Archive for July 2010

James White, Catholics and Regeneration

July 23, 2010

In a debate with Mitch Pacwa, James White said he believes inconsistent Catholics could be saved, but that there is no salvation in the gospel proclaimed by the Catholic Church. He seemed reluctant to say it, but he bravely did, even though the inquirer was a man he profoundly respects. So the bottom line is that faithful Catholics are assumed to be unregenerate, unsaved.

Now, I consider myself to be a faithful Catholic, believing eg. what the Council of Trent teaches about justification and trying to hold on to the biblical, traditional, catholic and apostolic faith to the best of my understanding. So I guess I should assume James White assumes I am an unregenerate heretic.

It’s not that simple, though, because in speaking to Muslims White has said that the Trinity is indeed a hard thing to believe (or something along those lines), and that’s why we believe we need the Spirit of God to change our hearts and grant us that faith (quotation from memory from one of his Youtube videos). Indeed, one can confess Jesus as Lord and God only by the Holy Spirit. But that’s exactly what I do as a Catholic. And so I guess I should assume I am indeed regenerate and in possession of the Holy Spirit?

Assuming one can have a false trinitarian faith (like one can have a false monotheistic faith) would perhaps lead White out of the problem. Assuming, then, that I am unregenerate – how would I proceed to become regenerate? I figure White would say I need to put all my trust in Jesus and his righteousness and repudiate the false teachings of the Church. Ok, suppose I did so – what should happen then? According to White’s theology, I should turn from an evil-doer into a new man, now for the first time truly believing and loving God.

But the problem is I would be dealing with the same Jesus I have believed in until now, whom I have trusted, whom I’ve adored and to whom I’ve directed prayers of supplication, repentance, thanks and praise. I should now somehow believe that all my life I have actually resisted the Holy Spirit and hated God, that this Jesus has never before accepted any of my works or prayers.

What would be the distinguishing mark between my previous Catholic faith and my new Reformed regenerate faith? In both faiths I would’ve believed and trusted Jesus for my salvation. The only difference would’ve been that in my new faith I would now have to believe in a completely “extra nos” imputed righteousness, consisting of Jesus’ “active and passive obedience”. Can this be the mark of the regenerate? Considering, for example, that most Christians don’t even know about these terms, and nobody believed so prior to the 1500s (anyhow there are only a couple of arguable cases).

How would I now experience my new regenerate Christianity? I would probably doubt Jesus more, since according to my new faith all my previous trust in him was misplaced. In addition, the terrible lack of historical precedents to my new faith would haunt me with doubts, not to mention the fact that Reformed theology tells me my (even Reformed) faith is proven false if fruits of sanctification don’t follow. Could such doubts be the fruit of the Spirit?

What I gather from all this is that it is not the gospel of Rome that can’t save, but the gospel of Geneve. In the Catholic Church I can trust I am in the Lord because I have been baptized into him and I confess him as Lord and God, trusting in his mercy. The Reformed gospel promises a new heart and eternal security, but it could never work. I would be forced to seriously doubt my only Savior. It would amount to a rejection of him.