UPDATE: James White responded to this piece (perhaps emotionally reacted is a better description. In fact, White appears so emotionally distraught over the post below, he wouldn't even link to it.). And, I must thank him for offering yet another layer to the pile of evidence for my contention that James White routinely specializes in vicious verbal and moral assaults against those who offer public critiques of his considerable errors. Apparently, according to White, I now suffer from some form of derangement. So be it. Perhaps I do. On the other hand, what does my alleged derangement have to do with whether or not James White hacked my piece entitled "John Calvin: A Real Evangelical Cover Up" by misstating I used a single source for my conclusions concerning Servetus when I actually used four sources? Furthermore, how does my supposed derangement affect White's unsubstantiated judgment that I used the "most biased" source when a) White cannot substantiate his judgment why an attorney's research automatically constitutes "most biased" because we're all supposed to know attorneys "don't do really good history"; b) cannot explain the conclusions of three eminent church historians whose speciality is Reformation era studies, conclusions which call into question White's defense of Calvin murdering Servetus? Mormons unfortunately are correct. James White routinely ignores real issues only to descend into the abyss of the you-sir-are-a-liar type argumentation. Hence, Part 2 of "James White and Historical Hooey" is still in queue regardless of White's emotional flurry.
Recently I published a post entitled "John Calvin: A Real Evangelical Cover Up." In the piece, I sought to show that many strict Calvinists like James White gloss over John Calvin's role in the butchery of Michael Servetus on October 27, 1553.1 James White responded to my piece on his radio show and surely did not disappoint his contentious followers.
According to White, my piece was based upon the "most biased source on the Servetus affair" which was written by an attorney not a church historian; and, White claims, we all know attorneys "don't do really good history." The fact remains, if we're to believe White, the source not being written by a historian wouldn't hinder me from using it. Why? Well, White claims that the "soundness, fairness of any type of material is irrelevant to Peter Lumpkins. The man does not understand the concept of honesty, integrity, truthfulness, anything like that whatsoever. We've proven that over and over and over again... Petey Lumpkins is not honest..." White goes further and concludes "So there are some people we have to identify as being dishonest, because they're liars. And Petey Lumpkins is one of them. That's just been a fact."
Hence, for White, my brief essay on John Calvin and Servetus in its entirety was "just one huge spin machine." Why? Because White claims I drew "from a single source," a source which White contends lacked balance—"Does he draw from balanced, historical sources? No he does not."
White then emphatically announces:
"None of these people are historians. None of them would ever survive being placed in their own historical context. It is so unfair, it is so grossly unfair to go after Calvin this way and to try to cover for a liar doing this. It just...the dishonesty level broke my meter. It's just reprehensible."
Toward the end of the broadcast, White says the first class he ever taught after he graduated from seminary was at Grand Canyon College. The subject was church history, a subject he'll apparently be teaching in Europe sometime next month.
In conclusion, all of White's claims he made on the Dividing Line broadcast are supposed to demonstrate to White's listeners "the abject ignorance of Petey Lumpkins and anybody who will read his material and follow it."
I think it only right to briefly respond to White's incredible claims even though I'll confess it's getting harder to do so. I've never, in my sixty years on this earth, encountered another human being so coldly, consistently, and belligerently set on verbally and morally assaulting other people as liars, deceivers, frauds, imbeciles, idiots, and overall nincompoops as James White. One waits in vain as he or she listens to this particular broadcast for White to address a single historical claim I made in my piece proving to the listener my "abject ignorance." But nothing ever surfaces. Nothing. Not a single disputed historical fact in my piece does James White correct by quoting more reliable sources to counter my claims, or better still, quoting the primary historical record itself. At one point, White supposedly planned to read from a particular source but tells his listeners "I forgot to bring it" (nor did White even identify the source for the benefit of the listening audience).
Indeed the only critical remarks White makes concerning my piece is dismissal on one hand and insulting rants against me personally on the other. And, so far as I am concerned, James White's verbal rants are becoming more tortuous to endure, and I'm convinced remains one of the reasons—if not the chief reason—White gets few takers in attempting to soberly exchange with him over a particular issue. White appears virtually blind to his obnoxious behavior and often attributes the lack of calls to his radio show to other people's cowardice. In other words, it's their fault. They can't face him. They can't stand up to White's self-asserted, irrefutable cross-examination. So, he boldly concludes, they're cowards!
Unfortunately for White, perhaps the reason why many do not bother to engage him has little if anything to say about courage or lack of it. Rather they simply refuse to engage someone who routinely assaults others both verbally and morally with the kind of you-sir-are-a-liar flurries for which White has become quite infamous. In short, James White might whine all he wishes about no one calling his radio show to engage issues. Granted. But in reality it's entirely more probable the air-wave crickets chirp not because people fear White but because they do not think the personal exchange they'll have with him is worth the ticket price they'll pay for moral insults necessarily endured if they do engage him. Consider the arrogant earful one Muslim apologist apparently received from James White after attempting to engage him:
'You see Nadir, you are not up to par with me, for I am superior, Because you are not up to par with me, you are just like a regular Joe Shmoe caller who calls in AND THAT IS HOW YOU WILL BE TREATED. Joe Shmoes DO NOT get to establish any ground rules. NONE. Get it? But no worries, I'll be equitable with you….But Nadir, if you do decide to call, keep one thing in mind: "You are inviting yourself on my show"' (all emphasis original)2
Let's move on to White's specific claims concerning my alleged "abject ignorance" on the Calvin-Servetus affair.
First, White claimed I used in my article not only a single source pertaining to Servetus, but also claimed the single source I used constitutes the "most biased source" concerning John Calvin and Michael Servetus. Obviously, White didn't read the footnotes. Had he read them, he'd have seen that I used four main sources for my post: Stanford Rives, William G. Naphy, Steven Ozment, and David Benedict.
