An Apologetic Two-fer

It is not a strange thing that the Filioque is such a heated point of contention between Rome and the Orthodox. It is a strange thing that it is not between Rome and Protestants. When I was a Protestant at one point it struck me, why don’t I object to the Filioque? Surely the Filioque has all the markings of things that Protestants like to object to.

The filioque has a weak scriptural base, if any at all. It doesn’t have much if any serious patristic support until the fifth century and then it is quite limited as being purely a speculation on Augustine’s part. And it doesn’t begin to become enshrined in major doctrinal formularies until begining in the 11th century. And it is responsible in part for the largest schism in the history of Christianity, not to mention an alteration of the major doctinal statement ultimately on the basis of claims to papal supremacy.

Now before any Catholic readers start thinking, “Oh no, here we go again.” I plead with them to just hear me out. Just think for a moment, why don’t Protestants object to it? I mean, I have never read Catholic apologists using it against Protestants. This doesn’t mean they haven’t but it usually just isn’t in their debate toolbox. (I wouldn’t be suprised if I found it in Bellermine.)

Now James White has been lately harping on the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary. This is because he thinks he smells blood in the water. By and large he is motivated by this book. I have read the book and it is pretty good. There are a few mistakes and I think there are reasons why his thesis isn’t quite as strong as the author thinks. But put all of that aside. White thinks that it’s the cat’s meow or so he talks.

His argument seems to be something like the following. The dogma of the Assumption lacks Scriptural warrant but it also fails the Catholic test of having nascent support in the tradition and then developing later on. (I think it popped up on the radar screen later but not as a development and for different reasons-read St. Basil. And as an Orthodox Christian I don’t think it is a dogma/de fide either.) So he thinks he has a clear case of pure innovation showing that the Catholic position licenses dogmas out of whole cloth.

Now suppose further he is right, just for the sake of arument. Perhaps he is thinking that Sola Scriptura logically precludes these kinds of incidents and is therefore superior. So the idea is that Protestantism conceptually precludes these kinds of errors. But does it?

Take the Filioque. It is enshrined in the vast majority of Protestant confessions as an article of faith/de fide. And yet I at least can’t see how it can be justified via Sola Scriptura. And yet laymen and clergy alike are required to some degree or another to subscribe to it. (For my Protestant readers, just imagine a candidate for ordination being in a conservative Protestant denomination and denying it upon examination. Watch the sparks fly.) If we let White’s argument on the Assumption, go through then he has some ‘splainin’ to do for he is in relatively the same position as he charges Catholics.

Why doesn’t he howl and complain about the Filioque? Why is it part of the Confession he subscribes to and he requires his congregation to subscribe to? It will do no good to complain that it isn’t important. All the more reason to exclude it, especially when it is part of a core area of theology, namely the Trinity. The last time I checked, the Trinity was no ancillary doctrine and White doesn’t think papal supremacy is a sufficient basis for altering doctrinal statements.

Moreover, the Filioque was added to the Creed and suscribed by the force of papal perogatives alone. If ever there was a doctrine to set aflame the hearts of a Protestant, this seems like a good candidate. Either Sola Scriptura doesn’t logically preclude the innovation and codification of major theological error or very few if any Protestant bodies have been using it correctly in relation to the doctrine of God. So, why don’t Catholics go banging on White about the Filioque?

We can do a replay with other doctrines, such as divine simplicity. That certainly isn’t justifiable by Scripture alone. To argue that it is a piece of philosophical theology and not biblical theology is just to admit the point that it isn’t justifiable by Scripture and that Protestants have been requiring subscription in one form or another to non-biblical doctrines for centuries. Moreso, it is just to convict White of implicitly and unknowingly advocating a piece of philosophical theology that guides and influences his exegetical practices so that the latter doesn’t float free of the former. (I suppose like Beckwith, he’d have to be a philosopher to know that.)

If Sola Scriptura were true, when applied correctly not only should it adjudcate such matters but it should preclude such doctrines. Now it is open to White or others to argue that in this case it hasn’t been. But this just opens up a can of worms. Why hasn’t White been protestating about major non-biblical doctrines within his own tradition? And to admit that the scriptures haven’t been employed according to Sola Scriptura is to convict the vast majority of Protestant theologians of serious error, if not outright heresy. If they blow it on the doctrine of God, this undermines the likelyhood that they are using the Scriptures as a rule correctly in other areas. In fact it is a compelling piece of evidence to support the thesis that their exegesis is caught in the grip of a Platonic philosophical perspective. (Open Theists eat your heart out.)

