Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Strange Saga of James White's On-Again, Off-Again Use of the Pejorative Terms "Romanism" and "Romanist"

When I read these words on James White's blog tonight:

If Romanism is the one true religion, well then, the one true religion can have zero impact upon the culture in which it is allegedly predominant. As much as my Roman Catholic friends will dislike this, Rome is a dead religion in this nation. When I visited the Vatican, I was visiting a very ornate, vastly expensive tomb. Little more. It did not speak of life. It spoke of death, and the vanity of those buried in its marble crypts.

(Another Note from Italy, 5-18-05)

. . . I was reminded of disputes that I have engaged in, in the past, regarding proper terminology for various religious groups, and White's own inconsistent, objectionable usage (complete with his patented blatant double standards). When I first ran across this Baptist apologist and anti-Catholic champion in 1995, and engaged in a lengthy debate with him through snail mail, he saw nothing wrong with the use of the words Romanism and Romanist: terms which are offensive to many, if not most, Catholics (for the reasons why, see the appropriate section in the paper, Dialogue: Does the Term Anti-Catholic Employ an Unreasonable Double Standard?). Hence in that debate of ours, he referred to: "modern Romanism," and "the issue of Romanism, . . ."

He used the terms Romanism or Romanist(s) incessantly in his book The Fatal Flaw (Southbridge, MA: Crowne Publications, 1990) , almost as his description of choice for Catholicism. I found 29 instances of it (and I'm sure some slipped me by): on pp. xi, xiii, 4, 10, 13, 17, 21, 22, 23, 26, 29, 41, 45, 47, 69, 71, 86, 120, 125, 132, 133, 154, 156, 157, 159, 181, 191 (2), and 193. Roman or Roman Catholic(ism) also appear quite frequently.

White dropped his guard momentarily and fell into the abominable use of the word Catholic (by itself) at least seven times: pp. 18, 42, 70, 71, 75, 211, and 215, and even (egads!) Catholicism at least once (p. 70).

Bart Brewer (less "enlightened"), in the Foreword (p. v), uses the even more ridiculous, but (in anti-Catholic circles) timeworn term, Romish.

It seems that White underwent a conversion of sorts by 1996, and the appearance of his book, The Roman Catholic Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House). For here he opted almost exclusively for Roman Catholic (along with the shorter Roman). I can't find a single instance of Romanism or Romanist in it. I remember White making a statement at one point, that the words didn't appear in this book. I don't recall what else he said about that, if anything. But he had used the terms earlier, as shown. And he is not through with them altogether, yet (as will be shown below).

Why is this? I believe that White realized that the antiquated pejoratives would not bode well for his "scholarly" career and respectability in academia (and I use the terms very loosely where he is concerned, since he does not possess a legitimate doctorate). So he (by and large) dropped them. But I don't think this was for principled reasons (i.e., because they offend Catholics, and have a long, sad history in anti-Catholic polemics and disinformation campaigns). It was an effort to make himself look like a respectable or credible anti-Catholic: not like the Jack Chicks and the Ian Paisleys of the world. He is that, relatively speaking (to the extent that any anti-Catholic can be spoken of as intellectually credible at all, since it is a self-defeating position), but not to the extent that he has totally avoided using hyper-polemical, offensive terms for his opponents (all the while objecting to the perfectly legitimate, scholarly term anti-Catholic).

A search of his blog posts reveal that this is not an isolated or inadvertant recurrence into old bad habits. It appears that pejorative language for his opponents has again made its way back into White's ongoing polemic:

. . . both Romanism and Orthodoxy . . .

(i.e., Romanism or Orthodoxy)

(To One on the Way to Antioch, 3-12-05)

[one can't help but wonder why "Orthodoxy" is not, for White, "Constantinopilism" or "Moscowism" or why Calvinism isn't "Genevism" or "Hollandism" or "Scotlandism" or "western Michiganism" -- or how about "Grand Rapidsism"??]

. . . that doesn't mean the Christian Church is 500 years old, nor that Romanism is 2000 years old . . .

(A Catholic Who Wants His Letter Posted, 4-5-05)

Interestingly enough, one has to go back about three years to find White using these terms on his website:

Mr. Porvaznik knows better. He knows this "historical continuity" is a myth. He knows the early Christians did not believe in Papal infallibility, the Bodily Assumption of Mary, and a whole host of other doctrines that define modern Romanism.

(A Response to an "Argument for Infallibility," 7-26-00)

Stephen Ray is known to Protestant apologists as the man who argues from silence. His anachronistic attempts to turn the early Fathers into faithful followers of modern Romanism are almost the stuff of legend, and would be humorous if they were not resulting in such damage in the personal lives of individuals who are deceived by his writings. While he accuses me of disrespecting the Fathers, is it showing respect for Augustine, for example, to put words in his mouth he never spoke? Is it showing respect for the Fathers to force them into the mold of modern Romanism, replete with doctrines and beliefs they never embraced?

(What Do Some Roman Catholic and Mormon Apologists Have in Common?, 7-21-00)

"Please list the books and articles, written by Romanists or others, on the canon that you have read"?

(The "JimmJoeJ" Saga [sic], 4-13-02)

What next, papist? That was a good "Reformation" term; what prevents White from using that, since he obviously cares nothing about offending Catholics by using silly titles for them, against their own wishes as to what they want to be called? But let's hope that the apparent three-year gap in White's lax language is more important in the long run than the recent flurry of reversion to his old, tired, rather silly ways of speaking.

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