James White, Catholics and Regeneration

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.

Explore posts in the same categories: James R. White

4 Comments on “James White, Catholics and Regeneration”

  1. Mack Says:

    The more I study and read about Lutheran and Reformed theology, the less it makes sense.
    My atheist friend said that if God existed, he would hate that bastard with all his might. Well, after learning about John Calvin’s god, and the Geneva god, I understand that point of view! Such a god would be a bastard.
    I wonder, of those people who actually take Reformed theology seriously, if any consider themselves to be among the reprobate. Probably not many. I suppose 99.9% of those who really believe John Calvin’s teachings think they are of the elect. There would be quite an appeal to believe God has chosen me (me!) to be saved. I’m special! Swoon! Quite a heady idea.
    White refers to the false teachings of the Catholic Church. I wonder why he doesn’t consider belief in inspired Scripture and belief in God to among those false teachings. He is inconsistent.

  2. Nick Says:

    This is a good post, I like the angle of it, but I’ll have to write more later since I’m pressed for time. You’ll probably really enjoy this post which touches upon the issue from another angle (I especially like the chart at the end):


    • Mack Brislawn Says:

      Heady stuff!
      Protestants falsely criticize Catholics for having an anxiety over whether they will be saved, but, wow, it’s nothing compared to the fear Protestants must have! Catholics can always return to Jesus, but Protestants have the greater worry of: is my faith evanescent? Is my faith a true saving faith? Can God be just kidding me? Now that is worry! Catholics don’t have that. For Catholics, God doesn’t play around with them. He’s a Father that keeps his promises and loves his children.

  3. Mike Says:

    Hello and thank you for letting me post, I appreciate the opportunity to post on your excellent and thoughtful blog.

    Writing from a reformed perspective I think that you are missing the point that James White was making here.

    Also personalising these issues does not help in finding the truth (on either side), no one knows for sure who has true faith and who is elect (either through future knowledge or by decree) and both sides make statements that may exclude the other, that is one reason why we disagree.

    You are never saved by what you believe, or by your choosing to believe. Your salvation is a free gift of God, a gift that takes the form of regeneration which leads through irresistible grace (the I in Tulip) to justification.

    The mode through which this slavation is manifested takes the form or accepting the Gospel (A Gospel which is true whatever the person thinks about it, i.e. it is an objective not a subjective matter)and this Gospel takes the form of accepting our own sin and trusting in God for forgiveness and justification before him through the death of Jesus for our sins. If we trust in something else (such as good works)then we are not showing the fruits of our salvation and that is why we would say that a consistent Roman Catholic is not saved. Or more accurately they are not showing the fruits of salvation.

    The question of “how would I proceed to become regenerate?” is therefore misplaced, if you are seeking after the true God then you are regenerate in the first place. Of course some people seek to be “saved” for what is in it for them, and they will fall away.

    The point that you make is how do you know which kind of faith you have? You achieve this by trusting in the goodness of God and by your sorrow for your sins. You trust in God, not your own faith. If you trust in yourself you have not understood the Gospel.

    The comment that “There would be quite an appeal to believe God has chosen me (me!) to be saved. I’m special!” is of course a risk, our sinful nature gravitates to such an idea, but that is why the T in Tulip is so important. We are totally depraved in ourselves, we are not saved for anything in us and are saved in spite of ourselves, not because of ourselves.

    The reformed position is strengthened by the counter argument that “Such a god would be a XXXXXX”, this is the whole point of Romans 9:21 in that how can we possibly even think that we are judging God, the whole concept behind the posters statement is blasphemous in that the whole concept of goodness is rooted in the nature of God, not in our fallen human morality which is by nature depraved. I am not saying that the revulsion which the natural man feels for the Calvinistic God proves it is right, but what it most definately does not do is prove that it is wrong, after all this is precicesly what would be expected under the reformed world view.

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