But we can extend this to other doctrines. Take a look at the doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo. Apart from the Apocrypha, there is in fact very little support for it and nothing explicit in Scripture. Sure plenty of passages say that God made all things but the surface grammar is compatible with a belief in eternal matter. And without an appeal to tradition to normatively fix its meaning White is up an exegetical creek. In fact, some significant scholarly literature on the matter indicates that it derives from Gnosticism and was appropriated by various post-Apostolic Fathers.

On similar grounds, White dismisses the Catholic dogma of the Assumption, namely that it either was derived from Gnosticism or that there is significant conceptual dependence. (He has explicitly claimed both at different times.) Why not reject the Creation Ex Nihilo or any of the above candicates on the very same basis?

If Sola Scriptura were true, it should when used correctly produce only teachings that bind the conscience of a believer. If White and others think that it has been, then he needs to start defending those doctrines on the basis of scripture alone without an appeal to non-biblical sources to fix the meaning of a given text. If he thinks that Sola Scriptura hasn’t been employed correctly in these cases, then why doens’t he advocate changing his and other Protestant Confessions and why doesn’t he argue that the Reformers and their children screwed up the doctrine of God and/or creation due to Platonism and Gnosticism? (I encourage Catholic readers to start going through systematic theologies to start finding other doctrines that are specifically philosophical in content and run the same kind of argument. Go get’em boys!)

Now, from an Orthodox perspective this is just jim-dandy. I get to see Catholics use Orthodox arguments against Protestants and Protestants who hold doctrines as de fide without Scriptural warrant grasp at straws. Of course, White and other Protestants could avail themselves of Catholic arguments from philosophical theology but of course that wouldn’t be consistent with Sola Scriptura. And besides, what a hoot that would be to watch, Protestants using Catholic arguments to defend their dogmas. What more could I ask for? Where’s the Cracker Jacks?

41 Responses to An Apologetic Two-fer

  1. Theron says:

    Someone at the site above has questioned our insistence on the importance of the filioque. I didn’t know if anyone wanted to follow the comments and jump into the discussion.

  2. Rob Grano says:

    “My answer was also facetious, but that didn’t come across as well as I had hoped.”

    Alas, such is the nature of bloggery!

  3. My answer was also facetious, but that didn’t come across as well as I had hoped. 🙂

  4. Rob Grano says:

    “Your mistake would be the intellectual charity in thinking that this is actually rational.”

    I’m aware of this, Jonathan! My questions were facetious. As one critic of Calvinism said, the motto of Calvinists ought to be the same as that of silversmiths: “All manner of fancy turnings and twistings done here!”

  5. Consistency in what “acceptance” means? Heaven forfend!

    As applied to Catholics, we are in fact inconsistent with Galatians for accepting the concept of invincible ignorance (see James Swan’s 7/24/06 blog entry on Gerry Matatics).

    But if a so-called “hyper-Calvinist” should suggest that someone actually must know the Gospel to be saved, then the protest is that salvation is by grace. So as long as Christ’s grace is directed to the person, they don’t actually have to believe correctly, basically asserting that Christ is free to “sanctify them and cause them to grow in His grace and knowledge,” leaving aside the fact that, according to their interpretation of Galatians, God has already limited His own freedom by condemning those who believe a false Gospel:

    As one might expect with an incohrent system, they simply profess both incompatible statements (that Galatians condemn those who believe a different Gospel, but believing a different Gospel does not mean that one isn’t saved) without even attempting to reconcile them. Your mistake would be the intellectual charity in thinking that this is actually rational. Might as well be trying to confer legitimacy on astrology or cartomancy.

  6. Rob Grano says:

    True, Jonathan. But what of the poor sod who, even though he may have a good heart, knowingly holds the dreaded WRONG VIEW of salvation? Can one knowingly be a synergist and still be saved, for instance? Wouldn’t that imply acceptance of “another gospel”?

