Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Defense Of My Opinion On James White's Improper Use of Cross-Examination in Debate and Abuse of Rhetoric (by Paul R. Hoffer, B.A., J.D.)

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

[photograph and painting below added by Dave Armstrong; everything else is the work of Paul Hoffer]

But the fact remains that without cross-examination
, there is no debate.” ~James White


On July 12, 2007, I made a comment to an article Mr. Armstrong posted on his blog titled: James White: Anti-Intellectual? (Double Standards in "Anti" Language Yet Again!) + His Latest Hit Piece & Continued Refusal to Do a Chat Room Debate. Mr. White took umbrage to my comments and proceeded to “debate” me accordingly on his blog here: An Attorney on Cross-Examination and here: Will We Hear the Truth on the DL Tomorrow?

Mr. Armstrong has graciously allowed me to respond to the charges that Mr. White has made about me and to offer a defense of my comments. It was an offer I willingly accepted because it would give me the opportunity to discuss several issues that I believe are far more important than some tit-for-tat between Mr. White and a neophyte apologist such as myself. Given Mr. White’s overreaction to my comment as well as statements he has made defending the use of cross-examination during his debates with Catholic apologists and others, I believe that there is a fundamental flaw to Mr. White’s approach to apologetics in general and debates specifically which needs to be discussed. I realize that it has taken awhile to put together a proper response, but it is one thing to have an opinion, or even have reasons for that opinion, but it is quite another to express them in a manner appropriate to apologetics work. Considering the allegations that were made between Mr. White and me, I felt obligated to evaluate my reasoning and then back it up with salient facts and information or else withdraw the claims that I had made. I hope the reader will receive some measure of edification from the result.

In addressing some of the claims that Mr. White made about me, I will do so only in the context of taking him to task for his misuse of rhetoric and in defense of my opinion expressed on Mr. Armstrong’s blog. Please understand that I will not waste the reader’s time going through his statements about me personally and doing a point-by-point refutation. His comments were made as a reaction to an unkind remark I said stating that in using trial lawyer tactics, the Holy Spirit wasn’t moving him. To that extent, Mr. White had a right to be angry. It is a remark that should not have been made. I did not have the right to judge Mr. White’s heart. When I was chided about the statement by the Rev. Ken Temple, a fellow Christian whose views I respect, I reread my comments, realized my error, and formally retracted that particular statement about Mr. White before I even knew he had written about me. Further, the uncharitable remark itself was ill-conceived because it undermined the underlying opinion I sought to express. It also unnecessarily added to the rancor found these days between Protestant-Christian and Catholic-Christian apologists. Most important, I choose not to dwell on each and every comment that Mr. White made about me because Our Lord has commanded us to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39) and that we are to forgive our trespassers if we are to be forgiven as well (Mt. 6:14). This is an occasion where those commands will be followed.

Besides, my feelings on the subject echo Mr. Lincoln’s sentiments when he said:

When a man hears himself somewhat misrepresented, it provokes himat least, I find it so with myself; but when misrepresentation becomes very gross and palpable, it is more apt to amuse him.

~Abraham Lincoln

While I forgive Mr. White for the unkind things that he said about me and ask his forgiveness in turn, my injudicious choice of words does not negate my opinion that Mr. White misuses the tool of cross-examination in debate, specifically that he makes use of a form of question I call a false initial premise question or which some might call a “loaded” question. Further, the manner in which he responded to my comment made on Mr. Armstrong’s blog demonstrates an alarming abuse of rhetoric. I will address the latter claim first.

Rhetorically Speaking:

Throughout history, people have been drawn to oral debates like they are drawn to sporting events. Everyone likes to see their side win, their viewpoint vindicated, and their enemies’ arguments refuted. Debates between two skilled opponents can provide a vicarious thrill for the audience that is only rivaled in my mind by the pronouncement of a verdict in hard-fought jury trial. Not only does a well-argued debate provide drama and entertainment, people can hear arguments marshaled and tested in support of or against their opinions and come away with an additional framework for organizing their own thoughts and opinions.

However, like many human endeavors, a person can obtain a benefit from listening to a debate only if the debater’s primary purpose in presenting his arguments therein is for the truthful exchange of information. In light of the type of questions I have seen Mr. White use during the cross-examination of his opponents in debate, I am not so sure that he agrees with the notion that the primary purpose of debate should be for the truthful exchange of information. I will provide the reasons for my concerns in short order.

Before I do, the reader needs to understand what I mean by argument. In the context of a debate or trial, an argument does not mean a verbal altercation between two people; it means the process of making what we think clear to ourselves and to others. An argument, whether made during a debate or at trial, has two parts. The first part of an argument is the arguer’s statement of opinion. The second part of an argument is the recitation of the reasons the arguer has marshaled in support of the statement of his opinion. Arguments can be made either orally or in writing.

The art, or science if you will, of making arguments is called rhetoric. Rhetoric contains three components: logos, the use of logic which is designed to appeal to the audience’s reason and intellect; ethos, the arguer’s attempt to project his character to the audience as someone wise, ethical or practical; and pathos, the arguer’s appeal to emotions, sympathies or prejudices of the audience. Rhetoricians have developed a body of knowledge explaining the interaction of the above components as well as certain rules and principles for inventing, formulating, and organizing arguments. These rules consist of different types of logic, language, and elements of public speaking or writing designed to achieve an aim of argument.

Generally, rhetoricians recognize four types of argument: to inquire, to convince, to persuade and to negotiate. Arguing to inquire helps the arguer form an opinion or allows the arguer to question the ones he already has. A classroom discussion is a good example of argument as inquiry. Arguing to convince is used to gain assent from an audience through the giving of examples. A lawyer’s brief is a common type of argument of convincing. Arguing to persuade is a higher form of an argument to convince in that the arguer uses emotional, personal and stylized appeals in addition to rational arguments to sway the audience. Debates, trials, political speeches, sermons, and even advertising all can be examples of forms of arguing to persuade. Arguing to negotiate is considered the pinnacle of debate. The aim of negotiation is to build a consensus or eliminate conflict. Examples of negotiation are diplomacy or negotiating a contract, or on a more personal level, the giving an apology (in the sense of asking for forgiveness).

In contrast to an argument, the mere statement of an opinion without giving one’s reasons in support of that opinion is not an argument at all. Rhetoricians call such opinions self-expression. Self-expression is used merely to provoke thought in others or to affirm an opinion held by someone else. Examples of self-expression are seen all the time in the “Letters to the Editors” section of the local newspaper or, in this day of “New Media,” in commboxes on blogs.

Applying the principles discussed in the brief overview of the art of rhetoric provided here, it becomes obvious from examining my remarks and the remarks that Mr. White makes about them, that he either does not know the difference between self-expression and an argument or has chosen to disregard the difference. With the uncharitable words removed, I said:

[Cross-examination] is a tool that can be used to obscure or

distort the truth as well as expose it. Watching some of Mr. White's debates demonstrate that he is proficient in the use of cross-examination to do just that-obscure or hide the truth. [H]e is not interested in being factual or accurate; it is all about winning and beating the other guy. He is truly a hypocrite in the original Greek sense of the word-a play actor- and he is good at it. If he were an attorney, he would probably be a rich PI (personal injury) or criminal defense attorney somewhere.

If getting at the truth is truly the purpose of this exercise, then a written format is more conducive to actually getting there. One can't win using trial lawyer tricks to persuade or obscure. Instead, in a brief, one's arguments are laid bare on paper where they can be sifted, weighed and measured. Sure there is oral argument in appellate practice, but it is that-argument and not a cross-examination.

Furthermore, in a trial setting, we lawyers have certain rules of procedure, evidence and ethics that limit how cross-examination is used because we know how cross-examination as a technique can be misused. From what I have seen of Mr. White's debates, there are no similar rules. Instead, sophistry and trick questions seem to be the guiding principle. Many times, White's cross-examination questions are patterned after the old "so when did you stop beating your wife" or false initial premise type question than anything that is designed to get at the truth.

Plainly, my comments posted in a commbox in response to Mr. Armstrong’s paper composed my opinions, or more precisely, my self-expression. In no way could my self-expression be construed as an argument exactly because I did not give reasons to support my opinion. By engaging in mere self-expression, I was not obligated to give reasons for my opinion. At the time, I was not making an argument with one of the four aims of argument in mind. My statement about Mr. White’s debating tactics was an affirmation of Mr. Armstrong’s argument, not the making of my own. My comment merely echoed the opinion of a number of Catholics and Protestants who have seen and heard his debates. Anyone searching any number of apologetics message boards and chat room threads can find such opinions so I will not take the time to list them here.

Although my statements constituted my self-expression, Mr. White chose to treat them as if they were actually an argument to convince or to persuade. Not only that, he responded to my statements as if they had been made during a debate. White said:

You will note, as usual, the complete lack of examples. Lots of ad-hominem, lots of personal observations and feelings, zero substance. Throw in a little mind reading, or spirit-reading, I guess, and you have another reason why attorneys should probably stay out of the debating field. (Emphasis added.)

Now that we were “debating,” White goes on the attack:

Now, Hoffer makes plenty of accusations. He accuses me of obscuring the truth. No examples given. He says the Holy Spirit is not moving me. No examples given, no basis for his ability to read my mind or heart provided. He says I am not interested in being factual or accurate. No examples given, no reason to accept his mind-reading abilities offered. He says it is all about "beating the other guy," but again, no examples offered, no foundation given. He makes reference to sophistry and trick questions, but, as easy as it would be to offer examples, he offers none. (Emphasis added).

Even though White easily refuted my “argument” by pointing out the fact that I actually didn’t make one, he did not rest there. He went conspiratorial and speculated about the true reasons why I expressed my opinion and then presented his speculation as if they were my reasons. First, he accused me of engaging in “[t]he typical "slash and burn personal attack in the service of Mother Church methodology that is the norm of RC apologetics these days.” Second, he states, “But, as we have seen over the years, there is this thing about "Mother Church" standing in the way. In a sense, the Roman Catholics share with the Muslims their own form of taqiyya. As long as slander and falsehood is uttered in the service of Mother Church, all is well. It is OK.” (Emphasis added).

If this is not a sophistry, what is? Is Mr. White so combative a person that he is willing to confront people by taking their self-expression, and pretend that they constitute an argument made during the course of a debate? Apparently so. Then, not resting to savor his victory over another perfidious papist, he uses the occasion to calumniate against the Catholic Church by demeaning the men and women who defend the Faith and by making a base comparison between a purported Islamic practice of dissimulation and the apologetic work these Catholic men and women do. Is there any wonder a person might question White’s motives behind his use of lawyer tricks in debate? If White honestly thought my statements were an example of Catholic taqiyya, if he truly believed that my statements amounted to “slash and burn” RC apologetics, and if he truly perceived himself the victim of Catholic persecution as he portrayed on his website and on the radio, it should have been an occasion for him to rejoice (cf. Mt. 5:10) rather than an occasion to force a dialectical duel. For anyone who is interested in what exactly taqiyya is, please read Taqiyya (last visited Nov. 25, 2007).

But, if Mr. White would rather be like a rash, young Gas├žon from an Alexandre Dumas novel, willing to take up arms at every slight, real or imagined, so be it. However, he should first sell the buttercup-colored horse . . . or at least learn the difference between self-expression and an argument.


If his abuse of rhetoric was not enough, White’s factual errors are worse. In the first article he wrote against me, Mr. White argues:

[W]ithout cross-examination, there is no debate. All you have is competing presentations that could have been prerecorded. No reason to get together in one place if the two sides are not going to directly interact. (Emphasis added).

James White’s contention notwithstanding, historically speaking, cross-examination has never been the sine qua non of debate. The reason he gives in support of this contention can easily be refuted by any serious student of history. Since the dawn of time, almost every culture has engaged in formal arguments styled as “debates.” And other than trials, very few, if any debates, ever featured cross-examination as a component. When educators teach debate, they generally set forth five objective criteria that make up a debate. Educators propose that a debate is (1) a confrontation, (2) between similarly matched contestants, (3) on a stated proposition, (4) wherein the contestants are given equal or adequate time to argue their points, (5) in order to gain a decision from a stated audience. Thus, to borrow Mr. White’s language, unless all five of the above-referenced elements are present, there is no debate.

