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Category: James White (Page 1 of 2)

Response to James White (4 of 4)


James White – Alpha and Omega Ministries


This article is the fourth of a four part series in response to James White’s 13 April 2017 podcast: “Can a Consistent Eastern Orthodox Believer Be the Bible Answer Man?”  For my previous responses, please see: “Response to James White” (1 of 4), (2 of 4) and (3 of 4).  The purpose of these articles is not to defend Hank Hanegraaff, but to promote good reasoning and courteous interaction between Protestants and Orthodox.


Imposing Protestant Expectations on Orthodoxy

At the 16:15 mark, James White cites the Roman Catholic Catechism’s definition then declares that Orthodoxy holds to the same understanding.  In 16:20, he makes the bold assertion that there is no way to define this capital “T” Tradition because there is no Tradition to begin with.  For him it’s just a mishmash of arbitrarily selected sayings from Church Fathers. Here we see the imposing of Protestant expectations on Orthodoxy.  This is the external expectation fallacy, that is, Orthodoxy ought to have a neat, tidy definition of theological terms like those used by Western Christians.

It seems to me that Mr. White has not done his homework.  Has he not read Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware’s modern classic The Orthodox Church?  In chapter 10 “Holy Tradition: The Source of the Orthodox Faith” is a detailed and nuanced discussion of Orthodoxy’s capital “T” Tradition.

Protestants who wish to understand what Tradition is should read Basil the Great’s (c. 329-379) description and defense of unwritten Tradition found in his classic work On the Holy Spirit:

What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition?  (Chapter 27, §66)

Another important source is Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130 – c. 202) who in Against Heresies 4.33.8 gives a detailed description of Apostolic Tradition:

8. True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]. [cf. ANF p. 508]

The multiple citations from a modern twentieth century bishop and two Church Fathers show that Orthodoxy does not lack for a definition of what Apostolic Tradition is.  Mr. White needs to do his homework.  Given his unfamiliarity with the early Church Fathers, it would be good for him and other Protestant apologists to seek the help and guidance of knowledgeable Orthodox Christians.  Hasty generalizations, oversimplification, and faulty equivalence with Roman Catholicism, while entertaining, create obstacles to fruitful Reformed-Orthodox dialogue.


Closing Remarks

Clearing away the brush and weeds

The purpose of this series of responses has not been to refute Mr. White as to clear away the errors and fallacies that prevent people from learning what Orthodoxy is about.  Oftentimes the aim of Protestant anti-Orthodox apologetics is to prevent people from inquiring about Orthodoxy.  Our goal here is to encourage people to inquire about Orthodoxy, to critically compare Orthodoxy against what Protestant assert about Orthodoxy.

Sincere Christians who are zealous to be “biblical” will see that Orthodoxy’s Holy Tradition is clearly taught in the very pages of Holy Scripture. Please read “Biblical Basis for Holy Tradition” which presents verses right out of your bible.  We invite you to do your own homework too. For Western Protestants, understanding and grasping Orthodoxy take time. It will at first seem a odd and strange, but with some study and an open mind, one can begin to appreciate the rich and ancient spiritual heritage preserved from the beginning in the One Holy Orthodox Church. As part of your homework don’t neglect to attend a Sunday worship service at an Orthodox parish near you!

Robert Arakaki


Recommended Reading

Robert Arakaki.  2017.  “How NOT to Do Anti-Orthodox Apologetics.”


Response to James White (3 of 4)


James White – Alpha and Omega Ministries


This article is the third of a four part series in response to James White’s 13 April 2017 podcast: “Can a Consistent Eastern Orthodox Believer Be the Bible Answer Man?”  For my previous responses, please see: “Response to James White” (1 of 4) and (2 of 4).  The purpose of these articles is not to defend Hank Hanegraaff, but to promote good reasoning and courteous interaction between Protestants and Orthodox.


Why the Church Fathers Matter

The early Church Fathers are a valuable resource for understanding the historic Christian Faith.  For this reason, they have been a frequent topic of discussion between Reformed and Orthodox. Protestants are to be commended for utilizing the Church Fathers, however, due to their lack of familiarity with the Church Fathers Protestants often misread them or take them out of context. In this brief article, I point to one error by James White and another error that I noticed come up quite often in Protestant-Orthodox dialogue.



Cherry picking the Church Fathers – At the 17:25 mark, James White cites Irenaeus of Lyons’ idiosyncratic hypothesis that Jesus died at the age of 50 as evidence against Tradition.  First, he has apparently overlooked Mr. Hanegraaff’s qualifying statement that the Church Fathers individually are fallible (17:19) Second, he is cherry picking the Church Fathers.  Mr. White apparently is unaware of the importance Orthodoxy places on the patristic consensus.  This is the understanding that while Church Fathers may be fallible individually, their collective witness to Tradition is considered infallible. This belief is based on Christ’s promise that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13) and the teaching ministry as charismatic gift to the Church (Ephesians 4:11).



Proof texting the Church FathersOne commenter (Geoff) made a mistake similar to Mr. White’s mishandling of Irenaeus (my responsehere).   He cited Irenaeus of Lyons to support Protestantism’s sola scriptura.

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. Against Heresies 3.1.1

In this particular sentence one could get the impression that what Orthodoxy refers to as Tradition” is identical to Scripture.  However, the surrounding context, especially Against Heresies 3.2.1-2, shows that Irenaeus believed in the complementarity of Scripture and Tradition.  A single quote from one Church Father is not sufficient.  One needs to read a Church Father’s writings in context, then in light of the patristic consensus.  Proof texting is often a sign of laziness and intellectual arrogance, and therefore to be avoided by those who love God’s truth.


