Monday, June 09, 2008

"Do As I Say and Not What I Do". . .James White Style

Over on the Catholic Champion Blog, Mr. Bellisario ran article titled: James (Everything is a medieval invention of Rome) White and his antics on Rome, and relics. While this article provides an excellent discussion about the issue of how relics of saints and martyrs was truly viewed by the early Catholic Church as opposed to Professor James White's a-historical notion that the veneration of relics was merely an unscriptural human tradition invented sometime during medieval times apparently by superstitious monks or peasants, it was not the refutation of Professor White's view that caught my eye, but the manner in which he treated a gentleman who goes by the tag "Kepha" who commented on the article.

Kepha stated here:

I do wonder why Dr. White doesn't address more often the issue of the Early Church's belief and practice of intercession and veneration of the saints. Why doesn't he deal substantially with Augustine's or Jerome's or Chrysostom's understandings of these issues?

Regarding his comments about Catholic scholarship, I beginning to think that Dr. White knows nothing about Catholic scholarship, because he shows no knowledge of the numerous works of de Lubac, von Balthasar, Journet or Ratzinger.

After making his obligatory anti-Catholic snipe, Professor White, using his DrOakley alter ego, responds to Kepha's remarks as follows:

Kepha: thanks for the knife in the back, friend! I see TGE has worked his magic with you. Feel free to drop in to channel and make your comments. That's the least you can do, don't you think?

Anti-Catholic apologists often criticize Catholics (or in their vernacular, Romanists, Papists, or the less pejorative, Roman Catholic) for blindly following Catholic teaching without question, usually citing Acts 17:11 and the example of the noble- minded Bereans who questioned the veracity of St. Paul's teachings and tested them against the Scriptures. How ironic that an anti-Catholic apologist would criticize someone for questioning the veracity of his own teachings by testing them against what the Early Church Fathers believed and taught from the Scriptures! I guess that the example of the noble Bereans isn't to be followed when it comes to the teachings of James White. Perhaps Professor White doesn't make "a demand of lock step unanimity" on his employees at Team Apologian, but apparently does require such of his readers. How Romish of him!

Rather than taking Kepha's comments as a personal slight, would it not have been better for Professor White to show restraint and kindness and use this occasion as an opportunity to be humble, acknowledge that like very many of us, he does not always "get it right", and charitably and gently offer to clarify his remarks or correct his mistakes? Or better yet, if he had believed that his view is historically and theologically accurate, couldn't he have used this occasion as an opportunity to teach? I hope that if I am ever placed in such a position, I would have the courage to forgive Kepha for any perceived slight and apologize for my failure in not teaching clearly and correctly and resolve to do better next time. (I suspect that until I get this apologetics stuff down, I will be doing a lot of apologizing for my failures.)

While apologists, both Catholic and Protestant, like to cite 1 Pt. 3:15 as a justification for their apologetic work, it is important to remember that as Christians we all are to be more than prepared to give a defense for what we believe, we must also be prepared always to offer our defense of the Gospel with gentleness and reverence. (Id.) We must offer that defense of the Gospel in such a manner that those who revile our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame by their bad, un-Christlike behavior. (1 Pt. 3:16) Our first pope also offers a list in the fourth chapter of his letter how we as Christians should set the example as stewards of God's grace. St. Peter tells us that we should be sane and sober when we pray. We should hold our love for each other unfailingly. We should always practice hospitality in an ungrudging manner. Most of all, we are called upon to be stewards of God's grace and employ our varied gifts from God in such a way that in everything we do, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Pt. 4:7-11)

St. Peter's use of the word steward has some very significant connotations as well. In Old English, the steward was the person who kept the hall of his master and decided who could enter or leave. However, the word means more than that here. It means being a fiduciary, that is a person who stands in a special relation of trust, confidence, or responsibility in certain obligations to others. Thus, whatever grace God chooses to give us, we are compelled to use that gift of grace in such a way that it increases. (Mt. 25:14-30) Rather than worrying about whether a neighbor has "stabbed" us in the back, we, as Christians, have an obligation to make sure that an unkind word from any of our mouths do not lead our neighbor into sin thereby possbily impaling one's soul.

I hope and pray that in doing apologetic work here, I will always practice stewardship with humilty and humbleness towards my neighbor.