Please note that cross-examination is not one of the five elements that comprise a debate. Cross-examination is merely a stylistic device used by debaters in certain formats of debate to help them make their points or to undermine their opponent’s argument. In fact, in the few historical debates that do contain cross-examination, they either are trials (See, e.g., the trial of Socrates as related in Plato’s Apology, Euthyphro, Crito and Phaedo) or a literary device used to teach (See, e.g., Theodoret’s Dialogues between Orthodoxos and Eranistes). The device of cross-examination, to my knowledge, simply was not a part of normal oral disputations for most of our western history.

I need to present only two examples for the reader’s consideration, either of which are sufficient, to refute White’s contention that without cross-examination, there is no debate.

In the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, Dr. Johann Eck first faced Andreas Karlstadt and then Fr. Martin Luther over a number of issues, including the authority of Pope. While scholars disagree about who “won” the debate, this debate plays a watershed moment in Christian history. It was here that Luther first defended the doctrine of sola scriptura. Unfortunately, a word-for-word transcript of the entire debate (at least not in English) does not seem to be available for public reading. However, enough of it appears in W.H.T. Day’s book titled The Leipzig Debate in 1519: Leaves from the Story of Luther’s Life. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House 1919) and Hans Hillerbrand’s collection of historical writings titled The Reformation: a Narrative History Related by Contemporary Observers and Participants (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers 1964), pgs. 64-76 to show that cross-examination does not appear to be a feature of that debate. See also, Scott Hendrix’s Luther and the Papacy (Fortress Press 1981), pgs. 84-91; Hartmann Grisar’s Martin Luther: His Life and Work, trans. Arthur Preuss (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press 1954), pgs. 111-117; and Luther’s Works (Vol. 31) Career of the Reformer: I, Harold Grimm, ed. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press 1957) pgs. 309-325.

Using the five objective criteria set forth above: (1) there was a confrontation between Dr. Eck and Karstadt and Luther in which (2) each were given a similar if not equal amount of time to present their arguments and proof for the same (3) between matched contestants, all three of whom were highly-degreed or credentialed (4) on stated theses that were briefed extensively in writing prior to the actual debate, and (5) which were judged by the faculties of two distinguished universities. Thus, while there was no element of cross-examination, the Disputation of Leipzig of 1519 meets all of the criteria of a debate.

Just in case the reader perceives that the Disputation of Leipzig of 1519 was a historical aberration, I direct the reader’s attention to a significant event in American history–The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.

In 1858 throughout Illinois, two candidates for the United States Senate, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, appeared against each other in seven debates over the issue of slavery. While The Lincoln-Douglas Debates ostensibly constituted a series of debates between two Illinois senatorial candidates, they served to galvanize followers of both sides of the burning national issue of that time-slavery. While Lincoln did not win the 1858 Illinois senatorial race, these debates brought him to national prominence and ultimately propelled him into the presidency itself. Unlike the Leipzig debate, anyone can read the complete transcript of all seven of the debates between Messrs. Lincoln and Douglas at the National Park Service’s website here.

After reading all of these debates, the reader can apply the five objective components of a debate and find that: (1) there was a confrontation between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas (2) in which each person had a total of one and half hours to argue their position (3) who were equally qualified to run for the United States Senate (4) on stated resolutions which can be found at the beginning of the first debate (5) before the citizenry who were going to cast their votes to decide an election. And a fact that would perhaps astound Mr. White, between Lincoln, an accomplished lawyer of mythic proportions, nor Douglas, one of the ablest debaters in American history, nary a cross-examination session can be found anywhere in more than twenty-one hours of debate.

Now I pose the following questions to the reader, can anyone seriously claim that the Disputation of Leipzig in 1519 or any of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates fail to qualify as debates merely because the participants did not have the good grace to cross-examine each other? Of course not! Can anyone seriously argue that the absence of cross-examination somehow prevented the debaters from interacting with each other or with their opponent’s arguments? Anyone who reads a transcript of these debates would not think so. Yet, even in the face of unalterable historical fact, White would have the reader believe that without cross-examination, debate of an issue could not occur. My response: “Contra factum non valet ulla argumentatio” a legal maxim which means, “Against a fact no amount of argument is of any use.”

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Robert Marshall Root painting of Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Charleston

One more note before we leave this issue. Given White’s insistence on the importance of cross-examination, the reader may be surprised to learn that cross-examination was not even a feature of formal debate in high schools or colleges until sometime in the late 1950's or early 1960's. In 1970, the Cross Examination Debate Association was formed and since that time cross-examination has become a regular feature in both “Oregon style” team debates (commonly called cross-examination debates) and modern format Lincoln-Douglas debates (L-D debates). However, cross-examination is not a feature of other forms of debate. Anyone familiar with politics would know that cross-examination is not a feature of presidential debates, debates in any of our legislatures across the United States, or in oral arguments before any appellate court in the United States. Even at the high school and collegiate levels of debating, many schools still participate in the older form of L-D debates or in the Parliamentary debate format in which cross-examination is not a part of debate format.

Thus, contrary to White’s premise, people can debate without recourse to

cross-examination. If cross-examination is a component in White debate, it is only because he insists that it be a part of his debates and not out of necessity.

Picking Up the Gage:

To this point I have added asterisks to Mr. White’s obelisks. Now it is time to deal with the heart of White’s claim that my opinion that he misuses cross-examination during debates with his opponents must be false because I didn’t provide factual reasons when I made my statement on Mr. Armstrong’s commbox.

At the outset, Mr. White incorrectly assumes that because I did not provide my reasons in support of my opinion in a commbox, I must have not had any. As I will show from the examples set out here, I did have reasons for my opinion. There were two reasons for not listing them at the time. First, as a practical matter, I did believe that a commbox was an appropriate place to set forth the reasons for my opinion. After all, people read Mr. Armstrong’s blog to obtain the benefit of Mr. Armstrong’s insights, not those of Paul Hoffer. Second, given the complexity of the issues being discussed in the debates that I read or listened to on the internet upon which I formulated my opinion, I did not feel that I was truly qualified to represent the Catholic position on the underlying issues that were being debated. However, since Mr. White laid the mantle of apologist on me and has defamed the Catholic Church by the insinuation that Catholic apologists engage in taqiyya because of my comments, I felt that I was obligated to give a defense of my faith (1 Pt. 3:15). I pray to Our Lord and Savior that I can do so gently and reverentially.

In my prior comments regarding Mr. White, I stated that he used false initial premise type questions during his cross-examination of his opponents. Such questions fall under the fallacy of Plurium Interrogationum. Now I realize that reasonable people might disagree with my conclusions in the examples I will present here showing Mr. White’s misuse of such questions during cross-examination. They may quibble or try to refute the examples. They may even launch into some sort of defense showing how some Catholic debaters engage in the same conduct I have raised concerning James White. However, Mr. White has set the terms of the debate. He argues that I have NO reasons for my opinion. Thus, I need only present them and I win this “debate.” The reader can disagree with my argument if he chooses, but such disagreement does not negate the fact that I did have my reasons for making the claim.

Now, I could collect my “prize” for winning this debate once I present my examples and withdraw from the field of battle victorious with my honor vindicated. But, apologetics is not about winning debates; it’s about winning hearts and souls for Christ Jesus. I shall attempt to do more then.

Before I can explain what I mean by a false initial premise type question or Plurium Interrogationum, let me provide some background on what cross-examination is and more importantly, what it is not.

Cross-examination has been defined as:

The examination of a witness upon a trial or hearing, or upon the taking of a deposition, by the party opposed to the one who produced him, upon his evidence in chief, to test its truth, to further develop it, or for other purposes. The examination of a witness by a party other than the direct examiner upon a matter that is within the scope of the direct examination of the witness. Generally, the scope of examination is limited to matters covered on direct examination.

Black, Henry C. Black’s Law Dictionary. (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co. 1979.)

Now Mr. White insists:

[W]ithout cross-examination, there is no debate. All you have is competing presentations that could have been pre-recorded. No reason to get together in one place if the two sides are not going to directly interact.

Further, he states:

Regarding the assertion that cross-examination "is a tool that can be used to obscure or distort the truth as well as expose it," of course. Yet, the legal system continues to utilize it. In fact, it is basic to our system of justice to be able to face, and question, your accuser, is it not?

At the outset, I want to believe that White is not suggesting that the constitutional protections guaranteed to criminal defendants in the United States Constitution are necessary to protect participants in one of his debates. It has been a number of years since I have heard about a Catholic inquisitor or a Calvinist tribunal ordering heretics to be burnt at the stake. And I could be wrong, but I am unaware of anyone ever being incarcerated merely because they lost a debate in the United States of America. If I may be blunt, White’s analogy is simply false.

Aside from the facially defective analogy, White’s comparison fails on other levels as well.

While the great legal scholar, J. H. Wigmore, once described cross-examination as "the greatest engine ever invented for discovering the truth", the notion that cross-examination is used in trials for the purpose of uncovering the truth has for the most part gone by the wayside in modern American jurisprudence. Now, students of law are taught only more prosaic purposes for cross-examination:

1. Eliciting favorable testimony by getting the witness to admit those facts that support your case in chief and are consistent with your theory of the case, etc...

2. Conducting a destructive cross to discredit the witness and/or the witness’ testimony.

Mauet, Thomas E., Trial Techniques, Sixth Ed. (New York: Aspen Publishers 2002), § 7.3.

Conspicuously absent from the above-listed enunciated purposes for cross-examination is “discovering the truth.” In fact, in our modern American system of jurisprudence, the truth is often sacrificed for what the law considers to be more important principles, particularly when it comes to cross-examination which Mr. White insists is the core of all debates. Former Supreme Court Justice Byron White, one of the two dissenting votes in the original Roe vs. Wade decision, summed up the role that cross-examination plays in the system of justice in his opinion in the case of United States vs. Wade (1967), 388 U.S. 218:

[D]efense counsel has no comparable obligation to ascertain or present the truth. If he can confuse a witness, even a truthful one, or make him appear at a disadvantage, unsure or indecisive, that will be his normal course. More often than not, defense counsel will cross-examine a prosecution witness, and impeach him if he can, even if he thinks the witness is telling the truth, just as he will attempt to destroy a witness who he thinks is lying. As part of the duty imposed on the most honorable defense counsel, we countenance or require conduct which in many instances has little, if any, relation to the search for truth."

Id. at 256-258.

Charles Maechling, another prominent legal scholar, opined in his essay titled, The Crisis of American Criminal Justice, published in the 1996 edition of the COSMOS Journal that the adversarial format is at its worst in “the ritual of cross- examination.” Under cross-examination, a witness who gives as frank and truthful a statement as he can remember can expect to have his credibility destroyed. Furthermore, any effort of the witness to explain his answers are cut off through an aggressive cross-examination. The cross-examiner’s goal is to create inconsistency, ambiguity and incoherence in his opponent’s case in order to make his own case more plausible and appear more truthful by demonstrating consistency. In our system of justice, cross-examination is more often used to confuse the jury rather than narrowing testimony down to a hard core of fact. The aim of the cross-examiner is not to elicit the truth but to discredit the witness. I would submit that upon reading some of White’s cross-examination sessions, one could readily see that White wholeheartedly embraces this concept of cross-examination.

This notion that cross-examination is not used as “an engine of truth” is equally true in debating. In Alfred Snider’s The Code of the Debater: Introduction to the Way of Reason, there six objectives of cross-examination listed: (1) to clarify points, (2) to expose errors, (3) to obtain admissions, (4) to set up your arguments, (5) to save prep time and (6) to show the judges (or audience) how cool you are so they WANT to vote for you. After watching and listening to White’s debates he has posted under his YouTube pseudonym, Dr. Oakley, he appears to be really big into that sixth objective. Thus, getting at the truth is not a primary objective of cross-examination in an oral debate either.

I submit that this is more so true when the debater is willing to use “trick” questions as a part of his cross-examination arsenal. I referenced one type of question that Mr. White likes to use in his debates: the “initial false premise question” a.k.a. the “loaded question” a.k.a. the “complex question” or what rhetoricians call, Plurium Interrogationum.

