Wednesday, August 29, 2012

James R. White: you should have stayed out of "the deep water" - part 1

Still trying to 'catch-up' on what transpired over the internet during my grandson's recent visit; the following thread posted by Ken Temple on the Beggars All blog caught my attention:

[Original online posting of the Vimeo video: No Co Ever: Episode  1]

In the written portion of the post, Ken penned:

I agree with everything these gentleman said on the issues of doctrine and the problems with the Elephant Room 2

. . . except for one small side comment that Carl Trueman made that I think is important for Christians to understand.

Ken then expounds on the "one small comment", stating:

When talking about the Christians at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, Professor Trueman said they were Turks. [around the 31 minute mark] Professor Trueman was right that the men at the Council of Nicea were not "white men", but they were not Turkish either. They were Greeks and Egyptians and Syrians (The Syrians before the Arabs conquered them in the 600s AD.) That is an amazing mistake by a church history professor, in my opinion. They were mostly Greeks, Syrians, 2 Latins from Rome, and Egyptians (Athanasius, for one) and others from around the Roman Empire. The Turks did not live in what is today called Turkey at the time of the Council of Nicea. The Turks (Seljuk and Ottomans) did not come to that land until before the Crusades (1071 AD) and they did not completely conquer the area known as Anatolia and Constantinople until 1453 AD. No Turks lived in these areas in the New Testament days nor in early church history until the 900s AD!

Apart from some particulars concerning the ethnic and geographical background of some of the bishops that attended "the Council of Nicea in 325 AD", Ken has been pretty accurate in his above assessment, though he appears to be unaware of some background information that seems to qualify Carl's remark in the video (see THIS LINK for Carl's article, "Gnosticism, Nicea and Celebrity").

But, this post is not about going to focus on the ethnic and geographical background of the bishops that attended the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, rather, it will build upon, "everything these gentleman said on the issues of doctrine", which Ken stated that he "agree[s] with".

Pastor Mike Abendroth, the host of the program that Ken linked to, near the beginning of the NCE-E1 video, states:

What is a 'kook and a Barney'? Well 'kooks and Barneys' are people who try to surf with experts, and they'll try to paddle in, out in the water, and they just get in the way of the surfers';  and they are known by the locals as 'kooks and Barneys'—they're in over their head, they're playing in the deep water. So I would like to offer a 'kooks and Barneys award'; and so, today, we are going to offer that award, not to a particular person, but to a group of people, and would be the organizers of The Elephant Room. (2:40 ff.)

[For information on "The Elephant Room", go to their OFFICIAL WEBSITE]

Now, I am going to 'play-on' Mike's theme of 'kooks and Barneys' a bit, for I think it will become apparent that at least one of the members of the panel of 'experts' in the video is probably "over their head", "playing in deep water"...

In the NCE-E1 video, at approximately the 6:20ff mark, James White said:

I really think what we're dealing with here—uhh um, and this, this may be more in, uhh, in, in the good Doctor Trueman's area to comment on—but, as, as I have had the opportunity to teach Church history in the past, and also joining to that working as an apologist, it seems to me that at different periods in Church history, the clarity that we gain on particular topics is due to the struggles that the Church is facing...

And a bit later at 7:14 ff.:

In the early Church, as was mentioned before, the difference between homoousios and homoiousios is, is a HUGE gap, but it is only one letter...

Is that an accurate statement? Note what St. Athansius, the great defender of the Nicene Creed and Trinitarianism, had to say:

Those who deny the Council altogether, are sufficiently exposed by these brief remarks ; those, however, who accept everything else that was defined at Nicaea, and doubt only about the Coessential [homoousios], must not be treated as enemies ; nor do we here attack them as Ariomaniacs, nor as opponents of the Fathers, but we discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers, who mean what we mean, and dispute about one word. For, confessing that the Son is from the essence of the Father, and not from other subsistence, and that He is not a creature nor work, but His genuine and natural offspring, and that He is eternally with the Father as being His Word and Wisdom, they are not far from accepting even the phrase, 'Coessential' [homoousios]...But since they say that He is 'of the essence' and 'Like-in-essence,' [homoiousios] what do they signify by these but 'Coessential?' [homoousios] (De Synodis - Councils of Arminum and Seleucia), 41 - NPNF 4.472.) 

A "HUGE gap" in the early Church ???; I, and St. Athansius, think not.

A bit later, Mike reads off the questions that Mark Driscoll presented to T. D. Jakes, all of which Jakes' answered in the affirmative. James White then jumps in with:

But before that, before those questions, Jakes had provided the absolutely necessary redefinition from a non-Trinitarian modalistic perspective, which was when asked initially about the existence of three divine persons, his response was, 'I can go there, but that's not my favorite way of saying it; that doesn't do it for me'. Well when someone starts talking about the ancient creeds of the Church and says, 'that doesn't do it for me, I want to know why. And when you go back into his teaching before this, he is consistently used the language of manifestations, he has said that there is one God, but different manifestation, going to a major textual variant in 1 Timothy 3:16 where, uhh, God was manifect in the flesh—even though the earliest reading, the manuscripts, He was manifest in the flesh—but leaving that to, to, uhh, to the side, Oneness Pentecostals, Jesus only Pentecostals, uhh, teach that Jesus was literally two persons...