  7. It seems to follow from this that only those who believe in this understanding of soteriology can be saved.

    Ah, but you forgot the “your heart’s in the right place” exception. Since the Magisterium of scholars are the only real experts, you can’t blame the poor innocents who simply don’t know row to read koine Greek. As long as they are sufficiently docile in the acceptance of magisterial pronouncements on what the Bible really means and the fiat definition of Scriptural authority, then you can still be saved.

  8. Rob Grano says:

    ‘The only doctrine that is actually important is soteriology by election through the crucifixion of Christ, the only real dogma is that it isn’t synergistic in operation, and the only justification is that Scripture “clearly” teaches it.’

    It seems to follow from this that only those who believe in this understanding of soteriology can be saved. If this is the case, as Fr. Patrick Reardon has pointed out to Michael Horton, one is no longer saved then by grace alone through faith alone, but with the additional condition of holding the “correct” theology of same.

  9. Because they’ll either rationalize it, like Gerald Bray did, or just deny it, because there are no consequences for denying historical confessions on allegedly Scriptural grounds:

    At some point, you have to find something to which they are indubitably committed. Realistically, they aren’t committed to anything in terms of Christology, theology, or doctrine of creation; all of that is just speculative opinion regarding a “mystery.” That’s why they don’t care about the condemnation of Nestorianism or the like.

    The only doctrine that is actually important is soteriology by election through the crucifixion of Christ, the only real dogma is that it isn’t synergistic in operation, and the only justification is that Scripture “clearly” teaches it. Since the definition of “clear” is basically circular (Scripture clearly teaches soteriology by election, and the only clear teaching of Scripture is soteriology by election), everything else gets thrown by rule of hyper-skepticism into the bin of extra-Biblical speculation that people can believe or not. It seems bizarre that confessions of faith have become suggestions, but that’s what ceding authority to a Magisterium of scholars does for you.

    That’s why I say you might as well start with the commitment to Scripture as a justification in the first place. The only way to break the circle is to say, “Why should we believe what Scripture says?” Apart from pointing out that it’s irrational for them to accept the authority of Scripture in the first place, I don’t really see any other apologetic strategy with a hope of being productive.

  10. Peter says:

    O.K., Perry.

  11. Apolonio says:


    oh, and the reason why i wrote that about white is not that his arguments are absolutely terrible, but because he claims to be a scholar and is proud of his fake doctorate. and he focuses so much on public moderated debates that it is just laughable. again, anyone who has rigorous training can see why. or, if anyone wants to see a philosophical piece on debates, see A. Goldman’s Knowledge in a Social World on “Argumentation” and his article on Experts.

  12. Apolonio says:


    engwer majored in english though didn’t he? he may very well be good in interpreting shakespeare, i dunno. what i said about rutgers is more of what i learned from great people here, not so much what i have done by myself. and actually, if you do take advantage of the philosophers here, you will learn how to argue properly. they’re a bit tough here and they will nail you down if you use one word that’s not supposed to be there. i presented a paper in ernie sosa’s graduate class and they nailed me down. but you don’t see them saying, “A ha! Beat you! Stop writing!”


    i personally think slu is great. whether you agree with her or not, i think stump has done some nice stuff on philosophy of religion. greco is also good. he was kind enough to interact with me on what i was working on, that is, epistemic disagreements.

  13. Perry Robinson says:


    The answer is yes, we do. Its called a council, which has managed to depose Popes btw. Of course priests and even laymen can be infallible teachers. I don’t wish this thread to get hijacked at the moment. I’d prefer if people honed in on the reason why Protestants hold to divine simplicty and the filioque even though such things don’t seem to be supported by scripture alone.

  14. Peter says:

    Sorry Mike L, I forgot to put you in my little list of luminaries above with Perry, Johnathan and
    Photios. 🙂

  15. Peter says:

    Greetings Anna,

    Do the EO faithful believe that your priests have the charism of infallibility so that when guiding you in a faith or moral issue he will not inadervantly teach you error? It is my understanding that you don’t. Is there any kind of mechanism within Eastern Orthodoxy to settle any theological differences and give decisions that are binding on the faithful? I definitely do not know the answer to this latter question.