Simply put, one engages in Plurium Interrogationum when he asks a question which contains a false, disputed or question-begging presupposition or premise. I gave the obvious example of this type of question, “Did you stop beating your wife?” The question first presupposes 1) you are married and 2) that some time prior to the question being asked, you beat your wife. Now, the problem is that the form of the question only allows the responder to answer the question two ways. If the responder says ‘yes’ then he has admitted that he has beaten his wife. If the responder says ‘no’, then an ambiguity arises from which the fact-finder or audience can infer that the responder has not stopped beating his wife when in fact the responder in all likelihood is actually stating that he never had beaten his wife in the first place. Thus, when the questioner uses an “initial false premise question” he is hoping that the responder will fall into the trap of attempting to answer the question without challenging the underlying premise of the question. If the responder does attempt to answer the question, he can not hope to answer it without implying a false premise as truth.

Obviously, someone who uses Plurium Interrogationum in cross-examination is not interested in getting at the truth. He may be interested in undermining the credibility of his opponents’ argument. He may be interested in trying to create the illusion that his own case is more plausible or consistent. He may be interested in a number of things, but getting at the truth is not one of them.

If Mr. White’s debates were truly the adversarial fora he claims where one could face his accusers, which is one of the reasons White advances in support of his requirement of cross-examination in his debates, the responder could interpose an objection or reject to answer the question if they recognize the attempt to use Plurium Interrogationum. But White’s debates do not have an impartial arbiter present to decide the fairness of the question. There is no judge to which one could appeal for a ruling. The moderator is merely the time-keeper. Even in a high school or collegiate debate, the responder could demand that the questioner “divide the question” so that the questioner is forced to lay a foundation before proceeding to the second question.

Continuing with the “wife-beating” example, if the responder could object or force the question to be divided, the questioner would then have to lay a foundation and first ask, “Are you married?” If the answer to that first question is in the affirmative, the questioner could then proceed with the second question, “Have you ever beat your wife?” Only if the answer to this second question is “Yes,” thereby laying a proper foundation for the next question, could the questioner ask, “Are you still doing so now?”

There are a number of these type of questions throughout Mr. White’s debates. However, in all fairness, I had only two of them in mind when I wrote my opinion back on July 12, 2007. I will restrict myself to writing about those two examples and let the reader decide whether my opinion had any validity when I made it.

EXAMPLE NO. 1: from the Debate

“Does The Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?”

Gerry Matatics vs. James White
November, 1992
Omaha, Nebraska

During the debate on sola scriptura, James White asked Gerry Matatics, a former Catholic apologist, the following question during cross-examination:

“You accuse me of mis-citing Matthew 15:6 and I hope you'll attempt to clarify that but in Matthew 15:6 we are told that the Scribes and Pharisees nullified the Word of God for the sake of the their tradition. My assertion was, this means that this means the Scripture is to be used as the test of anything, even that which claims to be divine tradition. Now Basil said the following: "Their hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign." Now if Scripture is a subset of tradition, how can Christians do as Christ commanded and as Basil exhorted, that is to test what you allege is divine tradition? How can I test what you say is divine tradition?”

[Note: The text of the debate may be found here.]

Now, James White has loaded this question with a number of questionable premises. Does Mt. 15:6 actually stand for the proposition that Scripture is to be used as the test of any tradition, even divine tradition? Was the tradition nullified the Word of God being discussed here ever considered a divine tradition by the Pharisees? What was the actual tradition? Further, did St. Basil ever write that the hearers of Scripture were to “reject “ anything that was “foreign to” or not found in the Scriptures. If Scripture is considered to be a subset of Tradition, would that preclude Scripture from being used to “test” divine tradition?

Like the presumption that I did not have any reasons for my opinion, Mr. White’s presumptions loaded up in this question are wrong.

There have been many Catholic apologists who have addressed the false premise underlying Mr. White’s claim that the Catholic Church makes Scripture a “subset of tradition,” and precludes it from being used to test divine tradition. Mr. Armstrong and other Catholic apologists have written extensively on the Catholic position on the relationship between Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. [In addition to the writings of Mr. Armstrong, I would also suggest that the reader take the time to read Msgr. George Agius’ Tradition and the Church (Boston: The Stratford Company, 1928) reprinted with minor revisions, (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 2005)]. Thus, I do not feel that it is necessary to repeat their effort here. Besides, this issue was not one of the reasons that I used to form my opinion.

However, let’s deal with the other premises raised by White because I did have them in mind when I commented on Mr. Armstrong’s blog.

As for the alleged quote from St. Basil the Great, White does not identify the published work from which he took the quote. However, having read excerpts of St. Basil’s writings on Apostolic Tradition before, I was somewhat surprised that St. Basil wrote such a thing. So I went to four different university libraries (the University of Akron, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ashland Theological Seminary, and Walsh University) to try to find the work of St. Basil where White obtained the quotation. I was not successful. All was not lost as I did find a similar quote when I read Rule 72 in St. Basil’s The Morals:

Concerning the hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them; and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided.

St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea. Ascetical Works: The Morals. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962; Vol. 9 in the Fathers of the Church series, Sr. M. Monica Wagner, trans.).

Now the word “foreign” does not appear in this translation. Here, noone can pretend that St. Basil said anything remotely that could be construed as an affirmation of sola scriptura. St. Basil did not tell the reader to reject anything “foreign” to Scripture. He exhorted the hearers to reject only those things that were taught that were opposed to or contrary to Scripture.

Even if White would deign to tell us where he got his quote, one would have to question the accuracy of his translation as Sister Wagner’s translation squares with what St. Basil wrote elsewhere in The Morals and his other writings. We find in The Morals, Rule 12, Capital 2:

‘Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him: Why do not thy disciples walk according to the tradition of the ancients, but they eat bread with unwashed hands? But he answering said to them: Well did Isais prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honoureth me with their lips but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and precepts of men. For leaving the commandment of God, you hold the traditions of men,’ etc. [Mk. 7:5-8] (This is the parallel passage to Mt. 15:6)

To which St. Basil provides the following comment:

“That we should observe everything without exception which has been handed down by the Lord through the Gospel and the Apostles.” (Emphasis Added).

For the non-Greek scholars among us (meaning the rest of world other than Mr. White), the term “something that has been handed down” is the definition of the Greek word paradosis, literally translated by many Bible scholars as “Tradition.” St. Basil is telling the faithful to follow Tradition as passed down through the written Gospel as well as the Tradition handed down by the Apostles. Mr. White must not have read the whole book otherwise he would have been aware that St. Basil provided an interpretation of Mt. 15:6 that explains how one tests divine tradition. If the tradition was handed down by the Lord through the Gospels or by the Apostles, it must be observed.

St. Basil’s true understanding of the role of Apostolic Tradition can also be easily discerned from his treatise, De Spiritu Sancto (On the Holy Spirit) which can be found here:

But all the apparatus of war has been got ready against us; every intellectual missile is aimed at us; and now blasphemers' tongues shoot and hit and hit again, yet harder than Stephen of old was smitten by the killers of the Christ. And do not let them succeed in concealing the fact that, while an attack on us serves for a pretext for the war, the real aim of these proceedings is higher. It is against us, they say, that they are preparing their engines and their snares; against us that they are shouting to one another, according to each one's strength or cunning, to come on. But the object of attack is faith. The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of "sound doctrine" [1 Timothy 1:10] is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by leveling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. So like the debtors,of course bona fide debtorsthey clamor for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. (On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 10:25) (Emphasis added)

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or enjoined which are preserved in the Church, some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have delivered to us in a mystery by the apostles by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. (On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 27:66) (Emphasis added)

In answer to the objection that the doxology in the form with the Spirit has no written authority, we maintain that if there is not another instance of that which is unwritten, then this must not be received [as authoritative]. But if the great number of our mysteries are admitted into our constitution without [the] written authority [of Scripture], then, in company with many others, let us receive this one. For I hold it apostolic to abide by the unwritten traditions. 'I praise you,' it is said [by Paul in l Cor. 11:1] that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I handed them on to you,' and Hold fast to the traditions that you were taught whether by an oral statement or by a letter of ours' [2 Thess. 2:15]. One of these traditions is the practice which is now before us [under consideration], which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the churches, delivering it to their successors, and its use through long custom advances pace by pace with time" (On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 29:71). (Emphasis Added)

After reading the above passages from his writings, it is plain that St. Basil’s alleged belief in sola scriptura has be greatly exaggerated. White picked a phrase out St. Basil’s writings, distorted its meaning until it could be used as a weapon against Romish doctrines, and then presented it as a sort of proof text that this early church father approved of a thoroughly Protestant invention–sola scriptura. This exaggeration typifies the sort of Protestant apologetics which James White practices and the sort which John Henry Cardinal Newman commented on in his book, Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England Addressed to the Brothers of the Oratory in the Summer of 1851, pages 322-323:

Picked verses, bits torn from the context, half sentences, are the warrant of the Protestant Idea, of what is Apostolic truth, on the one hand, and, on the other, of what is Catholic falsehood. As they have their chips and fragments of St. Paul and St. John, so have they their chips and fragments of Suarez and Bellarmine; and out of the former they make to themselves their own Christian religion, and out of the latter our Anti-Christian superstition. They do not ask themselves sincerely, as a matter of fact and history, What did the Apostles teach then? nor do they ask sincerely, and as a matter of fact, What do Catholics teach now? They judge of the Apostles and they judge of us by scraps, and on these scraps they exercise their private judgment,that is, their Prejudice[.]

Excerpted from Characteristics from the Writings of J.H. Newman. (New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co. 1876), arr. by William S. Lilly with the Author’s approval)

After placing the picked verse from The Morals back into context with all of St. Basil’s writings, it becomes clear that the kind of teacher that St. Basil tells us to reject in The Morals, Rule 72 is the James White kind. Mr. White’s teaching is opposed to the teachings that have been passed down to us in the Scriptures and the teachings of the apostles and should be rejected.

Now to deal with Mt. 15:6 directly. . .

Mr. White’s reference to Mt. 15:6 in his question to Mr. Matatics is from the pericope contained at Mt. 15:1-9 often cited or alluded to by White in his defense of sola scriptura. White has claimed in his writings that the point of this passage is that Jesus rejected of the authority of the tradition of the elders. White goes on to equate the tradition of the elders with Apostolic or Sacred Tradition as taught by the Catholic Church. This particular view is exemplified by what he wrote on pages 68-69 of his book, The Roman Catholic Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishing 1996):

Here we find the Lord providing us with the example that we must follow. The Jewish leaders objected to the fact that the disciples did not follow the rigorous hand-washing rituals of the Pharisees. They identified this as a breaking of the "tradition of the elders." They firmly believed that this body of tradition was authoritative, and some even believed that it had been passed down from Moses himself, though this is surely without warrant. But does Jesus accept this claim of authority?

Not at all! Instead, he launches a counter-attack against these leaders by pointing out how they nullify the command of God through the following of their own traditions, specifically in this case, with reference to the corban rule, whereby a man could dedicate his belongings to the Temple and hence not support his parents in their old age. The Lord Jesus holds this traditional teaching up to the light of Scripture, and finds it wanting. It is vital to realize that the Jews viewed the corban rule as part of the 'tradition of the elders.' This was, to them, a divine tradition with divine authority. They did not simply view it as a mere "tradition of men," but as a concept revealed by God and passed down into the body of such teachings entrusted to the "elders" of the faith.

