Update: James White wrote a response to this piece (//link). Well, he tried anyways. I think he was mostly blowing off steam, given the merciless unloading of spitballs blown my way. And, in light of his piece, I'm going to go back on what I'd said to one commenter about the present post being my last on James White for a while. I now plan to post just one more, and then I'll be moving on, at least so far as SBC Tomorrow is concerned. I'll continue to update James White On periodically and as time permits.
James White insists he does not consider himself an "expert" on Islam. Instead he'd prefer others perceive him as a "student" of Islam. To be more precise, White eschews the status of being dubbed an "expert" in Islam. Indeed in Part I, we favorably noted White's distinction drawn between himself as a self-described "student" of Islam" and others presumably like the Caners who have been "given the status" as "experts."
In their book entitled More Than a Prophet (Kregal Books, 2003), Ergun and Emir Caner write:
"This book is not a comprehensive guide to Islam. There is no such thing... Others have called us "experts" in the subject. No one--not even a Muslim ulema--is an expert in all the complexities of Islam...We continue to grow in our knowledge of this historic religion" (p.21; emphasis added).
Scroll to page 21 and read the second full paragraph. These words were written by the Caners in 2003
Question: did James White take a cue from the Caners on describing himself as a student of Islam rather than an expert in Islam? The reader can be the judge.
One thing is certain: given the Caner brothers' denial above, it seems right to conclude that the widespread "expert" status the Caners have obtained through the years is not because they proclaimed themselves "experts"; rather it is because their personal and academic backgrounds, coupled with an undeniably passionate ethos in public communication, naturally drew the cultural many to bestow upon them the "expert" status.
Allow me to repeat a lengthy quote from James White:
“Once again Lumpkins shows himself utterly incapable of either research, or honesty, or both. Those who have taken the time to listen to my debates, or listen to my lectures, or listen to my interactions with Islamic claims on the Dividing Line… know that I have consistently eschewed the title of "expert on Islam." Honest people know I refer to myself as a student of Islam… So once again Peter Lumpkins has beaten up a straw-man of his own imagination, which is about as far as he has ever gotten in his campaigns of late.” (emphasis original; //link)
As I noted here, White has improved significantly in his standard reaction to most things I write. Let’s just say, James White really likes to call people liars. At least in the above “critique,” White offers an option that his problem with me, contrary to before, is a question of “research” and alleged “straw-man” arguments not personal character. Let’s see if White can make the tar I am “utterly incapable of either research or honesty, or both” stick.
James White insists that anyone who’s taken the time to “listen to his debates” and "interactions" with Muslims will come away from them with the clear understanding that he has ‘consistently eschewed the title of "expert on Islam"’ (italics original; embolden added). Instead White humbly claims he is but a lowly “student.”
My contention is, whatever James White may claim about his abilities in Muslim thinking, it is not entirely accurate to describe him as personally coming across as a “student” of Islam rather than an “expert” in Islam. In fact, White comes across at times as highly offended anyone would dare question his “scholarship” in Islamic studies.
Allow me to show you what I mean*:
If James White viewed himself merely as a “student” of Islam, why was he so aggressively defending against those he perceived as “attacking his scholarship” in Muslim thinking? Hence, we could rightly ask, in view of the above clip with White complaining about Muslim apologists “attacking his scholarship,” is it fair for James White to not only claim he has ‘consistently eschewed the title of "expert on Islam,"’ but also dub those who raise the question as “utterly incapable of either research, or honesty, or both”? I do not think it is fair.
Indeed perhaps Mr. White needs to listen to more of his own debates and/or interactions with Muslim apologists. White’s fuse is fairly short when someone raises questions or, as he puts it, “attacks my scholarship.” But why should this be if White is but a “student” of Islam and not an “expert” in Islam?
As for me, I do not have a clue.
Another example comes to mind if James White does not consider himself an “expert” in Islam but a mere “student” of Islam. In a recent Christianity Today article, John Kennedy quoted James White as an authority “who teaches on Islam at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary” (//link). White is quoted as expressing his concern that a man (Caner) poses himself as an Islamic expert (when, the implication is, Caner clearly is not) going around doing the things he (i.e. White) does. Presumably, White was referring to his debates with Muslim apologists (one of which I mentioned here).
First, to read Kennedy’s article and expect readers to come away with the impression that James White considers himself a “student” of Islam and not an “expert” in Islam is hardly credible. Kennedy unequivocally states James White teaches Islam at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. What is the average reader to assume? If Golden Gate seminary is a credible, graduate-level theological institution, and James White teaches Islam at a credible, graduate-level theological institution, then James White is most likely an “expert” in the subject he teaches at the graduate-level.
Second, it’s highly questionable at best whether James White should have allowed the CT article to stand as written concerning Kennedy’s assertion that he, in fact, “teaches on Islam at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.” Why? Because James White does not teach Islam at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. While it’s true he taught a 3 day intensive course in January--a course in Christian Apologetics in general not Islam in particular (//link)--White currently has no contract with Golden Gate to teach any subject, much less Islam.
And, the official word is, James White will not be offered any future contract as adjunct instructor to teach any subject for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary including Islam.
In light of this, it is not unreasonable to query whether it was morally sober for White to allow Christianity Today to refer to him as currently teaching Islam at Golden Gate when, in reality, he was not; he is not; and, the official word is, he will not. James White evidently had no contract with Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary to teach apologetics generally or Islam particularly when CT interviewed him. Yet, White still allowed the false impression to stand that he teaches Islam at Golden Gate.
We might also query if such a reference—a reference to White as presently teaching Islam at a respectable, graduate-level theological institution--gave the impression James White was and is an “expert” in Islam? I think, for the average reader, it most certainly does.
And, if this is so, then James White insisting he ‘consistently eschewed the title of "expert on Islam”’ becomes much harder to accept.
In fact, James White needs to clarify the wrong impression the CT article leaves by correcting its error concerning his relationship with Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
With that, I am…