  16. Perry Robinson says:

    Well to appeal to US news seems pretty lame to me because you can have a great school but a weak department forwhatever reason. So, anyone with half a brain knows that Rutgers is top notch for Philosophy. Just check out The Leighter rankings for example. Rutgers is # 2.

    It also matters what you are going to the department for. SLU for example isn’t ranked high at all, but in its area of specialization we beat out just about everyone in medieval and # 2 slot for phil religion. For our size, that says a bunch.

    Nuff said.

  17. Speaking of just not getting it, Steve Hays says of Apolonio’s claim that Rutgers is one of the best schools:
    “Scroll down…WAY down (59th, to be exact).

    Errr, yeah, 59th in TIER ONE. That’s practically the definition of one of the best schools, and for a state school having to compensate for the inherent rating advantage given to private schools on things like class size, being in Tier One is an outstanding indication of academic quality. And I’m a graduate of THREE Tier One schools (Harvard #2, texas university #44t/#13t public, and Texas A&M #62/#21 public), and I was a TA for undergraduates at two of them, so I oughtta know. 🙂

    The irony is that he’s also trashing the alma mater of Triablogger Jason Engwer (Penn State, #48/#14 public). But I would urge a bit of humility on Apolonio, since Engwer clearly demonstrates that going to a well-ranked school doesn’t mean that you’ll actually learn much about scholarly argumentation! The real point with White is not simply that he lacks education but that he lacks both education and competence.

  18. Anna says:


    Orthodox too have a visible head to whom they can (and–in my case–DO) run childishly and reflexively: their priest.

  19. kepha:
    The problem is that when an educated Catholic (at least) quotes so-and-so in support of a dogma, then they are very rarely citing that person as historical evidence of the constant presence of some particular dogma. Rather, they are cited to show the theological reasoning that produced the recognition and the fact that the recognition was not inconsistent with what has previously been explicitly recognized. That’s what development essentially is in Catholicism: a collection of theological reasoning about revelation that has been made binding. Remember that theology is a science in Catholicism (I have an earlier post on this thread that appears to have been lost in the moderation queue, but you can read it here: ). By way of analogy, the fact that Newton discovered laws of motion or Einstein discovered relativity doesn’t mean that gravity didn’t exist before. It simply means that no one knew it for what it really was. Likewise with something like papal succession or episcopal succession. Most Catholics that I know aren’t making historical claims any stronger than those. Basically, the respective Fathers are being held out as the discoverers of the explicit dogma, much as Newton discovered the explicit laws of motion.

    It’s not that most Catholics haven’t read the people you cited, not to mention Peter Lampe, Francis Oakley, Brian Tierney, Raymond Brown, and some others you might have cited as people who supposedly “discredit” Catholicism. But if you think that the Catholic claims are “discredited” by them, then I think you might well not understand what those claims are. For that reason, I might respectfully suggest that where you think White might have pulled a “gotcha” in a debate, all he actually did was show that he didn’t really understand his opponent’s position, bringing up a completely irrelevant piece of scholarship that had nothing to do with the Catholic claim. It’s that sort of obfuscation that is typically avoided in more sober academic study.

    In any event, you have no cause to accuse Catholics of either disregarding or concealing the scholarship you mention. In point of fact, most of that scholarship isn’t even relevant, because it doesn’t contradict what the Catholic apologist is actually claiming.

  20. Peter says:

    God intended for some men to become learned in the deeper theological truths and in turn help men like me come to appreciate these truths and to also help us to worship in truth. Some of us peons, though, are very thick and will not be able to get our heads around issues, to any meaningful degree, such as the filioque. When Perry, Johnathan or Photios Jones and others go to the upper levels of theological discourse and Church history, I can honestly say that I don’t have a clue as to who is presenting the correct theology or history. I do not possess the cognitive ability to sort out their arguments. Thanks be to God that He left me a Church with a visible head so that I can see where I can childishly and reflexively run to in times of doctrinal confusion; this much, makes sense to me. Respectfully submitted.

  21. kepha says:

    Mr. Grano,

    I have read and re-read and continue to re-read the Apostolic Fathers. I use Michael Holmes’ The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Baker 2002). This was my textbook for my Western Theological Tradition course. I am just now broadening my reading of the Fathers, e.g., I read St. Justin Apology earlier this year, as well as St. Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Catholic Church.