The parallels to the Roman claim regarding Sacred Tradition are many. While Rome may claim divine authority for her supposedly sacred traditions, and even subjugate Scripture so as to make it a part of "Sacred Tradition," needing other aspects such as the supposedly apostolic, unwritten traditions, and the authority of the magisterium of the Church, the person who wishes to follow the example of Christ will hold such traditions up to the light of Scripture, knowing how fearful it is to be found guilty of nullifying the word of God for the sake of merely human traditions. The Lord Jesus subjugated even this allegedly "divine tradition" to the higher and hence supreme authority, the Scriptures. This is most important, for the most common response to the citation of this passage with reference to Roman tradition is, "Well, the passage refers to testing human traditions, not divine traditions." Yet, when it comes to authority, any tradition, no matter what it’s alleged pedigree, is to be tested by the known standard, the Holy Scriptures. (Emphasis added)

While White likes to compare Catholic teaching with the Pharisaic “tradition of the elders,” his writings suggest that he has only a passing understanding of what the “tradition of the elders” actually was. This becomes more obvious from the discussion which appears on Mr. Armstrong’s website found here: Refutation of James White: Moses' Seat, the Bible, and Tradition (Introduction) (+ Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Parts VII & VIII). White has made the effort to learn only enough about the “tradition of the elders” so that it can be twisted into a weapon for use in his attacks on Catholicism.

Now mind you, this is from an attorney’s perspective, who according to White should not attempt to debate, but my reading of the pericope at Mt. 15:1-9 is much different than White’s. I contend that the Old Testament not only allowed for a “tradition of the elders,” more commonly known now as the Oral Torah, but expressly mandated the existence of such an authoritative tradition. Since the Torah is in fact a legal document which spells out the Law of God, it would be helpful to look at this issue from a legal perspective.

Initially, we have to look at Protestants view the purpose of sola scriptura. Primarily, if not exclusively, the Protestant uses sola scriptura to focus on soteriology. The Protestant focuses on issues such as: What is the Gospel? How is one saved? What must one believe in order to go to heaven? However, such a focus is the fatal flaw in the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura as it glosses over the fact that God’s covenant with Israel described in the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, is at its core, a constitution much like the Constitution of the United States written in 1787. The Torah is the foundational document written by God himself creating a covenant people, a nation. God created the Hebrew people through the establishment of the Law as to how they were to live and how to show their thanks and gratitude to God. A Jew of that time who did not have any real notion of a resurrection or an after life was not concerned with how he was to be saved, but with how he was to faithfully live within the Law.

Drawing further on the analogy of our U.S. Constitution, anyone who has read it realizes that it is simply not sufficient to deal with daily situations that occur in a person’s life. It primarily provides the framework upon which our laws are based. Likewise, the Torah is simply not sufficient to describe how the Law was to be applied to every situation that may arise in one’s life. For example, the Third Commandment (Ex. 20:10) forbids all work on the Sabbath. However, for the law-observant Jew, what was work? Further, what was a law-observant Jew supposed to do when two different passages of the written Law of God appeared to contradict or conflict with each other. One such situation is found at Ex. 12:9 and Deut. 16:7. In Exodus, the Passover offering was to be roasted. In Deuteronomy, the same offering was to be boiled. This conflict appears to have been resolved at 2 Chron. 35:13 where “according to the ordinance” the Passover lamb was roasted and the other offerings were boiled. Who made the ordinance that resolved the conflict?

Thus, like our US Constitution, the Torah requires an authoritative interpreter. In our system of law, that duty falls to our judicial system since the holding of Marbury vs. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) wherein the Supreme Court held that it is the final authoritative interpreter of the Constitution and our laws. The Torah likewise shows that the court system established by Moses was given the authority to interpret the Law of Moses a.k.a. the written Torah.

In Exodus itself, we see the genesis of how the Oral Torah came to be. At Ex. 18:13-27, we find Moses establishing a court system to interpret the law because he got overwhelmed with people coming to him to settle their disputes and making known God’s statutes and His decisions. At the pinnacle, Moses would “teach them the statutes and the decisions, and show the Israelites the way in which they must walk and what they must do.” BTW, the word halachah which is then name given to the precepts of the Oral Torah later written down in the Mishnahhh comes from the word “to walk” (Ex. 18:20) Moreover, Moses was to choose able men from all the people, who feared God, who were trustworthy, and who hated bribes and then place such men over the people as their rulers. These rulers were to judge the people at all times; every great matter they were to bring to him, but any small matter they were to decide themselves. (Ex. 18:21-22) Scripture records that Moses did choose his judges from the people and “they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.” (Ex. 18:25-26)

Thus, we see that Moses established a judiciary to interpret the Law prior to receiving the Decalogue. And when he received the written Law from God, judges were already sitting in Moses’ place making decisions and deciding disputes.

Likewise at Numbers 11: 14-17, we find God telling Moses to gather seventy men from the elders of Israel and bring them to Him. Once gathered, God would take some of the spirit which was upon Moses and confer it upon the men so that they would be able to judge the people and the people would know that God gave the elders the right to judge them.

In the first chapter of Deuteronomy we find Moses having a conversation with the sons of Israel who he asked to “choose wise, understanding, and experienced men, according to your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.” The sons of Israel complied. He then charged the men chosen to judge to hear the cases between brethren and judge righteously for their judgment is God’s judgment. (Deut. 1:13-18).

Another descriptive passage is found at Deuteronomy 17:8-11:

If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns which is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God will choose, and coming to the Levitical priests, and to the judge who is in office in those days, you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place which the LORD will choose; and you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you; according to the instructions which they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the verdict which they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. (Emphasis Added).

Interestingly, Jesus used almost identical language to describe the authority of the Pharisees to interpret the Law at Mt. 23:3. This court had the same divine authority as Moses to judge the people. Their judgment was God’s judgment.

Further note that at Deut. 10:12-13, Moses is instructing the people as to the essence of the Law. Part of that instruction was to keep all of the commandments and statutes of God and to obey the judges, elders and magistrates’ interpretation and decisions pertaining to the Law. To make a decision necessarily involved interpretation of the Law and application of the interpretation to a particular factual situation. These judgments took on a divine significance importance because their judgment was God’s judgment. See also, Dt. 1:17.

This was not an one-time event. We see at 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 that King Jehoshaphat went out among the people, from Beer-sheba to the hill country of Ephraim, to bring them back to God. To insure that they did not relapse, he appointed judges in the land in all the cities of Judah. At verses 6-7, he repeats what Moses said when he appointed judges, "Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD; he is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the LORD our God, or partiality, or taking bribes." At verse 8 Jehoshaphat then appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, “to give judgment for the LORD and to decide disputed cases.” Their seat was at Jerusalem. He then sets forth their duties which included rendering judgment in disputes concerning law, commandments and ordinances. (Verses 9-10). Frank Crusemann, in his book The Torah. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996) states that this passage refers to a “collision of norms” as compliance with one judgment may create a conflict or cause that person to disobey another judgment. A sanctioned interpretative authority was necessary to clarify to what is permitted and what was required. Not only did the judges make decisions, they also taught and interpreted as well. From this passage of Scripture, it becomes obvious that the judges were given authority to resolve disputes arising from collisions between laws, To exercise this authority required an authoritative agency, a system of judges appointed to decide which law was to be given priority, and a system of teaching that allowed them to interpret and establish precedents. The Oral Torah is merely the binding decisions and precedents of these judges.

Thus, contrary to White’s presuppositions, the Oral Torah, which the Pharisees called the “tradition of the elders,” is not some sort of extra-biblical contrivance, but Scripture tells us that it was ordained by God Himself. Because of the lack of legal detail, apparent inconsistencies and ambiguities in the written Torah, it had to be interpreted and supplemented with the legal decisions of the judges and elders. God through Moses created a teaching office to interpret and supply instruction. This is the Seat of Moses referred to at Mt. 23:1. If one were to actually read the Mishnah, a written compilation and commentary of the Oral Torah, for what it actually was and not merely as tool to be used against Catholicism one would find that the Oral Torah was divinely inspired, not because the elders and sages believe it contained their traditions passed on from chain of teachers to disciples beginning with Moses, but because God through Moses gave them the authority to sit in judgment and interpret Scripture in God’s name. It is those judgments that make up the Oral Torah. In short, the Oral Torah is the religious equivalent of a Corpus Juris Secundum.

One more thing to address before I move on to my next point. Once one accepts the idea that the office of teaching and instruction was given to the sages and elders from God Himself, it becomes clear why Jesus was so pointed against the Pharisees at Mt. 23:1-36. Jesus recognized that the Pharisees, the successors to the sages and elders, were legitimately sitting in the Moses’ seat and that gabve them the right to teach and instruct. However, because they did not follow what they taught and because they did not they judge righteously, they violated their mandate from God. That is why Jesus said to practice and follow carefully whatever they (the Pharisees) taught, but not what they did, because they did not practice what they preached. (Mt. 23:1-3). Each of the woes Jesus spoke against the Pharisees go to some aspect of how the Pharisees did not live up to the awesome responsibility that was conferred upon them in Deuteronomy, Numbers and 2 Chronicles.

For example, at Mt. 23:23, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done without neglecting the others.” Here, Jesus expressly recognized the Pharisees’ authority to interpret the law, but decried their failure to prioritize. One of the principle themes of the Gospel of Matthew is Jesus’ emphasis on love and righteousness which for Him (and us) should take priority over the finer details of the Law.

Ultimately, Jesus conferred on His apostles the same authority that the Pharisees who sat in the Moses seat had , first to Peter at Mt. 16:19 and then to the rest of the apostles at Mt. 18:18. Part of the authority implicit the words “to bind” and “to loose” is the authority to make decisions and interpret. To ensure that their decisions would be binding on His Church, Jesus had the Holy Spirit come and rest upon the Apostles (Acts 1:8; 2:1-13) just as God allowed His Spirit to be put upon the elders at Num. 11:25.

Now from what I have seen of White’s writings, it would appear that he perceives that the Pharisees were some sort of monolithic movement who all taught and believed the same doctrines, tenets, and beliefs. In truth, they did not. To summarize: the Pharisees congregated in a number of schools all of which had different teaching, different rituals, and different philosophies how the Scriptures should be interpreted. History tells us that the two main schools at the time of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai., were often at loggerheads over the interpretation of God’s Word. Usually, the students of Bet Hillel were more liberal in their interpretation of Scripture in contrast to the students of Bet Shammai who were considered strict constructionists. The Gospels record that the Pharisees, recognizing Jesus’ authority to teach and even came to Him to get His opinion as to which school’s interpretation of Scripture or teaching was correct. Bet Shammai, however, was the predominant party of the Pharisees at the time and it was with their strict, literal interpretation of the Scriptures Jesus most often had a disagreed with. (A notable exception: Mt. 19:3-12). I will attempt to show that the incident recorded at Mt. 15:1-9 is one such occasion.

James White, himself, has noted in his writings, debates and internet chatting, the foundational tenet of the Oral Torah is found in the Pirke Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers) 1:1:

Moses received the Torah from Sinai, and handed it down to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue. They said three things, “Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence about the Torah.”

While James White does not think much of the “tradition of the elders” a.k.a. the Oral Torah, the Gospels show that Jesus thought different. I could show numerous examples in the Gospels of how Jesus followed the Oral Torah. Jesus practiced the rituals taught in the Oral Torah, went to synagogue, an institution created in the Oral Torah, and cited to many of the halachah found in the Oral Torah. A Jewish friend of mine once told me during a lengthy bike trip that our Gospels were our halachah. Jesus taught much like a Pharisee, he debated much like a Pharisee, He preached like a Pharisee. His teaching and His responses to the issues raised by Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees all show a great deal of deliberation in judgment. Jesus also followed the Pirke Avot by raising up many disciples. The Gospels show that Jesus not only hand-picked twelve apostles to learn His teaching, but He also gathered numerous disciples as well. Also, any Rabbi who reads the Sermon of the Mount would recognize it as Jesus’s teachings as to how to build a fence around the Torah.

But what about the “clear” teaching at Mt. 15:1-9 condemning of the tradition of the elders?

First, Scripture does not tell us which school the Pharisees from Jerusalem belonged to. It is doubtful that they were sent by the Great Sanhedrin to evaluate Jesus’ teachings as the Saducees controlled that body at that time. I do not think that Saducees would have sent Pharisees to scout Jesus out.

It is also unlikely that the Pharisees were from Bet Hillel. As we discussed earlier, the Mishnah records the legal precedent and decisions of the great Pharisaic teachers and Rabbis. The Mishnah records one such discussion among the Pharisees and Rabbis over the issue of the validity of a vow made by a son to dedicate to God what he should be using to support his parents. m. Nedarim 1 states:

R. Eliezer says: They may open for men the way (to repentance) by reason of the honour due to father and mother. But the Sages forbid it. R. Zadok said: Rather than open the way for a man by reason of the honour due to father and mother, they should open the way for him by reason of the honour due to God; but if so, there could be no vows. But the Sages agree with R. Eliezer that in a matter between a man and his father and mother, the way may be opened to him by reason of the honour due to his father and mother.

