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Dr. James White Declares me (among others) Evil

No, he presumably doesn’t know who I am, and didn’t mention me by name. But I voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday, and I also voted against Florida’s amendment banning gay marriage. I am a Christian, a Bible teacher who normally spends hours daily studying the scriptures.

I found this video by Dr. James White via Tim Ricchuiti. While I have always appreciated Dr. White’s defense of modern Bible translations in King James Only Controversy, The: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?, I have also been well aware that we differ on many things. The most important of these things are contained in this video.

Tim has already made some very good points, though I would quibble on the matter of defining Christianity. An apologist, which is Dr. White’s vocation, must define Christianity in some way, else just what will he defend? You cannot defend that which is not defined.

The fundamental difference then is one of definition. I define “Christian” differently than does Dr. White. This is no surprise. The important thing is that it simply makes his accusation that certain people aren’t Christians, or that they are vile heretics of no importance whatsoever, unless one is trying to do some ministry in conjunction with Dr. White’s ministry or to work together with him.

The important thing is just how well he supports that definition. One of the critical errors (not doctrinal, but logical) in the video is the claim that words have some meaning given to them by a transcendent God. Sorry, but no. Not so. Words gain their meaning from usage, as someone who has commented at such length on translation should know from experience.

In this case, since Dr. White doesn’t define Christian precisely in his video–OK, it’s only 18 minutes so what do I expect?–we must take the definition implied from his usage. In that case, we must assume that a real Christian:

  1. Does not base theology on race
  2. Opposes same sex marriage even in the civil sphere
  3. Not only is against abortion, but must believe that the law is the best way to put a stop to it.
  4. Believes that people who disagree on these points are evil.

I would say that I’m on the weakest ground on the fourth point, though it seems to me that he is making that part of the implied definition. The reason for this is that he challenges the Christian faith of people who disagree on any of those points. Again, I don’t challenge his right to have a definition of Christianity–I challenge the usefulness of this definition.

It’s interesting that besides defining people who don’t agree on these points as non-Christian, he also declares them evil, evil which must be confronted. Having just been studying Romans 1, and especially verse 32, I’m guessing those who don’t confront these things as evil are also to be regarded as evil.

How would I define Christianity? First, in conversation, I simply accept one’s self definition. If you say you’re a Christian, I’m going to go with it for purposes of discussion. That’s just a convenience. I don’t regard the label “Christian” as all that important. Go ahead and define it how you like. The issue is whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, and while I will list characteristics and discuss discipleship, the ultimate judge of that will be Jesus.

But if I go a step further and use the term “orthodox Christianity” or perhaps the basis on which I would call myself a Christian it is this: I say the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without my fingers crossed. So if someone believes in the incarnation, in the doctrine of the trinity, in the resurrection, and the final judgment of God, that sounds very Christian to me. Please note again that I’m not trying to tell you who gets to use a label. I’m simply saying how I use the label of myself. Were I to begin to need crossed fingers in reciting those creeds, I would cease calling myself Christian.

If I share my Christian faith with others, those are the elements I’m likely to tell them about, and those are thing things I will tell them define me as a Christian.

Thus the following statement from the TUCC web site means that I accept TUCC as Christian:

The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession. It looks to the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world. It claims as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant Reformers. It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God. In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, it recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.

Now let me note a few points of disagreement other than the obvious ones with Dr. White’s video. He refers to it possibly not being God’s will that someone be brought to repentance. Of course this is a major Calvinist-Arminian divide, and I fall to the Arminian side. He criticizes the emerging church in terms that I would find quite unacceptable.

Further, he takes the stance that a belief in evolution is at the foundation of all this evil, misunderstanding evolution as necessarily atheistic and as stealing the dignity of humanity. I’m guessing this is another part of his definition of “Christian” but I’ll leave that out for now. The creation-evolution controversy can be found in many inappropriate places, and is rarely discussed with comprehension.

I agree with him that Christians need to soak in the word, immerse themselves in the word. I would suggest, however, that Christians may soak themselves in parts of the word that are either not applicable or that are placed in the wrong priority. I have a prioritizing suggestion, and it comes from Jesus: Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two (Matthew 22:35-40).

That will at least get your priorities straight.

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  1. It has always seemed to me, in fact, that those two sentences from Matthew are what Jesus was trying to teach, and are probably sufficient to leading a right life. As much as some people like to believe otherwise, nobody has perfect truth. Starting sincerely from those first principles and trying to find a way to live them on a regular basis seems to me to be what it’s all about.

    1. I even tend to say that those two sentences are Jesus’s fundamentals. On that basis (only), I’d be a fundamentalist:)

  2. Well said, Henry. Those of us on the conservative side of things are smarting right now, but we do have to keep things in perspective. There’s a lot of room for disagreement in public policy, etc. among Christians.

    I differ from most of my fellow conservatives on gay marriage, but agree with them on other social issues such as abortion. But the most heat I get is from my stance that the modern doctrine of the Rapture is in error; I have been accused of not being a Christian because of that. Makes me wonder what happened to all those Christians before Darby came along with modern dispensationalism.

    I guess the up side is that if you are not a Christian, you can’t be a heretic, can you?

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