James White does not know what he is talking about here, Oneness Pentecostals DO NOT teach, "that Jesus was literally two persons".

From the United Pentecostal Church International website (the largest Oneness Pentecostal denomination) we read:

The Oneness of God

God is absolutely and indivisibly one (Deuteronomy 6:4; Galatians 3:20). In Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He is the self-revelation of the one God, the incarnation of the full, undivided Godhead (John 20:28; I Timothy 3:16).

God has revealed Himself as Father (in parental relationship to humanity), in the Son (in human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in spiritual action). (See Deuteronomy 32:6 and Isaiah 63:16; Luke 1:35 and Galatians 4:4; Genesis 1:2 and Acts 1:8.) The one God existed as Father, Word, and Spirit before His incarnation as Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and while Jesus walked on earth as God Himself incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent. However, the Bible does not teach that there are three distinct centers of consciousness in the Godhead or that Jesus is one of three divine persons.

Jesus is true God and true man as one divine-human person. We can distinguish these two aspects of Christ’s identity, but we cannot separate them. The Incarnation joined the fullness of deity to complete humanity. (Link - bold emphasis mine.)

Dr. Gregory A. Boyd in his critical book, Oneness Pentecostals & The Trinity, 'gets it right':

And yet, Oneness Pentecostals insist, Jesus was only one person. If he appears to be more than that, if the Father and Son appear to be more than distinct "natures" and rather appear in the Gospels as actual distinct "persons," this can only be an illusion assumed for the sake of revelation. (Page 35.)

James White not only misrepresents the Oneness Pentecostals, he also misrepresents the modalism that existed in the early Church:

So the prayers of Jesus—this is not technically, exactly like what Sabellius had it; there were different forms of dynamic monarchianism, and things like that in ancient Church history...(12:46 ff.)

Sabellius DID NOT teach any of the "different forms of dynamic monarchianism, and things like that in ancient Church history"; fact is, Sabellius was a modalist monarchian. (FYI: Oneness Pentecostals ARE NOT dynamic monarchians, they are modalistic monarchians).

Much more to cover, but it will have to wait until part 2.

Grace and peace,



Ken said...

I responded to your claims at Beggar's All.

徐马可 said...

David you said "James White not only misrepresents the Oneness Pentecostals, he also misrepresents the modalism that existed in the early Church"

This is true even of the great doctor Turretin, in his Institute, Vol I. Third Topics, he discussed the error of Sabellius that there is only one person in the Godhead. The thing Dr. Turretin does not explain is that what Sabellius means by the word person, Sabellius means a being or substance by the word person, while Dr. Turretin means a mode of subsisting of a substance by the word person. In Sabellius's system, in the Godhead, there is only one being and substance (person), while there are three modes of the same being, in Dr. Turretin's system, in the Godhead, there is only one being and substance (essence), while there are three modes of subsisting (person) of the same substance.

So in substance, their views are identical to each other, as Dr. Turretin later said, monoousia is the correct word, but he still uses homoousia (which can be both generic and numeric unity), this is because monoousia has been used by Sabellius.

David Waltz said...

Hello 徐马可,

Thanks much for your informative response.

IMO, Turretin's 'problems' stem from an Augustinian approach to doctrine of the Godhead. Not only does he reproduce Augustine's concept of 'relations' concerning the Father, Son and HS, but he, as you touch on, terms these 'relations' as "modal distinction[s]" (distinctione modali) [see Giger's English trans. of Turretin's, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1.278; Presbyterian & Reformed 1992.]

In the end, despite his denials of being a modalist, Turretin is one—just a much more sophisticated version.

Grace and peace,


David Waltz said...

For those who may be interested, I responded to Ken HERE.

Drake Shelton said...


The Beggars All guys are grasping at straws to defend James White.

David Waltz said...

Hi Drake,

You posted:

==The Beggars All guys are grasping at straws to defend James White.==

Indeed, a sad day for apologetics...

Ask the risk of sounding a bit crude, it is 'like' the friends of some dude, who has his pants down around his ankles in public, attempting to defend him by saying that he has not exposed himself because his feet are still covered !!!

Drake Shelton said...


Steven said...


Why not point out that James White himself says he prefers "God was manifest in the flesh" as the pure scripture ?

Some detail here:

James White & 1 Timothy 3:16 - agree with the majority of the comments .. Dean Burgon

Note the double-minded man comment left by a poster below.

Yours in Jesus,
Steven Avery