There are two Rabbis named in this passage from the Nedarim, Zadok and Eliezer. Both of these men were alive at the time of destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. almost 40 years after Jesus was crucified. The Jewish Encyclopedia identifies Rabbi Zadok as a Shammaite. See, at the entry Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai. However, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was educated by Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkal, a Hillelite. See, here. While it must be admitted that Rabbi Eliezer was later excommunicated for becoming a Shammaite by the Hillelite faction which controlled the Sanhedirin after the destruction of the Temple, it does not prove fatal to my argument. The sole Rabbi opposing the annulment of a corban vow was Zadok, a Shammaite. Thus, it would be safe to infer that the Pharisees who came from Jerusalem to see Jesus at Mt. 15:1-9 were also from Bet Shammai.

The next problem with Mr. White’s claims that Jesus condemned the tradition of the elders is that the Talmud, the written form of the Oral Torah incorporating the “tradition of the elders,” does not contain the so-called corban rule. As we have noted above, Mishnah Nedarim 9:1 shows that the elders authoritatively decided that a son’s vow to dedicate to God what would be used to support his parent could be annulled. In short, the precedent set forth in the tradition of the elders agreed with the teaching of Jesus! James White’s corban rule was never a part of the tradition of the elders.

Now White could say that the Mishnah doesn’t count because it wasn’t written until much later after Jesus’ death. However, his assertion assumes too much. Since the corban rule was not a part of the tradition of the elders Jesus could not have been condemning the tradition of the elders itself. At the time Jesus issued His condemnation of the practice, the sages had not yet reached an authoritative judgment on the issue of whether a son’s corban vow could be annulled. Thus, Jesus must have been condemning something else.

Keeping in mind that the Pharisees and the scribes built fences around the commandments of the written Torah, one has to look at what commandment the Pharisees here were trying to protect with their so-called corban rule. White wholly ignores this essential aspect of the Pirke Avot in his exegesis of Mt. 15:1-9. Mark 7:1-13 tells us that the corban rule was a vow. The Old Testament dealt extensively with vow, particularly in the first five books, the Written Torah. The written Torah expressly forbade corban vows from being annulled. See, Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21-23 as well as Lev. 27:33. See also, Cairus, Aecio. The Heartless Corban Vow (Mark 7:11). AASS 4 (2001): 3-7. In Leviticus Chapter 27, it even states that a person who tried to redeem or annul a corban vow would not only lose the property that was dedicated, but additional property would be subject to forfeiture as well. Thus, these particular Pharisees from Jerusalem refused to annul a son’s vow for the simple reason that the Written Torah did not permitted such a vow from being annulled without committing a serious sin. Using James White’s argument in his debate with Mr. Matatics, the Pharisees from Jerusalem were guilty of nothing but applying the principles of sola scriptura to this issue. If Jesus believed in sola scriptura as White and Protestant tradition contends, why would Jesus rebuke these Pharisees for following the literal Word of God set forth at Num. 30:2 and elsewhere? After all, one need only look to the account of Jephthah in the book of Judges to see how important it was to keep one’s vows.

At Judges 11:29-40, Jephthah vowed to sacrifice the first thing that came through his door to God if he was victorious in battle. When Jephthah came home victorious, his daughter was the first thing that came through his door. According to his vow, he was compelled to sacrifice his own daughter despite the clear prohibition against human sacrifice. Jephthah violated one commandment of God to keep another. This clearly displays a collision of norms that was discussed earlier. Likewise, the situation discussed at Mt. 15:1-9 was a similar collision of norms. Resort could not be had to the Written Torah. One would have to look elsewhere.

As we have seen, the Oral Torah ultimately taught that a corban vow could be annulled. The reason for this decision can found in how the sages viewed relationships between man and God and one’s neighbors. Halachah found in the Oral Torah are generally divide into two categories: Laws in relation to God (bein adam le-Makom) and Laws about relations with other people (bein adam le-chavero). Violations of Commandments involving relations with other people are considered more serious in degree than ones only involving God in the Oral Torah, as one must obtain forgiveness both from the offended party and from God. See, e.g. “Kalot and Chamurot”: Gradation of Sin in Repentance. (Based on a Lecture by Harav Aharon Lichenstein) Adapted by Rabbi Reuven Ziegler and translated by Myles Brody which may be found here. Thus, where there was a conflict between a Law in relation to God versus a Law about the relations with other people, the Pharisees held that the person was to obey the latter over the former.

Echoes of this Pharisaic teaching can be found in the prayer that Jesus taught us, for it states:

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us. . . (Mt. 6:12)

Jesus further states at Mt. 6:14-15:

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father

will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Contrary to the assertions of James White and 400+ years of Protestant tradition of men, the “tradition” Jesus was rebuking was at best a teaching by one group of Pharisees who required vows to be kept because the written Word of God demanded it. Jesus’ plain teaching was that the Pharisees from Jerusalem made void the Word of God by refusing to annul a vow. Now, if we were to use James White’s spurious test for testing authority, that “when it comes to authority, any tradition, no matter what it’s alleged pedigree, is to be tested by the known standard, the Holy Scriptures,” we would have to conclude Jesus, the Son of God, flunked. Holy Scripture that Jesus knew so well expressly did not permit the annulment of a vow; only the Oral Torah did. He condemned these Pharisees at Mt. 15:1-9 for failing to apply the teachings of the Oral Torah to the situation which would have provided the Pharisees the correct solution. A commandment that required one to honor his parents took precedence over one that only honored God.

Hopefully, the reader now sees that the premises underlying White’s questioning directed to Mr. Matatics here are false or, at the very least, questionable. Wherefore, based on the above evidence and argument presented, I ask the reader to conclude that the question Mr. White used here constituted an improper false initial premise question.

EXAMPLE NO. 2: from the Debate

Purgatory: Biblical or Mythical?

James White vs. Fr. Peter Stravinskas

The Great Debate VI (2001)

Long Island, NY

“He is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions . . . ” (1 Tim.6:4) (Please take note that all bible verses I enumerate in this section are from the NAB unless noted differently.)

Wow! That’s a fascinating translation!”~James White

When a good trial lawyer cross-examines a witness, he does not go over every little thing the witness has testified about on direct examination. In fact, before an attorney even goes to trial, he or she anticipates what areas they want to cover on cross and will even have scripted the questions to be asked beforehand. Then during the actual cross-examination, the lawyer focuses on two or three points the witness testified about on direct which dovetail into the strategy the lawyer formulated before trial and uses those points as a foundation for the questioning.

In preparing for trial, a great trial lawyer will have rehearsed his cross-examination a number of times. Such an attorney will act out how the questioning will be done before the finder of fact in order to determine how to shift the emphasis from the witness’ answers to the questions themselves as if the roles were being reversed. Play acting is an important consideration in the cross- examiner’s arsenal so as to maximize the effect engendered when the witness falls into one of the attorney’s well-crafted traps and answers the questions the way the attorney wants. Paraphrasing Irving Younger, a famous trial attorney, cross-examination should be like an ambush behind lines, not an invasion of Europe. The witness should not see the trap coming.

In short, the success of a good cross-examination does not rest on luck, but on strategy. As I have taught my mock trial students, good lawyers may know how to intuit, but great lawyers know how to practice.

In the next example I wish to share with the reader, it becomes evident why James White is so insistent on cross-examination being a feature of his debates. He has learned the lessons that every great trial lawyer knows about cross-examination. White’s cross-examinations show that he follows a formulated strategy, prepares assiduously, and rehearses, rehearses, rehearses. What seems remarkable to his audience is merely the hallmark of a well-rehearsed trial lawyer, hence why I called White a hypocrite, the ancient Greek word for play actor, rather than accusation of rank hypocrisy as White portrayed.

How having a strategy for cross-examination can pay dividends can be shown from a line of questioning found in the debate between James White and Father Peter Stravinskas on the issue of whether the doctrine of Purgatory may be discerned from Scripture which occurred in 2001. During that debate, Mr. White took advantage of his opponent’s apparent lack of knowledge of koine Greek (I say “apparent” because White laid no foundation to show whether Fr. Stravinskas knew koine Greek) and used it to devastating effect during cross-examination. As I mentioned earlier, Justice Byron White wrote that it is the job of the cross-examiner to confuse a witness, even a truthful one, and make him appear at a disadvantage, unsure, or indecisive if it helps the cross-examiner cause. Witness how James White uses his knowledge of ancient Greek to put Father Stravinskas at such a disadvantage by making him appear unsure and indecisive about the Catholic Church’s traditional use of 1 Cor.3:10-15 in support of its teaching on Purgatory. So the reader will have a frame of reference in order to understand White’s cross-examination into context, I have set out the passage from the New American Bible with the transliterated koine Greek verses under the critical verses White is cross-examining on:

10. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it.

11. for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely Jesus Christ.

12. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw,

13. the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work.

14. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, he will receive a wage.

14. ei tinos to ergon menei o epoikodomEsen misthon lEmpsetai

15. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

15. ei tinos to ergon katakaEsetai zemiOthesetai autos de sOthEsetai houtOs de hOs dis poros

16. Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

17. If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy (1 Cor. 3:10-17) (emphasis added).

- - - - - - -

James White is the questioner.

Q. “In 1 Cor. Chapter 3, beginning at verse 10, what is your understanding, who is being discussed contextually in this passage?

A. “Starting at verse . . .

Q. “Well, just at 1 Cor. Chapter 3 in general. For example, when it says, ‘Let a man,” verse 10, ‘but let each one look to how he builds upon it.’ Who is being discussed here? Is it all saints? Is this Christian leaders? It this only . . . who . . . those . . . is it not saints, but those who have to go to Purgatory before becoming saints? How do you understand it?

A. “Well, Paul is talking about himself as the architect who laid the foundation, correct? And the process of the planting of the Gospel being done by various people.

Q. “So, specifically, the context then is referring to people who are involved in building the Church, ‘Let them be careful how they build upon the foundation I’ve laid.’ We would agree with that. Ok. Then when he goes on to talk about this building upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble, what do you understand those words to refer to please?

A. “Well, he is referring to . . . notice he changes the pronoun at that point to you, which is to say, the cooperation of the believer in the work of the construction of the edifice.

Q. “Actually, he uses the indefinite there, ‘If anyone builds,” in verse 12 tense (?) is used there. So what do these things refer to then, the gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, what are those?

A. “One’s individual gifts, talents, etc.? Or the lack thereof? The non-use of these things? So that I have a talent that’s gold and instead I don’t use it is that perhaps straw being introduced into the edifice?

Q. “Ok . . . When it refers to the day revealing making manifest these works that are being built upon the foundation that there is going to be an apokalupsis is the actual term, that it’ll be apokaluptized by fire, is it your belief that what is being referred to here is Purgatorial sufferings in regard to temporal punishments of sins?

A. “I think first of all he is talking about the day of the Lord coming into the life of the individual and furthermore, the individual’s participation in that day of the Lord.

Q. “Do you believe that what is being referred to in verse 13 when it refers to the ‘fire shall reveal it and each one’s work of what sort it is the fire will test,’ that this is the fire of Purgatory?

A. “Well, first of all, the Church does not teach the precise nature of Purgatory. And so I would say that this is a metaphor here, as is the Church’s use of the metaphor of fire for Purgatory.

Q. “Has the Church used this passage as a substantiation for the existence of Purgatory?

A “As an indication of the primitive belief in Purgatory, yes.

Q. “So if the primitive writers believed in Purgatory and if the Church has pointed to this, then can we not ask concerning the nature, not the physical nature, but the fact that this fire reveals of what sort works are? Would it not have to, sir, if it’s supportive of the concept of Purgatory, would it not have to in this passage refer to some sort of suffering and some sort of cleansing of temporal punishments of sins, not merely the demonstration of whether a church leader’s motivations were pure or whether his works were gold or whether they were of straw.