    I’m sorry I gave the impression that I don’t read the sources. I belong to a (Catholic) Liberal Arts institution that is structured around reading the sources. As my (partial) summer reading list reveals, however, I do indeed read the scholars on the Fathers as well. I am no scholar. God willing, one day I will be! To me, we can all read the Bible as well as the Fathers and then get into a quote or reference match, but this will be of no benefit. If an educated lay person wants to quote so-and-so in defense of a dogma, then I think it would be of immense benefit to the quest for Truth if recourse is had to academically trained scholars who specialize in the area or subject in question.

    For example, 1 Clement is frequently quoted as supporting apostolic succession. This text in conjunction with Ignatius’ letters are then taken to teach episcopal succession. Ireneaus is then brought into show the primacy of Roman sucession. All I’m saying is let’s see what scholars have to say on these issues as well, e.g., Fr. Francis A. Sullivan’s From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church (Paulist Press 2001). In this case, we have three sources: 1) 1 Clement and Ignatius’ letters; 2) Catholic apologist; 3) Catholic scholar.

    Mr. Robinson,

    Are you going to comment on the cross-examination period between Dr.White and now-Dr. Sungenis?

  22. Rob Grano says:

    BTW, Kepha, from your reading list above it appears that you’re reading a lot of 2ndry sources but not the Fathers themselves. You ought to rectify that.

  23. Rob Grano says:

    Kepha, I’m an Orthodox and not a Catholic, but I agree with Jonathan. By all means, we encourage Protestants to not just to take our word for things but to read the sources and the Fathers themselves on these issues. If you can manage to remove your Reformation spectacles for half a tick and do it, even better.

  24. kepha says:

    Prejean, are your comments a joke? Sorry, it’s hard to tell.

  25. Orthodox says:

    I made a few comments on James White’s latest antics.

  26. kepha:
    I’m more than a bit troubled by the assertion that there is anything that “Catholics would not otherwise tell you.” I’m a Catholic, and I don’t keep any secrets about what I know or conceal my true belief on the subject, nor am I aware of any dogmatic requirement to conceal the Catholic belief on any subject. That in itself is part of the whole conspiracy theory mentality that seems to be created by the debate atmosphere. A debate makes it seem like momentous issues are decided by little “Aha!” moments when the flaws in someone’s position are “exposed,” when real scholarly debates are rarely so easily or conclusively resolved. Moreover, the sources that might “surprise” an opponent in a debate are well known to those aware of the scholarship.

    It appears that your estimation that Apolonio would not consider the people you listed as scholars and your conclusion that they “discredit” the Catholic position, as if no honest person could be Catholic, seems to fall along the same “vast Romish conspiracy” lines. Perhaps you really think that there is a systematic disinformation campaign by Catholic apologists that needs to be exposed, to “reveal the integrity” of Catholic apologists in your terms. But if you honestly believe that, then with all due respect, you’re a barking moonbat who needs to move back into the ZIP code of reality at some point. By and large (and I personally know of no exceptions), any Catholic apologist I know would happily encourage you to review the primary and secondary sources yourself to see whether what they say is true.

  27. Apolonio says:


    uh…I wasn’t even referring to you in my post. it’s good to know you read those though.

    and debate White? Again, as I said, he’s not a threat. I’d rather interact with real scholars than him. Plus, I have an article I am trying to write for publication and I would like to finish that before I go to the seminary or else I won’t be able to. Then I have an independent study I am excited about, which is on the problem of evil. I am also trying to think of a way to counter Hauerwas’s critique of Giussani’s methodology, a good for my soul as well as, I believe, to my friends in Communion and Liberation which I am a part in. Then I have to think if I should write something for the Hildebrand conference taking place in October. I have students to teach (5th grade) which I need to work and pray hard on. I am interacting with a recent graduate from JP Institute on ANT, HIV/condoms, and frozen embryos, a paper she will like to publish on. I have a little talk I have to prepare here in Rutgers. On and on. I’ll let popular apologists debate White. Thanks for thinking that I’ll put him out of commission though, but that’s not God’s calling for me at this moment and I don’t think it is His calling at all.

