White’s inconsistent anti-ecumenism

James White often talks about the importance of “consistency”. I’d like to point out what I think is the greatest inconsistency in his apologetics, that is, his selective anti-ecumenism.

I remember White saying in one of his Youtube videos that he would be much more popular if he got into the ecumenical movement and recognized Catholics as brothers in the Lord, as many Evangelicals do. But White refuses because of the Letter to the Galatians.

In Galatians Paul presents the Gospel and condemns any attempt to replace it with “another Gospel”. White is a Calvinist and believes his Gospel is Biblical. He knows the Tridentine Catholic Gospel is different, so he quotes Gal. 2:5: “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”

I believe White is stuck in the 16th century. A lot has happened since the 16th century. Most significantly, the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed a Joint Declaration on justification in 1999, stating justification is “by faith” (and even “faith alone” in the appendix) and that Christ in his person is our righteousness.

Now, White might still disagree with some Catholic teachings as he does with other denominations, but there is no good reason to say the Catholic Church does not have the Gospel. If the Joint Declaration represents a false Gospel, too, then White’s apologetics should be trying to save un-Christian Lutherans as well.

In fact, this is where White’s inconsistency is most evident. In his book on justification White allows no mistake in this doctrine on the basis of Galatians. Yet he recognizes some Arminians as his brothers in Christ, although they differ in some central soteriological issues. What about Lutherans, then?

So if White is going to be consistently anti-ecumenical, let him regard only 5-point Calvinists as Christians. But this he is not going to do, for he knows that the Gospel in Gal 2 was not the TULIP but Christ, and all of us, Catholics, Lutherans, and Arminians, confess and have Him.

James White seems to treat the Catholic Church as a false Church with some true believers inside, those that trust in Christ despite the Church’s official teachings. The rule is negative, with some positive exceptions (although I’ve never heard him name any or talk of any that he knows).

I would suggest to him a more evangelical, a more apostolic and a more 21st century approach: treat the Catholic Church as you do the other Churches and denominations. Recognize they need evangelization, but also recognize they are in the service of evangelization. Feel free to critique, but be slow to condemn.

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One Comment on “White’s inconsistent anti-ecumenism”

  1. Nick Says:

    He’s in a tough position, because the more ‘dogmatic’ or ‘extreme’ White goes in defending “Gospel purity,” the less of an audience he will have. For example, he is Baptist because he strongly believes the Bible doesn’t allow for infant baptism, yet he has to be careful about alienating the Confessionally Reformed. But if he allows too much doctrinal ‘freedom’, he runs the risk of being inconsistent, as you said. Ultimately, it becomes up to him as an individual to determine whether something like infant baptism is an ‘essential’ or a ‘non-essetnal’, which only leads to the question: why is that decision up to him?


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