A. “Well, the revelation is in itself a form of catharsis or purification.

Q. “So revelation in testing is involving purification. Uhm . . . is that what you just indicated?

A. “If you reveal my flaws to me, that revelation in and of itself can be purifying.

Q. “Those who built with gold, silver and precious stones also go through this fire. Where is there any concept of these individuals needing this purification before they enter into the presence of God? Does it not say that they actually receive a reward? That there is nothing there concerning their needing this purification?

A. “Well, I think that it’s the simple realization that even the just man sins seven times a day and therefore the need for purification for most people.

Q. “So where in the text do you have this mixture where you have people who have gold, silver, precious stones and they have a little wood, hay, and straw burned and that’s their purification? Where is that derived from the text?

A. “I’m missing your point.

Q. “Well, you just indicated the just man sins seven times, so it sounds like you were asserting that even those who built with gold, silver, and precious stones . . .

A. “Yes . . .

Q. “That they themselves are undergoing some sort of purification here. The only thing the text says is, is they receive a reward . . . and the others do not? What is their reward? What rewards are given in Purgatory?

A. “Heaven.

Q. “But they both get heaven. So the one gets something the other doesn’t get in this text, what is it?

A. “Where does it say the other doesn’t get anything?

Q. “Verse 15, ‘If a certain one’s works are consumed, he shall suffer loss yet he himself shall be saved yet so as by fire.’ So he doesn’t receive a misthos. He does not receive a reward. So if the reward is heaven, then this can’t be purgatory because this ends up in hell. (Emphasis Added.)

(Clapping by certain members of the audience)

A. “I don’t see that, I’m sorry.

(Murmuring in the background)

Q. “Ok. Well, now, now, now . . . let’s be respectful everyone. Let’s see if we can work through this. The fact of the matter is both these groups experience the same testing by fire, but the ones who have their works remain which they have built upon the foundation, verse 14 says misthos lambano (?) ‘they shall receive a reward’ a misthos. But if another one has their works which they have built which were made of wood, hay and straw burned up, consumed, they shall suffer loss yet they shall be saved yet so as through fire. So, if this is the fire of Purgatory, both experienced it. One gets a reward – if that’s heaven, what do the other people get? Do you see the point? (Emphasis Added).

A. “You’re saying the ones whose works are burnt up get the reward?

Q. “No, they don’t get any reward. That’s what it says: they suffer loss. Zemioo means to suffer a loss of something. (Emphasis Added).

A. “If it is burnt down, he will be the loser and though he be saved himself it will be as if one who has gone through fire.

Q. “Wow! That’s a fascinating translation. (Laughter from the audience) I would like to pick up with that in the second round.

You can listen to the questions yourself here: Cross Examination on 1 Cor. 3 and Purgatory.

1 Cor. 3:10-17 is a crucial passage in any discussion pertaining to the doctrine of Purgatory as it has been always used by the Catholic Church as a biblical proof for the existence of Purgatory. And while White belittles the interpretation of 1 Cor.3:15 rendered by Fr. Stravinskas above, such an interpretation is not an original one. The early church fathers and other Catholic theologians have rendered this passage in a manner similar (albeit a bit more eloquently) to that of Fr. Stravinskas as early as Origen in the third century A.D. in defense of the doctrine against heretics and detractors, See, for example the excerpt from the St. Augustine’s City of God quoted by David Armstrong in his article, Refutation of James White on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and Purgatory.

In fact, it would be fair to say that Catholics have always understood St. Paul to be discussing purgatorial suffering at 1 Cor. 3:10-15. Personally, I think the explanation of this passage by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a Doctor of the Church and the Bishop to the Diocese of Geneva, who brought tens of thousands of Calvinists like White back to the Catholic faith, is particularly thorough:

IN the 1st Corinthians ( iii. 13, 14, 15): The day of the Lord shall declare (every man's work), because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, vet so as by fire. This passage has always been held as one of the important and difficult ones of the whole Scripture. Now in it, as is easily seen by one who considers the whole chapter, the Apostle uses two similitudes. The first is of an architect who with solid materials builds a valuable house on a rock: the second is of one who on the same foundation erects a house of boards, reeds, straw. Let us now imagine that a fire breaks out in both the houses. That which is of solid material will be out of danger, and the other will be burnt to ashes. And if the architect be in the first he will be whole and safe; if he be in the second, he must, if he would escape, rush through fire and flame, and shall be saved yet so that he will bear the marks of having been in fire: he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. The foundation spoken of in this similitude is Our Lord, of whom S. Paul says: I have planted . . . and as a wise architect I have laid the foundation: . . . and then afterwards : For no one can lay another foundation but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. The architects are-the preachers and doctors of the Gospel, as may be known by considering attentively the words of this whole chapter. And as S. Ambrose interprets, and also Sedulius on this place, the day of the Lord which is spoken of means the day of -judgment, which in the Scripture is ordinarily called the day of the Lord, as in Joel ii : the day of the Lord; in Sophonias i: the day of the Lord is near; and in the word that follows in our passage: the day of the Lord shall declare it; for it is on that day that all the actions of the world will be declared in fire. When the Apostle says it shall be revealed by fire; he sufficiently shows that it is the last day of judgment; [as] in the Second to the Thessalonians I.: when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with the angels of his power, in a flame of glory; and in Psalm xcvi.: fire shall qo before his face. The fire by which the architect is saved-he himself shall be saved yet so as by fire-can only be understood of the fire of Purgatory.

For when the Apostle says he shall be saved, he excludes the fire of hell in which no one can be saved; and when he says he shall be saved by fire, and speaks only of him who has built on the foundation, wood, straw, stubble, he shows that he is not speaking of the fire which will precede the day of judgment, since by this will pass not only those who shall have built with these light materials, but also those who shall have built in gold, silver, &c. All this interpretation, besides that it agrees very well with the text, is also most authentic, as having been followed with common consent by the ancient Fathers. S. Cyprian (Bk. iv. ep. 2) seems to make allusion to this passage. S. Ambrose, on this place, S. Jerome on the 4th -of Amos, S. Augustine on Psalm xxxvi., S. Gregory (Dial. iv. 39), Rupert (in Gen. iii. 32), and the rest, are all express on the point; and of the Greeks, Origen in the 6th Homily on Exodus, Ecumenius on this passage (where he brings forward S. Basil), and Theodoret quoted by S. Thomas in the I st Opusculum contra errores Graec.

It may be said that in this interpretation there is an equivocation and impropriety, inasmuch as the fire spoken of is taken now for that of Purgatory, now for that which will precede the day of judgment. We answer that it is a graceful manner of speech, by the contrasting these two fires. For notice the meaning of the sentence : the day of the Lord shall have light from the fire which will go before it, and as this day shall be lighted up by the fire, so this same day by the judgment shall cast light on the merit and defect of each work; and as each work shall be brought clearly out, so the workers who will have worked with imperfection shall be saved by the fire of Purgatory. But besides this, if we should say that S. Paul uses the same word in different senses in the same passage it would be no new thing, for he employs words in this way in other places, but so properly that this serves as an ornament to his language: as in the 2d of Corinthians, 5th chapter Him who knew no sin for us he hath made sin:-where who sees not that sin in the first part is taken in its proper sense, for iniquity ; and the second time figuratively, for him who bears the penalty of sin?

It may be said again that it is not said that he will be saved by fire, but as by fire, and that therefore we cannot conclude there is a Purgatorial fire. I answer that there is a true similitude in this passage. For the Apostle means to say that he whose works are not absolutely solid will be saved like the architect who escapes from the fire, but at the same time not without passing through the fire; a fire of a different quality from that which burns in this world. It is enough that from this passage we evidently conclude that many who will gain possession of the kingdom of paradise will pass through fire: now this will not be the fire of hell, nor the fire which will precede the judgment; it will therefore be the fire of Purgatory. The passage is difficult and troublesome, but well considered it gives us a manifest conclusion for our contention; -so that we have here two places by which we can learn that after this life there are a time and a place of purgation.

de Sales, Francis. The Catholic Controversy, Part III, Art. II, Purgatory, Chapter IV (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers 1989, rep. of Vol III of the series Library of St. Francis de Sales: Works of This Doctor of the Church, Translated into English Turnbridge Wells, England: Burns & Oates)

In order to disprove the existence of Purgatory, Protestant divines all the way back to John Calvin, the lawyer who first expounded on White’s Reformed belief system, have attempted to overcome the Catholic interpretation of this passage through a number of creative exegeses. Mr. Armstrong, in his book, The Catholic Verses (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2004), highlights the efforts of Calvin to negate the Catholic exegesis of 1 Cor. 3:10-15 and why his efforts failed. Calvin tried to argue that the “Day” referenced in 1 Cor. 3:13 did not refer to the Day of Judgment, but of the trial of the Holy Spirit. As Mr. Armstrong notes, even Protestant biblical scholars have rejected Calvin’s novel interpretation. Id. at pgs. 157-163.

Seeing the futility of John Calvin’s eisegesis to discredit the doctrine of Purgatory, Mr. White uses a decidedly different tactic to attack the traditional Catholic exegesis of the text. Instead of using normal rules of exegesis and hermeneutics to interpret 1 Cor. 3:10-15, White dresses his argument up in a peruke and a gown and uses Plurium Interrogationum during his cross-examination of Father Stravinskas.

Analyzing White’s questions above, one can discern their underlying bases. White first contends that if a man's work, built upon the foundation of Christ can withstand God’s judgment, that man will receive a reward and that reward is heaven. No disagreement there. But White then suggests that if a worker suffers a loss and his labors are burned up, that loss is the loss of heaven:

Q. “Verse 15, ‘If a certain one’s works are consumed, he shall suffer loss yet he himself shall be saved yet so as by fire.’ So he doesn’t receive a misthos. He does not receive a reward. So if the reward is heaven, then this can’t be purgatory because this ends up in hell.

. . . .

Q. The fact of the matter is both these groups experience the same testing by fire, but the ones who have their works remain which they have built upon the foundation, verse 14 says misthos lambano (?) ‘they shall receive a reward’ a misthos. But if another one has their works which they have built which were made of wood, hay and straw burned up, consumed, they shall suffer loss yet they shall be saved yet so as through fire. So, if this is the fire of Purgatory, both experienced it. One gets a reward – if that’s heaven, what do the other people get? Do you see the point?

Preliminarily, note how Mr. White equates "suffer loss" with "loss of reward." But here is the problem: the text doesn’t say that! 1 Cor. 3:15 actually says, "If someone’s WORK is burned up, that one will suffer loss." It is the man’s WORK (ergon) that the man loses, not the reward (misthos)! Now if St. Paul had said at verse 15, "If someone's work is burned up, that one will lose his reward," then White has an argument. But unfortunately for White, St. Paul didn't say that. White is reading something into the text which simply is not there. In short, White is engaging in eisegesis.

However, we are not here to argue about whether White engages in eisegesis, but to discuss his misuse of the fallacy of Plurium Interrogationum.

During cross- examination, White states the following premise, “Zemioo means to suffer a loss of something.” While it is true that zemioo or zemiothesetai (the verb tense used in the text) could mean to suffer loss,” the word could also mean "to suffer punishment.” While I am sure that White, who often portrays himself as an expert in koine Greek, can find several Greek-English lexicons or dictionaries to back up his definition, several modern Catholic apologists note that there are many Greek linguists who disagree with

White that to “suffer a loss” is the primary meaning of zemioo. Further, a number of biblical lexicons and dictionaries define zemioo as “to suffer punishment” or to receive damage as its meaning in the context of 1 Cor. 3:15. Here is a sampling:

1) Walter Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon “places 1 Cor. 3:15 as the example of where zemioo has the meaning of ‘be punished’”;

2) Gerhard Kittel’s, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, translated and abridged by Geoffrey W. Bromley, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, p. 299:

1.a. Disadvantage may take the form of monetary or material "loss" or "damage." b. It may also be moral or spiritual in the sense of "hurt" or "ruin," with a subjective nuance of "unpleasantness”;

. . . The same sense [1.b.] is probable (rather than "penalty") in 1 Cor. 3:15 in contrast to the reward of v. 14. What is at issue is "hurt" or "loss" in a general sense, not in a financial sense or as loss of salvation;

3) Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, gives the meaning of zemioo as “generally, to punish”;

4) Louw-Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon, the “first, or primary, definition of zemioomai in 1 Cor. 3:15 is to‘suffer punishment;’”

5) Strong’s Greek Dictionary ( states the following definition of zemioo, “From zemia; to injure, i.e. (reflexively or passively) to experience detriment; be cast away, receive damage, lose, suffer loss”;

6) Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977, word #2210, p. 272) defines zemioo in this passage as "to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss”;

7) UBS Greek Dictionary states “the meaning of ‘be punished’ is the primary meaning of 1 Cor. 3:15.