In closing, Reformed Christians and Evangelicals are strongly encouraged to learn about the early Church and to read the writings of the Church Fathers.  The Church Fathers represent a rich theological and spiritual heritage shared by all Christians.  However, Protestants should not rush into this thinking that it will be easy.  Becoming familiar with the Church Fathers and the early Church won’t be easy but it will be richly rewarding.

Robert Arakaki


Further Readings

Robert Arakaki.  2017.  “How NOT to Do Anti-Orthodox Apologetics.

Robert Arakaki.  2016.  “Getting to Know Your Church Fathers.”

Fr. Lawrence Farley.  2016.  “The Consensus of the Fathers.”


Response to James White (2 of 4)

James White – Alpha and Omega Ministries  Source


This article is a continuation of “Response to James White – Part 1 of 4.”

Loaded Words

At the 2:55 mark, James White refers to sola fide and sola scriptura as “fundamental beliefs.”  Here he uses a phrase filled with good feeling words.  This can lead the listener to think that these are basic beliefs held by all Christians universally from Day One.  This claim needs to be substantiated by historical evidence.  Until then, it would be more accurate to refer to these two doctrines as “fundamental Protestant beliefs.”  Asserting that early Christians held to sola fide is arguing from silence (argumentum ex silentio) fallacy.  The fact is, imposing sola scriptura on the early Church Fathers IS a highly disputed matter, and does not hold up under scrutiny. Where is the supporting evidence?

Recommended resources

Michael Hyatt — Scripture and Tradition – “Part 1: Presuppositions,” “Part 2: Proof Texts,” and “Part 3: Tradition.”

Robert Arakaki – Contra Sola Scriptura – “Part 1: Book Review – The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison,” “Part 2: If Not Sola Scriptura, Then What? – The Biblical Basis for Holy Tradition,” “Part 3: Where Does Sola Scriptura Come From? – The Humanist Origins of the Protestant Reformation,” and “Part 4: Protestantism’s Fatal Genetic Flaw: Sola Scriptura and Protestantism’s Hermeneutical Chaos.”

Seventh Ecumenical Council

At the 23:00 mark, James White derides the Seventh Ecumenical Council for hermeneutics – interpreting the Bible — he described as “embarrassingly horrific at any exegetical level.”  Here Mr. White uses two words loaded with negative connotations. However, he gives zero supporting evidence. Nada.  This leaves one to assume that the Council’s exegesis (interpretation) of Scripture is “horrific” because Mr. White does not like the outcome.  The lack of clearly defined criterion for good hermeneutics and supporting evidence suggests unreasoning Protestant prejudice.  Here we see the poisoning of the well fallacy (casting aspersions on the Council’s biblical exegesis) combined with external expectations (the Council’s not endorsing Reformed iconoclasm).  Again, where is the supporting evidence?

When I was studying at a Reformed seminary I was curious about Orthodoxy’s acceptance of icons.  My thinking when I started my paper was: “Of course, there’s no biblical basis for icons, so why did the early Church come to accept icons?”  I shared in many of the Reformed tradition’s external expectations of Orthodoxy, but at least I was open to doing research on the matter.  What I found surprised me.  The research resulted in two papers published on this blog: “Is There a Biblical Basis for Icons?” and “Calvin Versus the Icon: Was John Calvin Wrong?


Historical Anachronism and “After This, Because of This” Fallacy

Really? Islam fossilized Orthodoxy?

At the 19:07 mark, James White discusses Orthodoxy’s claim to have the Faith of the primitive Church.  He then notes at 19:15 (cf. 21:50) that what Orthodoxy identifies as Tradition really dates back to the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries.  He asserts that Eastern Orthodoxy became frozen in time as a result of the rise of Islam (20:30).  As one who received his M.A. in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I found Mr. White’s claim novel, if not uninformed and simply wrong.  It is disappointing that he does not cite the scholarship that supports his argument.  What we see here is a “after this, therefore, because of this” (post hoc, ergo, propter hoc) fallacy.


At the 1:19:10 mark, James White states: “This is the problem with Orthodoxy.  It’s been fossilized.”  The word “fossil” is a loaded one that has the negative connotation of being dead, lifeless.  This assumes doctrinal development is good.  Here Mr. White imposes the Protestant expectation that Orthodoxy ought to have evolved like Western Christianity.  But is this desirable? Does divine Truth, the Gospel the Apostles once and for all delivered to the saints, change and evolve? Mr. White does seem to emphatically think: Yes, Divine Truth does evolve!   But isn’t the idea of evolving of theological Truth something that needs to be proven?  Until then, this is an external expectations fallacy, i.e., that Orthodoxy should conform to Protestant standards.

In any event, an Orthodox Christian could point to Gregory of Palamas’ defense of hesychasm in the 1300s against Scholastic rationalism and Orthodoxy’s decisive rejection of Reformed Protestantism at the Council of Jerusalem in 1672 as evidence that Orthodox theology has not remained static. In both instances, what we see is not a new teaching but rather the restatement of the Faith the Church Fathers had received from the Apostles. Orthodoxy to this day has remained zealously committed to preserving Gospel Truth as delivered to them by the Apostles.  We view the Faith as a body of teachings received from the Apostles and safeguarded for future generations, not as the result of creative theologizing that evolves over time.

Robert Arakaki


See also

Robert Arakaki. “How NOT to Do Anti-Orthodox Apologetics — Towards Better Protestant-Orthodox Dialogue.


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