  28. kepha says:


    I hope you aren’t suggesting that I have not and do not read the works of scholars. I just got through reading a Fr. David Balas and D. Jeffrey Bingham’s contribution, Patristic Exegesis on the Books of the Bible, in Chalres Kannengiesser’s Handbook of Patristic Exegesis, as well as Norbert Brox’s Irenaeus and the Bible, in the same book. I have been reading through The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West: From the Carolingians to the Maurists edited by Irena Backus. Last month I finished W.H.C. Frend’s The Early Church. Before that I read Robert Lee Williams’ dissertation, Bishop Lists: Formation of Apostolic Succession of Bishops in Ecclesiastical Crises. Before this I read David Rankin’s Tertullian and the Church. I don’t if these count as real scholars to you. Probably not since everyone of these works while not at all anti-Catholic nevertheless discredit the Catholic position.

    As far as Dr. White is concerned: why don’t you debate him? You obviously can beat the tar out of him. Put him out of commission. Why let him continue to attack Holy Mother Church?

  29. Apolonio says:

    Mr. White isn’t a reputable scholar as Perry already said. He is a popular apologist and the public moderated debates seem to be just for show sometimes. Notice that he always wants things public, either his radio, CA’s radio, moderated debates, etc as if having dinner and debating these things are not enough. I used to be into those Catholic/Protestant and Craig debates in high school when I thought it was cool. Until, of course, I encountered a more rigorous way of interacting with ideas. Being in a prominent university with a top philosophy department will do that to you. Plus, I have learned to read actual scholars, not those who quote Athanasius in a debate as if that reveals anything, but those who actually spent a lot of their life studying the Fathers, Scripture, etc.

    And the whole notion that just because you can’t answer a question in a debate, therefore you lose, is ridiculous. If you don’t think it is, just go to a conference or a seminar. There will be times when you simply don’t know the answer. That doesn’t mean anything. There are so many Protestant ideas around that White’s arguments would be the least thing I am concerned about. First, again, he isn’t a reputable scholar. I’d rather go to actual scholars. If I want to read about Paul, I’d go to Schriener, Dunn, Wright, Boyarin, Roo, Sanders, etc. If I wanna see what kind of argument White would present I’d rather see what Carson has to say. Second, he doesn’t have the philosophical sophistication that is needed to do theology. As Perry already noted, he doesn’t know a lot about philosophy of language. You can also look at his response to Beckwith’s conversion and you will see his arguments about Beckwith reading Trent laughable. Those are the types of arguments you would like give an example of a bad argumentation in a logic and reasoning 101 course. Third, what has he really contributed in theology? Nothing. His dissertation is crappy. Yeah, it may be good for the pew but I don’t think he defended his thesis and his thesis doesn’t have anything new to add in the debate. That’s the type of work you should see in an undergraduate course. I mean, if he sends that to a reputable peer-reviewed journal and they accepted it, I might change my mind. But he doesn’t have any contribution at all. Yeah he debated Spong and Crossan. But those are dead horses. Wright already beat the crap out of Crossan. And Spong..well, who the heck takes him seriously nowadays? Sungenis is terrible in theology. Fr. Pacwa isn’t a Schindler, Scola, Schonborn, etc. On and on.

  30. kepha says:

    Mr. Robinson,

    I was about to transcribe the exchange between Dr. White and now-Dr. Sungenis, but then I remembered that Sungenis has the ENTIRE exchange on his website for free. Here is the link:

    I disagree that debates “don’t tend to solve much of anything.” I find them to be very helpful. As far as Dr. White’s debates, I have learned much from a historical perspective, not in the sense that I have simply believed whatever historical evidence Dr. White has presented, but because he has revealed things that Catholics would not otherwise tell you, e.g., that only a remnant of the Fathers believed that Peter was the Rock of Mt 16, that Cyprian believed all bishops are Peter’s successors, or simply reading the rest of a passage — even a footnote! — from a Protestant scholar who would otherwise be painted as supporting the Catholic side. There are many such instances as these. These sorts of things reveal the apologetical and investigative methodology of the Catholic apologists. In short, although Dr. White is incredibly polemical and passionate (unfortunately, this turns many people off), his debates with Catholics, in my opinion, reveal the integrity of his Catholic opponents.