Construing the zemiothesetai as “shall be punished” instead of “suffer loss” as White chooses to do, the passage at1 Cor. 3:15 takes on a much different meaning than the one that White portrays to his audience. If the exegete adopts the meaning of zemioo as “to punish” or “to cause damage” it becomes clear that this passage refers to an expiation by temporal punishment after a person dies. To paraphrase White, this cannot mean heaven (there is no punishment in heaven) and this cannot mean hell (the possibility of expiation no longer exists and the person is not saved). St. Paul must have been talking about a third state here, a state the Catholic Church calls “Purgatory.”

If the exegete ascribes zemiothesetai with this meaning, the rest of the verse, though he himself will be saved, but only (yet so) as through fire”is no longer mere verbiage. “[H]e himself will be savedin the Greek is sOthEsetaiwhich is usually defined in terms of eternal salvation. See, e.g., Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966) The phrase "but only" (or yet so) in the Greek is "houtos" which means “in a likewise manner.” Construing these words in context makes it clear that the person whose works are burned up still receives the reward of heaven and that his salvation comes after being subject to fire, which is foursquare with Catholic teaching of Purgatory. This meaning further gives context to verses 16 and 17 where St. Paul distinguishes between temporal punishment and eternal destruction which can only mean damnation to hell. See also, David Armstrong’s Refutation of James White on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and Purgatory, supra.; Robert Sungenis’ Rebuttal to James White's Most Recent Web Posting Concerning the Doctrine of Purgatory; and, John Salza’s PurgatoryQ & A.

There are several other points that need to be considered in interpreting 1 Cor. 3:10-15. Since White has claimed on his blog and his radio show that I have no business debating, I will take the historian’s approach and try to stick to the presentation of facts and historical evidence and the inferences that can be drawn therefrom. As John Adams stated in the closing argument of his successful defense of the British soldiers who were tried for murder in the Boston Massacre, “Facts are stubborn things and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Fortunately for me, the Holy Scriptures and historical evidence are replete with facts from which the doctrine of Purgatory can be adduced.

Fact: Approximately 350 quotations of the Old Testament can be found in the Gospels, St. Paul’s epistles, and the other books of the New Testament (more if one considers the Deuterocanical books which Protestants exclude from their bibles). More than 300 of these quotations come from the translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. Many Bible scholars note that the Septuagint was St. Paul’s Bible. An authority, no less than James White himself, notes St. Paul’s reliance on the Septuagint during his debate with Barry Lynn on whether the Scriptures condemn homosexuality. White explains during that debate how Saint Paul uses the Septuagint’s version of Leviticus 20:13 to coin a new word arsenokoitai to describe sinful homosexual practices. White uses similar arguments when he combats the KJV only crowd.

Since the Septuagint was St. Paul’s Bible, it would be helpful to discern how the word zemioo is used there. Fact: in the Septuagint, the Greek verb zemioo is used six times (Ex 21:22; Dt 22:19; Pr 17:26; 19:19; 21:11; 22:3) and the Greek noun zemia is used seven times (2Kg 23:33; Ezra 7:26; Pr 22:3; 27:12; 1 Esdras 1:36; 8:24; 2 Mc 4:48). Every time, zemioo is used to mean “to punish,” “to fine” or “to penalize,” but never “to suffer loss.” Further, the same form of the word that appears in 1 Cor. 3:15, zemiothesetai (indicative, future, passive, 3rd, person, singular), appears at Ex. 21:22 and Pr 19:19 and is translated as "punished" or “penalized” and not White’s “suffer loss.”

Now I realize that this evidence alone doesn’t prove that zemioo means “to punish” or “to fine” or “to penalize” as opposed “to suffer loss.” However, James White uses this same tactic when he cites to Mt. 16:26 or Phil. 3:8 to show that zemioo means “to suffer loss.” However, the fact that St. Paul used the Greek Septuagint as his Bible would suggest that in all likelihood he knew that the normative use of zemioo in the Bible he read and quoted was something more akin “to punish” or “to suffer damage” rather than White’s “to suffer loss.”

Fact: in the Deuterocanonical books that are a part of the Septuagint, there are a number of references to Purgatory. Here are a couple for the reader to consider.

The most well-known passage, of course, is found in 2 Maccabees:

But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light all things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted our. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view, for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus, he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. (2 Macc. 12:40-46).

This passage from the Bible makes several important points. First, this passage demonstrates the distinction between venial and mortal sins. Note that the slain soldiers had died in godliness even though they died in sin wearing the amulets like a lucky rabbit’s foot or four-leafed clover. Obviously, carrying around a lucky trinket would not be as serious a sin as praying to or worshiping the idols to which the amulets were dedicated. (Cf., 1 Jn 5:16-17)

Second, this passage proves that there was a purgatorial state where venial sins could be forgiven by the atoning nature obtained from the practice of praying or giving alms for the dead. Prayers would not be needed by those in heaven, and prayer could not help those in hell. This passage can only be referring to people being in a third state, at least temporarily.

Finally, it should be noted that 2 Maccabees is the chronicle of a group of Jewish people who strove to preserve the purity of the Jewish faith against the influence of paganism of the Greeks even to the point of martyrdom. If the practice of praying for the dead was as abhorrent or contrary to the Word of God as White has claimed, Judas Maccabees certainly would not have offered such prayers.

I would note, too, that even though James White does not recognize 2 Maccabees as canonical, there is nothing in St. Paul’s writings to suggest that St. Paul did not. In 1 Corinthians alone, there are 21 references to passages from the Deuterocanonical books of the Septuagint, including 2 Maccabees, which White rejects out of hand as unscriptural. Considering this evidence of St. Paul’s usage of and familiarity with the Deuterocanonical books of the Septuagint, I find it hard to believe that St. Paul would quote so extensively from them without warning his followers of to be wary of false doctrines contained in them. It is highly probable that St. Paul would have been familiar with 2 Macc. 12:40-46 which explicitly references a purgatorial state. If the doctrine of Purgatory was so foreign or so alien a concept to St. Paul’s theology as James White has alleged, St. Paul certainly would have mentioned it in one of his epistles and would have explicitly denounced both the doctrine Purgatory and 2 Maccabees so his flock would have not been led astray by false teaching– unless, of course, Mr. White wants to argue that St. Paul taught his followers an oral tradition about which books of Septuagint were canonical and which were not.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought to be an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble. (Wis. 3:1-7).

Here, as in 1 Cor. 3:10-15, fire is used to test and punish (or more accurately, chastise), in order to receive one’s heavenly reward. Note also the parallel usage of gold and stubble. Similarly, Is. 66:15-16 and Mal. 3:2-3 were likewise interpreted in rabbinic literature as referring to a purgatorial fire so that one might be cleansed before entering into the Holiness of God's Presence. See also, Is. 6: 6-7 where one of the seraphim uses an ember from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips in order to purge him of his sins so that he could be holy enough to stand before God.

Be generous to all the living and withhold not your kindness from the dead. (Sir. 7:33)

As with 2 Macc. 12:38-46, the Jews understood this passage to mean that we are to pray for the dead and that it is an act of kindness to do so. Given the practice of praying for the dead contained in all of the early Church liturgies and the fact that the early church fathers who wrote about Purgatory also wrote favorably about the efficaciousness of praying for the dead, I would suggest that the early Christians did too.

Since St. Paul’s Bible was the Septuagint, it is a fair inference that he would have been knowledgeable of the above passages and how they were commonly understood to mean. Further, given that the above passages suggest the existence of a temporary purgatorial state, St. Paul would have certainly denounced this understanding had he believed these passages or the books that contained them were unbiblical. It would have been easy enough for him to write against them in his epistles as he did other doctrines. He didn’t. As we will see, there is a good reason why he didn’t.

Fact: St. Paul was a Pharisee, the son of the Pharisees. (Acts. 23:6) Scripture tells us that St. Paul was educated strictly in the ways of Hebraic Law at the feet of the Rabban Gamaliel, one of the greatest Pharisaic teachers of all time. (Acts 22:5) Thus, let us see what Gamaliel would have taught young St. Paul learning at his feet.

As I have noted previously in my first example of White’s misuse of Plurium Interrogationum, the Talmud contains the written collection of certain teachings of the Pharisaic teachers and other rabbis. In the Soncino Babylonian version of the Talmud at Tractate Shabbath Folio 33b, the reader will find:

"The judgment of the wicked in Gehenna (purgatory) is twelve months."

In the Babylonian Talmud, translated by Michael L. Rodkinson (1918), one reads at Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 1, pp. 26-27:

We have learned in a Boraitha: The school of Shammai said: There are three divisions of mankind at the Resurrection: the wholly righteous, the utterly wicked, and the average class. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the utterly wicked are at once inscribed, and destined for Gehenna, as we read [Dan. 12:2]: "And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The third class, the men between the former two, descend to Gehenna, but they weep and come up again, in accordance with the passage [Zech. 13: 9]: "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; and they shall call on My name, and I will answer them." Concerning this last class of men Hannah says [I Sam. 2: 6]: "The Lord causeth to die and maketh alive, He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up again." The school of Hillel says: The Merciful One inclines (the scale of justice) to the side of mercy, and of this third class of men David says [Psalms, 114:1]: "It is lovely to me that the Lord heareth my voice"; in fact, David applies to them the Psalm mentioned down to the words, "Thou hast delivered my soul from death" [ibid. 8].

Likewise, one may find in the Tosefta Sanhedrin, 13:3, a rabbinic supplement to the Talmud, the following:

In the House of Shammai it was said: There are three groups: One is destined to eternal life, and another is consigned to ignominy and eternal abhorrence- they are the thoroughly wicked, the average among them will go down to hell, and dive and come up and arise thence and be healed . . . In the House of Hillel it was said: "[God is] rich in kindness (Exodus 34;6)"- would incline the balance to the side of mercy."

These passages from the Talmud and their corresponding supplements irrefutably prove that the Pharisees believed in the concept of Purgatory. In fact, most Jews (aside from the Sadducees) living in the two centuries leading up to Christ’s birth believed in something akin to Purgatory or the concept of a divine punishment that is regenerative, not vindictive. Based on the Talmudic writings referenced above, I would suggest that St. Paul did too. Note how the Shammaites used Zech. 13:9 as a proof text for Purgatory. Compare how they used the metaphor of purifying or refining fire with St. Paul’s use of it at 1 Cor. 3:10-17. I submit that the passage at 1 Cor. 3:10-17 is nothing less than of St. Paul adapting the Pharisaic teaching concerning Purgatory as a part of his formulation of Christian theology.

The passage at 1 Cor. 3:10-17 is not the only instance where the concept of Purgatory is discussed in St. Paul’s epistles. David Armstrong has noted several other passages in St. Paul’s epistles in Chapter 12 of his aforementioned book, The Catholic Verses, that do so:

Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them? (1 Cor. 15:29)

There has been much discussion over the practice St. Paul is writing about. However, having read The Catholic Controversy as Mr. Armstrong has, St. Francis de Sales’ explanation of this passage is the only one that I have ever read that truly made sense:

. . . So that in the ancient Church, the custom already was to help by prayer and holy deeds the souls of the departed:–which clearly implies a faith in Purgatory.

And of this custom S. Paul speaks quite clearly in the 1st of Corinthians, chap xv. appealing to it as praiseworthy and right. . . . This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized as often taken for afflictions and penances; as in S. Luke, chap. xii., [Lk. 12:50] . . . and in S. Mark, chap x., [Mk. 10:38-39] . . . in which places Our Lord calls pain and afflictions baptism.