- Benedict was a renowned Baptist historian (1779-1884)
- Naphy is a world class scholar in Reformation History presently teaching at the University of Aberdeen. Naphy delivered the keynote address at the conference on Calvin and his Influence, 1509-2009 held in Geneva in May 2009
- Ozment presently teaches at Harvard University and is considered one of the top scholars in the world on the Reformation era
- Rives is the least impressive of the four sources so far as academia is concerned. He's an accomplished attorney and authored the book I cited, Did Calvin Murder Servetus? But White strangely swipes at Rives because he is an attorney and according to White attorneys, of course, "don't do really good history." And, what would White base this judgment upon? Why are attorneys especially bad at history? Are attorneys any worse at history than polemical theologians like James White? If so, White should carefully make his case since he just insulted a respectable discipline without the slightest hint of evidence for his judgment. In fact, major universities seem to wholeheartedly disagree with White's broadbrush concerning attorneys necessarily being bad at history.
Even so, I used all four sources to substantiate my post and carefully cited each source appropriately. Why then does James White claim I used only a single source? Given White's persistent charges of "dishonesty," "lying," and outright "deception" toward those who make similar mistakes concerning something he might have written, I suppose I could follow his personal precedent and call James White to public repentance for lying about my post (perhaps White should also publicly repent for lying about lawyers!).
What is more, contrary to what White claimed (or, being consistent with James White, "contrary to how White lied" might be a better way to phrase it) not only did I use four sources not merely one, neither does White's claim that I used the "most biased source on the Servetus affair" make any sense at all. Most biased source according to whom? James White? Is James White an expert in church history? He claims the first class he ever taught post seminary was church history at Grand Canyon College. So? Does teaching an entry level college course in church history some 20+ years ago make one an accomplished expert in church history? I'd be willing to bet I've had as much or perhaps even more graduate work completed in church history than James White. Does this make me an expert in church history? If James White is not an expert in church history, then whose criteria is he using to judge my sources as the "most biased" sources one could use?
White even announced "None of these people are historians." Correct. I've never once suggested I was. On the other hand, neither is James White a historian. He didn't major in church history in college. Perhaps he did in seminary at Fuller, but I doubt that. Otherwise White has two unaccredited doctoral degrees from Columbia Evangelical Seminary where apparently he received the degrees in exchange for two book manuscripts, manuscripts neither of which demonstrates expertise in church history. At least that's the impression one gets when reading White trying to convince Mormon educators about the validity of his degrees.3 So if White is not an expert in church history, just what does he mean by "None of these people are historians"? Neither is White!
Even more incredible is, so far as I can tell, James White didn't use a single source in the entire half hour or so he talked about Calvin and Servetus. Not one. Even for sweeping historical claims—claims we'll examine in due time—the listener was offered not a single source to substantiate what he insisted were the historical facts contra my supposed "abject ignorance." Hence, White either needs to produce the sources from which he gleaned his sweeping judgments or admit he was just talking off the top of his head and really can't substantiate his claims.
For my part, James White offers the listener way too much historical hooey. As we'll see in Part 2, he waxes long and loud but makes one historical blunder after another. We'll examine those blunders and query if White stands up to what Reformation scholars claim about the Michael Servetus affair.
1Encyclopedia Britannica sets Servetus' day of execution as October 27, 1553. Stanford Rives quotes Sebastian Castellio, a contemporary of Servetus, as stating that on "On October 27, 1553, the Spaniard, Miguel Servetus, was burned in Geneva on account of his religious convictions..." NOTE: originally, I mentioned in this footnote that sources appeared to be conflicting on the actual day of Servetus' execution for heresy. That would be incorrect. All sources I re-checked agree that Servetus was sentenced on October 26, 1553 and executed the following day.
2while this example goes back a few years, it nonetheless demonstrates how entirely presumptuous White is when he routinely claims high ground in dealing with Muslims. He often disses Ergun Caner as not communicating well with Muslims when he himself hardly possesses an honorable track record in engaging others in non-Christian religions. For example, Muslim apologists peel back White's Arabic as some phony, linguistic veneer in this video. Even English speakers can visibly see James White's embarrassing struggle to quote from what evidently is an elementary passage in the Qur'an. The internet is richly sourced with Muslims who definitively ridicule White's deplorable use of Arabic leading, according to them, to his deficient understanding of Islam. More similar sources may be found in a piece I wrote several years ago. NOTE: as one may see from the link in the UPDATE above, James Whtie denies he said these words to the Muslim apologist. He also denies the words in the context of viciously attacking him. The reader can be the judge.
3White's focus switched through the years from Mormonism to Islam. Reading the continued difficulties White experienced with scholarly Mormons who resented White's short-cut in the academic world by obtaining two doctoral degrees under suspicious circumstances makes one wonder if White switched focus in apologetics because he could no longer hold off the questions Mormons continually asked about his degrees. BYU is a world class university demanding excruciating requirements for obtaining the much coveted PhD. Thus, educated Mormons would rightly question a man who appeared to gain the degree in less demanding ways. Still others increasingly have problems with James White's supposed "academic" degrees. I've written extensively on the circumstances surrounding James White's unaccredited ThD as well as his apparent penchant for overstating his academic credentials (for example, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Other apologists, both Christian and non-Christian, have also written extensively concerning White's seemingly inflated academic credentials. For example, two Catholic Christian apologists have raised similar issues to what you'll find in my posts: Dave Armstrong and Jimmy Akin. Also, the "Calvinist Flyswatter" raised legitimate questions on the same subject. Finally, as I indicated above, Mormons have especially been at the forefront of questioning the academic validity of James White's earned doctorate.