of my work a "dissertation"?

The educational system moves slowly, and is only now beginning to recognize the need to move away from the centralized/single campus mode to the satellite/campus and distance-education mode. Till distance education becomes more prevalent, those of us who take advantage of it will have to do two things: 1) prove our scholarship directly by what we write and teach (rather than by institutional association), and 2) recognize that being 'politically incorrect' will preclude us from 'crossing over' and gaining the acceptance of those who could, in fact, get the government to help them pay for their education. At the same time, we will have to trust that the serious minded person will recognize that everyone should be evaluated on the same standards: that is, that scholarship should not be accorded some special privilege just because of an institutional association.

Again, White wishes to redefine the way things are normally done. He is quite welcome to believe whatever he likes, but to then insist on making this the new norm for what a "doctoral degree" means, and what it consists of, is wishful thinking (to put it mildly).

It is not hard to figure out the reason why Gary Novak, a Mormon associated with FARMS, would wish to put up on the Web such a one-sided article aimed solely at me on a personal level . . . Well, the reason is obvious: their standard means of responding to criticism is to attack the critic, not the issue at hand.

Granted, it may be partly personal, because it is questioning his honesty in one respect (mainly terminology and self-titles). But it is not "solely" a personal issue because a popular-level work on the Trinity is not exactly the sort of work that is normally considered a "dissertation." It is this changing of the conventional definitions of terms which is at issue. One can't simply change the definition and act like nothing has happened. Life just doesn't work that way.

ADDENDUM: Comments from blog visitor Patrick

It is perfectly legitimate, even I think, important, to point out that White does not have a real Th.D. And that's all that's at issue in your post. It is easy for people to read White's self-defenses and get all confused about the real issue, since he engages in a little obfuscation in those pieces. For example, he writes,

All I ask of the Lord is that The Forgotten Trinity have the same impact that I know to be true of other books such as Letters to a Mormon Elder or The Roman Catholic Controversy: the salvation of the lost. I consider it an honor to be allowed to write a work that can help someone know God better and grow in His grace.

Although I find his grasp of Catholicism profoundly lacking, I nevertheless applaud this approach to one's work. It is the approach I seek to have, though I am not always successful in dying to self. But how is this sentiment in any way relevant to his decision to pursue a doctoral degree? It isn't. We know that he already had a writing regimen in place before his enrollment in CES, and we know, in fact, that he built his "degree" program around his writing regimen. He writes, for example:
Most importantly for me, I was able to design a program around my writing projects, making classes out of entire books.

He also says,

Soon after graduating from Fuller I was asked to start teaching on the undergraduate level. This gave me the opportunity to "stay fresh" in the classroom. Further, I began writing in 1989, which likewise took a large portion of my time. I began writing for Bethany House in 1993, and with the release of The King James Only Controversy I began to see that the Lord was opening doors of ministry through writing and speaking that I had never envisioned. This further caused me to realize that my future in ministry did not lie in full time teaching in a seminary or university, but in the communication of solid Christian truth to the Church as a whole, primarily through my local church, secondarily by the ministry of writing to a much wider audience.

Therefore, we can conclude that his being "allowed" to write his books had absolutely nothing to do with his pursuit of the "degree." His desire to glorify God with his scholarship, admirable as it is, simply does not translate into any impetus for pursuing a degree. White comes close to acknowledging this fact when he writes,

Since I saw that I was not headed for the classroom full time, but instead my classroom teaching would always remain secondary to my ministry in apologetics and in writing, the lack of formal governmental accreditation was not overly relevant.

I say he comes close to acknowledging it: there's a bit of subtle misdirection going on in this passage (intentional or otherwise). He tries to make the issue one of accredited vs. non-accredited. But that's not the issue at all. The issue is: what is the degree for at all? He doesn't need the degree to pursue the work he believes God has called him to: this is obvious, since he was already doing that work prior to even entering into the degree program, and indeed his degree program consisted largely in simply continuing to do that work. So what's it for at all?

Once again, the issue isn't accreditation. I don't give two bits whether a university is accredited. The problems with White's degrees isn't that CES isn't accredited. It is that the program isn't even close to equivalent to a real doctoral program. Again, White, in effect, openly admits this, writing:

Mr. Novak seems to have forgotten to ask what kind of review my work has been exposed to. And it is just here that the silliness of Mr. Novak's personal attacks becomes so obvious. You see, one of the reasons I am so thankful to the Lord for how he has worked to join my educational experience with my ministry work is that the results of that work are open for the whole world to see. That is, since the majority of my doctoral work has been published by one of the largest and best Christian publishers in the United States, I can simply point to a pile of work and say, "Well, there it is! If you wish to demonstrate a problem, get busy." That is, I don't have four or five folks reviewing my work. I have thousands.

That's great, Mr. White, but so does any columnist for Cosmo. The question isn't how many readers you have, but, rather who is reviewing the work, for what purpose, and under what circumstances. The readers of popular works like White's simply aren't scrutinizing the work in the same way, for the same reasons, and with the same kinds of abilities that dissertation readers will scrutinize it. (Trust me on this one!) The dissertation is, in effect, a scholarly rite of passage. In it, you demonstrate that you can perform as a member of a profession. (The purpose is generally not to write a book that will be a "help" to anyone, though if you can do that in addition, that's great.)

White's works, whatever their merits, are not like that. They just aren't. The fact that he thinks a popular book is in any way the equal to a dissertation simply shows that he has no grip on what academia is all about. And that's proof enough for me that his degree program was bogus, irrespective of how much work he did as part of the program. Because, again, the amount of work is completely beside the point. The issue is how the work is focused. An unaccredited school may very well be just as good at, or better than, many accredited schools in producing scholars. But CES isn't even in the business of producing scholars. (Not if White's experience is representative of the way their programs work, anyway.)

I am a firm advocate of correspondence schooling. I've taken some correspondence courses myself, and I think they can be great. A good correspondence course can definitely help you with "expanding your knowledge of the Word and improving your ability to teach and minister in the Church."

I hope and trust that White's experience at CES did just this for him, and I hope it will continue to do so for many other students. I just hope they'll stop pretending to be doing more than this. I hope they'll stop pretending to be producing scholars. After all, isn't ?expanding your knowledge of the Word and improving your ability to teach and minister in the Church? enough? What's the need for the "degree"?

White never mentions a need for a degree, for instance, when he writes,

There is a fundamental dichotomy between the ultimate goals of God-centered education and man-centered education, and the more faithful we are to taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ in our lives, the more "out of phase" we will be with the world around us,

or when he writes,

before I have the first concern for what someone thinks of my schooling, degrees, or academic standing, I am concerned about what God thinks of my fidelity to what He has called me to do. He has called me to serve in the fellowship of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, first as a member, now as an elder in that local church. He has called me to direct Alpha and Omega Ministries, and to engage in Christian apologetics. And he has called me to love my wife Kelli, father my children and raise them in a godly home, and to be a proper and respectful son in my parent's later years. If obeying God's will means I need to express my scholarship in a way that some dislike, I have to weigh their opposition against God's clear leading and will. And for a Christian man, there isn't any question as to what the result of that evaluation will be.

He's right, too; you don't need a degree for any of that. So, um, why's he gotta claim to have one? That's all I'm asking.