Further, St. Francis de Sales and Mr. Armstrong both note the strong connection between this passage and 2 Macc. 12:44. See, de Sales, Francis, The Catholic Controversy, supra. at pgs 367-368; Armstrong, David, The Catholic Verses, supra. at pgs. 163-164. While Protestants have attempted to claim that St. Paul was not approving of the practice spoken of here in an effort to minimize the Catholic meaning of this passage, there is nothing in the text to suggest that. St. Paul is citing this practice as proof in the belief of the resurrection.

Again to paraphrase Mr. White, St. Paul can’t be talking about the souls in heaven by referring to early Christians who had themselves “baptized for dead” as they would not have needed the benefit received from such a practice. He could not be talking about hell as the dead souls there could not receive any benefit from vicarious afflictions or penances. He must have been talking about souls in a third state-what we Catholics call Purgatory.

May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he came to Rome, he promptly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus. (2 Tim. 1:16-18)

Here, St. Paul prays for his departed friend Onesiphorus. We know that he is departed because St. Paul speaks about him in the past tense. Now if St. Paul did not believe that his prayers could help Onesiphorus, why would he pray for him? Or was St. Paul being unbiblical and merely moved by natural affection for his friend in the same way that John Calvin claimed was the reason that St. Augustine prayed for his deceased mother, St. Monica? See, The Catholic Verses, supra. at pgs. 162-163.

Here is another other verse from St. Paul’s writings I believe alludes to Purgatory.

I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. (2 Cor. 12:1-4)

Here, St. Paul references two places–the third heaven and Paradise. The Pharisees and for that matter, most Jews who lived during intertestamental times believed that there were several heavens, seven in all, each having a distinct purpose. Third heaven and Paradise were just two of those places. Along with this heavenly scheme, they also believed that were also seven levels of the abode of the dead. The Jewish version of Purgatory was on one of those levels. Several NT passages also suggest that the belief in a multi-level afterlife was prevalent among early Christians as well. See, e.g., Lk. 23:43; 1 Pt. 3:19; Jude 23; Phil. 2:10. See also, The Book of Enoch the Prophet referred to at Jude 14 as well as The Testament of Abraham. It is this intertestamental concept of multiple levels of hell, Purgatory and heaven that is reflected in Dante’s Divine Comedy. I would contend that this passage actually refers to St. Paul’s own Dante-esque journey through some of these levels of heaven. Now if St. Paul believed that there were a “Paradise” and a “Third Heaven,” it is probable that he would have also believed in a state we now call “Purgatory.”

The above Scriptural passages demonstrate that St. Paul appears to have learned his lessons about Purgatory well from Gamaliel and incorporated them into his teaching. St. Paul’s writings show that the doctrine of Purgatory was neither foreign nor unknown to him. Why else would St. Paul utilize the Pharisaic exegesis of Zech. 13:9 at 1 Cor. 3:10-15 and use the same metaphor of a refining fire that purifies souls? Why else would he allude to a practice of vicarious repentance for the souls in Purgatory? Why else would he pray for the dead Onesiphorus like the noble Judas Maccabees who led the Jews in an unrelenting war to preserve the Old Testament faith against Paganism? The answer is the same to all three questions–St. Paul believed in Purgatory.

This leads to another point, as previously mentioned, White uses Mt. 16:26 and Phil 3:8 to show that zemioo means to “suffer loss” as opposed to a more “Catholic” meaning of the word. See, e.g., 1 Cor 3:10-15: Exegesis and Rebuttal of Roman Catholic Misuse. However, let’s look at those passages in context.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. (Mt. 16:24-27)

[I]n zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless. (But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. (Phil. 3:6-12)

Placing White’s verses in context undercut his exegesis of 1 Cor. 3:10-15. While White may be able to argue that zemioo may mean “loss”or “to forfeit” literally in Mt. 16:26 and Phil. 3:8, these verses, it does not prove that zemioo means the same thing when St. Paul uses the word at 1 Cor. 3:15. More importantly, once the verses are placed back into the passages from which they are taken, one can easily see how the standard canard of forensic imputation is demonstrably false.

First, let us examine what Jesus was saying at Mt. 16:24-27. With Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, sin took the place of that grace and separated us from God. Sin destroyed our friendship with God, the very purpose for which God created us. From that point of time, sin became a part of the lives of humankind. As a result of sin, we do not do the good that we want, but instead do the evil we don’t want. (cf. Rom. 7:19) The most obvious sign of how pervasive sin is in our lives is death. Not only does death constitute the wages of sin, it is the very symbol of our enslavement by Satan.

But God chose to save man from sin. How? He gave us His only Son. St. Paul puts it:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. (Gal. 4:4-5).

Jesus entered this sinful world by becoming man. While Christ was completely free from all sin, He accepted our human nature stained by sin; that is, He subjected Himself to suffering and death. St. Paul says:

For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:21).

How did Jesus accomplish making us into the “righteousness of God in him?” Answer: By abasing Himself on the cross:

[H]e emptied himself taking the form of a slave coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death. Even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:7-8).

James White’s claims to the contrary, Catholics believe that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on the Cross. But it doesn’t settle the question of how this redemption is applied to us. Mt. 16:24-27 shows us the Cross produces our sanctification when we follow Christ’s example and take up our own cross to suffer with Him. There is nothing here that suggests that Christ’s righteousness is merely imputed to us. We do not have to pretend that we are righteous. We are made righteous when we follow Christ Jesus, when we carry our cross, when we suffer like Christ suffered, when we die to self. If that sanctification is not completed before our deaths, it is completed in Purgatory. Purgatory is the final phase of Christ applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross.

Now let us look at Phil 3:6-12. First, St. Paul tells us how he attempted to abide the law of Moses as a Pharisee to earn his salvation. After coming to believe in Christ, he sees his life as a Pharisee to gain salvation as rubbish. Instead, the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ Jesus brings salvation. Here, St. Paul writes that his salvation is not certain, but a future event only if he denies himself and takes up his own cross. Suffering does not produce loss, but gain. As shown by verses 10 and 11, salvation comes only if we share in Christ’s suffering. Nothing is imputed to us. We must do as Christ did. This is a theme that St. Paul repeats at Rom. 8:16-17:

The Spirit itself hears witness within our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Emphasis added.)

We see from St. Paul’s epistles that sanctification is a process, not an event, the end result of which ones salvation is secured only by the efficacy of suffering. Further note that the Protestant tradition of forensic imputation is refuted by Phil. 3:12. St. Paul writes that despite having been possessed by Christ (i.e., justified), sanctification is something that he still is pursuing. However, if Christ’s righteousness had been imputed to St. Paul, then he would have had already attained perfection and there would have been no need to strive for his salvation.

Thus, even if the word zemioo is translated as “loss” at Mt. 16:26 and Phil. 3:8, its does not help White in his exegesis of 1 Cor. 3:10-15 for these two passages demonstrate the expiatory nature of suffering. To be saved in Christ, we are called upon to take up the cross and share in His suffering. It is the denial of ourselves, that loss of “self,” that results in salvation. Purgatory is merely the completion of that process.

Now, none of the above denies or trivializes Christ’s death on the cross. Through Christ’s passion and resurrection, we all are forgiven. Our salvation was purchased by Christ’s sacrifice upon the Cross. Christ made it possible for man to join Him in heaven, but if we truly wish to be with Him, we have to offer proper atonement in Christ for our sins and through such atonement, we are purified of the last vestiges of sin solely with His help. Atonement is made when we suffer in Christ. While this atonement can be completed while we are alive, God’s mercy allows us to suffer in Purgatory if we are not totally purified before we die. As we have seen from our reading of Scripture, our salvation comes from Christ. However, it is by His design and not the manmade doctrines of Luther, Calvin, or White that we are saved. And as I have hopefully shown, Christ’s design for our salvation includes the doctrine of Purgatory.

In concluding this discussion concerning James White’s misuse of Plurium Interrogationum in the debate with Father Stravinskas, I want to close with this. I believe in the doctrine of Purgatory because the Catholic Church teaches that it is so. Why must I believe in what the Catholic Church teaches? I believe true faith in Our Savior, Jesus Christ, does not allow me to doubt any of the Church’s dogmatic teachings. Faith is incompatible with doubt. If the Church of the Living God is the pillar and fountain of truth [1 Tim. 3:15], then I cannot disbelieve its teachings. As John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote, “[W]hat the Church declares in God’s name, is God’s word, and therefore true.” I may not fully understand a doctrine that the Church’s teaches, but that does not give me the right to not believe it. Again in the words of Newman, “I may love by halves, I may obey by halves; I can not believe by halves: either I have faith, or I have it not.” My lack of comprehension or knowledge, my ignorance, my sinful nature may prevent me from understanding the fullness of truth of Catholic dogma, but that is due to my failings and my faults and not in anything that is taught by the Church that Christ founded that is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. In addition to the teaching contained in Scripture, I also have the assurance of the truth given by Apostolic Tradition, an authoritative Magisterium, two thousand years of liturgies, all of which include prayers to saints and for the dead, the writings of the Church Fathers, and the witness of hundreds of saintly men and women like St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Catherine of Genoa, and St. Theresa of Avila. See, e.g., Fr. F.X. Shouppe’s Purgatory: Illustrated by the Lives and Legends of the Saints (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1893; rep. Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1973).

Even if he could convince me somehow that the Holy Bible does not teach the doctrine of Purgatory (which I do not believe is the case at all), I would not place any trust in the words of James White, who relies on skepticism in the place of faith, misuse of debate tactics, and his handy koine Greek-English lexicon. Why? White makes his own private judgment and reason the standard and measure of what is God’s revelation. In the place of “Roma locuta est, causa finita est,” White would have us believe, “Albus locuta est, causa finita est.”

While White declaims that sacramentalism and Purgatory make Catholicism a man-centered religion, the truth of it is that it is his use of private judgment, his claim that he has the right to judge for himself the meaning of the Word of God, which places himself as the center of his own religion in the place of God. God is sovereign only so long as He agrees with White and not the other way around. And one must wonder if White truly believes what he claims when he engages in Plurium Interrogationum to try to win debates rather than let the doctrines he advocates speak for themselves.

But what do I know? According to White, I am just a lawyer who has no business debating. Or worse, a Catholic apologist in the thrall of Rome. In response to such words, I can only say the same thing that Charles Carroll, a Catholic patriot and one of the founding fathers of our United States of America, said in response to similar anti-Catholic rhetoric, “Meminimus, et ignoscimus.”


The examples set forth above demonstrate the problem with Mr. White’s cross-examination technique. By using Plurium Interrogationum in debate, he promotes style over substance. By asking questions based on questionable premises without first laying a proper foundation, it is extremely difficult for the responder to both challenge the false premises and answer the questions in the few minutes or seconds that White’s debate format allows for a response. Rather than demonstrating the superiority or his arguments or the truth contained therein, White is merely showing his audience that he is more adept in concealing their weaknesses. Truth suffers when debaters like White uses tactics like Plurium Interrogationum to win at all costs. And if the truth truly is going to set us free (Jn. 8:32), there is no place for Plurium Interrogationum in debates over matters of Faith.

There is one last point I want to raise. Considering the important theological issues he and his opponents debate, can White honestly say that in the few minutes allotted for cross-examination, the great questions of doctrinal dispute can be fully and adequately expressed, answered and/or refuted? Not only is such a belief unreasonable, it is dangerous to one’s salvation especially when it is coupled with White’s misuse of cross-examination as a debate technique. By engaging in such tactics, White (or his Dr. Oakley alter-ego) fabricates the illusion that all one has to do is listen to a segment of one of his cross-examination sessions and theological difficulties evaporate within 180-480 seconds. Hopefully, this paper has dispelled some of the illusion.

Thank you for giving me your consideration.

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.~St. Augustine

1 comment:

Rockypath said...

After hearing several debates between Mr. White and various Catholic apoligists it became apparent that some level of sophistry and manipulation were at work. Mr. Hoffer has done a remarkable job of shedding light on this issue. Thank you for your very good work Mr. Hoffer.