  31. Rob Grano says:

    James White does not impress me as a debater because he tends to stray from the terms of the debate and recast issues on his own terms. The problem with Fr. Pacwa as a debater is that he often grants his opponent’s presuppositions (i.e., sola scriptura) thus giving them an advantage. On the other hand, I listened to a debate between White and either James Akin or Gary Mataticks over sola scriptura where White got his clock cleaned because his opponent refused to grant him one inch and also refused to let White steer away from the topic at hand. That’s what you have to do with these guys — eschew ‘playing nice’ and make them stick to their guns.

    Still, in general I agree with Perry — these debates don’t tend to solve much of anything, and I’m kind of glad that Orthodox avoid them.

  32. Rob Grano says:

    For what it’s worth, the “Protestant” work on the procession of the Holy Spirit (and defense of the filioque) that has most often been recommended to me by Protestants is the one by E.B. Pusey (who was, in fact, an Anglo-Catholic.) I don’t remember the title offhand, but it’s been quoted to me by scholarly Anglicans, Calvinists, and Lutherans.

  33. Perry Robinson says:


    Make the text as clear as you like but the issue will remain the clarity of the mind for the two are not the same. In any case, I haven’t been terribly impressed with any of the pop Cath apologists. I don’t read their stuff. I try to focus on Lubac, Lonergan, and classical sources like Augustine, Anselm, Bernard, Aquinas and Scotus. Of course I am not impressed by White either and even fewer classical Protestant writers.

    In any case, what was Sungenis argument specifically and what was White’s reply?

  34. kepha says:

    Mr. Robinson,

    The debate was in October of 2000. I have heard every single debate Dr. White has had on the Papacy with Catholic apologists, and in my opinion the debate now-Dr. Sungenis is BY FAR the best one. I know that Dr. White likes to recommend the one with Fr. Pacwa becaue he clearly beat the crap out of him, but the one with Sungenis is quite different. I don’t mean to suggest that Sungenis won. On the contrary! Sungenis openly argued for circular reasoning; he just did it in a passionate and rhetorical way.


    If their is no clear meaning of Scripture — especially concerning the Messiah Jesus! — then what the hell is the point of being a Chrisitan?! For Christianity to be valid, there must be a singluar Deposit of Faith that was handed down by the Apostles. There must be! If there is not, then I don’t want to be a Christian because the most important link has been broken. . . .

  35. Chris says:

    I vaguely recall this incident with White and that his response was a bit lame.

    True humanity of Jesus? The trouble is, no biblical passage defines true humanity. One might ask if a divine person which Jesus is, is “truly human” in the colloquial sense. Which bits are part and parcel of true humanity, and which are not? Furthermore, what is the will anyway? These problems are exegetical battlegrounds.

    Part of the problem with some of these issues is that people can spend decades contemplating the various scriptures on these issues before coming to a conclusion. They are tough issues. But it’s not very practical to hold off joining a church until you’ve sorted through all the arguments on all the issues to see who is right. I don’t want to have to go re-inventing the wheel.

    Thanks Perry for pointing out some more holes in protestant epistemology. Here’s an exercise for Nicene creed protestants: Go to your eldership and ask them to stop professing the creed because you are no longer convinced of the procession of the Son. See how far you get. My guess is nowhere, because at their heart protestant denominations are frequently just as intractable at change as Orthodoxy. The reason why protestant denominations do change (and radically) is usually not because of sempa reformanda, a good exegetical argument from a parishioner, but because of the charisma of the head pastor, who if he has enough charisma, can change almost anything, to his own whims and fancy.

    And if you lack enough charisma, well then you may get turfed out.

  36. It seems that Sungenis noted the same monothelitism in White’s position, and the creatio ex nihilo point is another one that I had in mind when I pointed out that White is granting too much to Mormonism. He’s more or less a sitting duck for the arguments of Blake Ostler (note that the linked article is direct evidence of an LDS apologist making the very same argument you suggest could be made by open theists). It’s hardly a coincidence that Mormons view Jewish anthropomorphism as philosophically normative; that appears to be what sola scriptura entails.

    I can’t say that I see much merit in the more general suggestion of how Catholics should argue with Protestants. The primary refutation of sola scriptura is that it is absurd as a matter of natural theology and that its conclusions deny certain conclusions of natural theology. The filioque is not a matter of natural theology. The arguments for the filioque merely show that it is consistent with reason, not that the filioque is true (which is why it’s a misrepresentation of the Western filioque to confuse it with the dialectically based philosophical argument).

