Dr. James White And The Development of Doctrine

Inconsistency Is The Sign Of A Failed Argument

Dr. James White - Reformed Apologist of Alpha And Omega Ministries

Dr. James White – Reformed Apologist of Alpha And Omega Ministries

If you were a Catholic living in the year 120 AD, would you know as much as you do today about the faith? Absolutely not! So then does the Church change her doctine? Absolutely not!

Then why does Catholicism in 120 AD look different than 2016 AD. It is because doctrine develops but it does not change.

When we look at the Scriptures we can see this clearly. Obviously Moses knows more about God and theology than Adam. The Prophet Malachi obviously knows more about God and theology than Moses. St. Paul knows more than any character in the Old Testament. This is not because he’s smarter but because he has the advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants who came before him. He learned much of this history growing up and therefore had accumulated as much knowledge as he had to date.

This principle applies to Church history as well. A Catholic in 700 AD knows more than a Catholic in 120 AD. Again, this is not because the later Catholic is smarter but that he’s dealing with more information. The Catholic in 700 AD has access to six ecumenical councils and the writings of the Church Fathers in addition to the scriptures.

A good example of this is discussing the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Maximus the Confessor. St. Ignatius of Antioch is certainly a Trinitarian though he doesn’t use the word. Regardless, he does not know of the two natures of Christ, the relationship between the two natures and the two wills of Christ. St. Maximus the Confessor lived and died in the 7th Century. He knew about all of the Christological doctrinal development that had happened in regards to the hypostatic union and he debated the monothelites of his day on the number of wills that Christ had.

However, as a Catholic I believe that St. Ignatius of Antioch was perfectly orthodox in his theology. Nothing he says in his letters contradicts the later Christological developments that St. Maximus would have known about.

Most opponents of the Catholic faith acknowledge this development in Christology but they refuse to acknowledge it in other areas such as Mariology and Ecclesiology. St. Maximus the Confessor had a much more developed Mariology and was a firm believer in Papal authority.

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, who is a firm opponent of the Catholic faith has in the past referred to developments in Mariology and Eccelsiology in the time of St. Maximus as degradations. At the same time, he accepts the Christological developments that have taken place from the second to seventh century, even though most of those developments are not from scripture but from Church tradition and authority. There is no verse in the Bible that gives us the two natures of Christ, the relationship between the two natures(hypostatic union) and the two wills of Christ but Dr. White is willing to believe them either way.

In a debate with Robert Sungenis in 2000 about papal infallibility, Dr. White pointed out that Christ having one will is heresy and having two wills is orthodox. He can believe that if he wants but that is not found in scripture. You can believe in either of them within the framework of sola scriptura because the Bible doesn’t specify but once you consider one view is orthodox and the other view is heresy, you have abandoned sola scriptura. The reason that Dr. James White believes Christ has two wills and not one is not because of sola scriptura but because of the Papacy and the Catholic Church. Ironic isn’t it. One of the strongest opponents of the Catholic Church and the Papacy today has to use its dogmatic proclamations to refine his Christology then he’ll try to veil it under the guise of scripture alone.

The enemies of the faith do believe in doctrinal development but it’s just a matter of choosing which ones they want to accept in the doctrinal cafeteria. A Cafeteria that Dr. White often visits.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Dr. James White And The Development of Doctrine

  1. I’m a believer in the development of doctrine, but I think comparing the increase in revelation from Adam to Moses to Malachi to Jesus is dangerous. During this period of history, God actually increased the amount of revelation He gave to mankind. God spoke finally and completely in the incarnation of the Son (Hebrews 1:1-2), and the completion of the Scriptures corresponded to this. During Church History, God does not add new revelation to the deposit. Rather, the Church, through the Spirit, deepens her understanding of that completed revelation. The increase in revelation from Adam to Jesus was not merely an increase of understanding, but an increase of content.

  2. Sorry for the double post. I’m Eastern Orthodox, but both of our churches teach the same thing about tradition: tradition is inspired exegesis of Scripture. To say that the monothelite and the orthodox position are equally biblical is not true. The entire controversy about monothelitism was dependent on exegesis of Scripture. St. Maximus the Confessor made Luke 22:42 the centerpiece of his argument. The understanding of doctrinal development reflected in this blog post is rather crude, as if doctrinal development meant the hierarchy of the Church simply declares new doctrines by fiat. Your understanding of doctrinal development is closer to what Pope Pius X called the evolution of doctrine. All of the Church’s teaching is ultimately rooted in the Sacred Writings, which is what Pope Pius XII says in Munificentissimus Deus. No heretical teaching is consistent with the Scriptures.

    • Hi Thomas,

      I’m a big fan of your Youtube videos. Also, my blog has much content that you might be interested in. Feel free to subscribe.

      What you say about the development of doctrine through the Biblical period I think is worth thinking about. I won’t respond, but people can look up at both of our answers.

      Here is the verse, in question:

      Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

      How many wills are attributed to Jesus in this verse? Only one, however that doesn’t mean that it is only one. We need the Fathers and Doctors of the Church who are guided by the Holy Spirit to tell us that. If we don’t, a plain reading of the text can go both ways.

      Both of us agree that Sola Scriptura is wrong and I believe that this doctrine and the evidence for this doctrine are a good example why.

      • Thanks, Allan. I’m surprised to hear that you know my videos, since I’m not very active on YouTube anymore- have we come into contact in the past? These days I write a fair bit on my blog at http://www.kabane52.tumblr.com.

        As far as Luke 22 goes, it depends on what one means by a plain reading. A fully-orbed reading of Scripture will not only pay attention to the book’s immediate literary context, but will take into account its canonical context- that means understanding it in light of other passages of Scripture, reading with an ear open to allusions and echoes to other books of the Bible, and so on. When one does that, I believe, one will find firmer answers. As St. Peter said, there are Scriptural passages that are difficult to understand- but that does not mean they are impossible to understand. What I’m trying to avoid is the idea that biblical and exegetical argumentation about such passages will ultimately get one nowhere, so that one throws up one’s hands and appeals to tradition. For the Fathers of the Church (modern Catholic authors have noted this too), Scripture is materially (not formally) sufficient and tradition is the exegesis of Scripture.

        So when the Lord Jesus distinguishes between His will and the will of the Father, we are to understand that there are two wills in Christ, since we know from elsewhere in Scripture that the divine will of the Son is not distinguished from the will of the Father, since will is predicated of nature rather than hypostasis.

        • I haven’t come into contact with you before, only watched your videos, however if you’re ever in Western Canada(Alberta specifically), feel free to contact me and we can meet up for a meal. I believe I first noticed you when you debated Sami Zaatari. Your videos also pointed me towards some good EO literature.

          I won’t respond to what you said specifically. I think both sides are laid out well. Readers of this blog can now read and see both arguments. Hope all is well down south. God Bless.