    Sure, it might demonstrate inconsistency in the methodology to show that Protestants accept things that they oughtn’t, but the Catholic concern is primarily the acceptance of truth, natural or revealed, so our goal is to demonstrate contradictions with what is real, not general internal critiques of someone’s methodology. We care far more about people being wrong than why they are wrong. I couldn’t care less what someone’s “worldview” is, because reality renders one’s “worldview” irrelevant for matters of metaphysics and natural theology. Reality is what it is, and everyone knows it regardless of their private conceptions.

    The fact that intelligent people disagree simply demonstrates the human capacity to conceive of the unreal, which is precisely why demonstrating internal inconsistency is a wild goose chase (one that I thought Godel would have ended by demonstrating its hopelessness). The only thing that demonstrates truth or falsity is denial of actual knowledge about reality, period. Conversely, if one is willing to accept a contradiction, one can be consistent in proving all sorts of untrue things, so the problem is not inconsistency, but untruth. Since Protestants lack formed faith (hence, knowledge of most revealed truths), all I can do is show a denial of what they know or should know by natural reason or that an argument from natural reason that they make is invalid or unsound. Beyond that, I simply have to wait on the grace of God.

    For that same reason, I find the reliance of historical Protestant confessions or other Christian confessions equally fruitless. Because Protestant faith is typically unformed, I have no idea whether they actually believe any of those propositions by faith, and I suspect that in most cases, they believe things inconsistent with them. So why would I make an argument based on their belief on the filioque when I honestly think that they don’t believe it (or at least, don’t believe it according to any coherent concept)?

    I’m amenable to the suggestion that the denial of any doctrine of faith (including the Assumption) by someone who hasn’t even justified his own argument for selecting doctrines of faith is absurd. But it seems a great deal more straightforward simply to point out that he started from a contradiction, such as holding Scripture as the ultimate epistemological authority.

  37. Perry Robinson says:


    I’d be interested in which debate that was and how the topic came up and what White’s response was in sum.

  38. kepha says:

    Mr. Robinson,

    In his debate with now-Dr. Sungenis on the Papacy, Dr. White was pressed pretty intensly by Sungenis in the cross-examination on the biblical basis of Christ’s two wills. It was one of the rare instances — in my opinion at least — when Dr. White was caught off guard. After Sungenis had finished grilling him for a NT passage teaching the Two Wills, Sungenis observed that the only way Dr. White could defend this teaching was by using his reasoning and logic.

    Dr. White didn’t deny this. He simply said that the New Testament teaches that Christ is fully divine and fully human. He referred to St. Paul’s description of the crucified Jesus as the crucifixion of the “Lord of glory.” I won’t layout Dr. White’s entire argument/response. Suffice it to say, that if the New Testament teaches that Jesus is truly human (e.g., the agony in the garden, thirsting, hungering, sleeping, etc.), then it goes without saying that He has a human will. To ask for a biblical passage for the Two Wills of Jesus is the same as asking for one on the True Humanity of Jesus.

    Please forgive me if I am long-winded or taking your thought in a different direction. My point is (my question, really), How is the example I’ve given from Sungenis/White not in accordance with Sola Scriptura? If it is not, then wouldn’t the same principal apply to the Filioque? Please forgive me if I totally misunderstood your post.

  39. David Richards says:

    You have a show on prime time right after Xena: Warrior Princess called Perry: Heresy Slayer.

  40. acolyte says:


    First, you are mistaken since Rome does not accept “through the Son” as the exclusive meaning of the Filioque. It advocates hypostatic procession from the Father and the Son as from one principle. THAT is Florence, which wasn’t accepted by the Orthodox for lots of reasons.

    Second, don’t post here again. I am not going to tolerate people who openly approve of and commend Sodomites and their behavior as compatible with Christianity. As far as I am concerned unrepentant subversives as yourself should be formally excommunicated.

  41. JN1034 says:

    The Orthodox have resolved the filioque controversy with the West. Please read our post at [link removed] and see the notes on the bottom (after the Creed) citing the Church Fathers and that reading the filioque as “through the Son” is quite Orthodox.

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