Friday, March 19, 2021

James White Obsession Syndrome

Now that the COVID scare is dissipating, I'm interrupting my normal programming to make my readers aware of a syndrome that appears to infect a small percentage of people... primarily American Roman Catholic males with access to the Internet. Fortunately, the great majority of American Roman Catholic males with access to the Internet appear to be immune (in fact, they have no idea who James White is or what the Roman church actually teaches). 

For a small group though, an interest in apologetics may run the risk of developing into a full-blown James White Obsession Syndrome. What begins as simply learning to defend their church and their beliefs, if unchecked, turns into an obsession with James White. There are signs that you may be infected:

1) A lengthy amount of time is spent negatively mentioning James White on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, and any form of social media that allows the inner-narcist to take control of a keyboard.  

2) If James White is mentioned, you feel the uncontrolable urge to add a comment about how awful you think James White is. 

This syndrome is hard to cure. There is though a remedy that may work on those who are not too deeply infected:

1) Direct the sufferer to the official Vatican website.

2) Locate the Vatican search engine. Type in the words, "James White." Typically, the results will say this: "0 results have been found for "James White"

3) Using the technique of cognizant dissonance, slowly explain to the sufferer that the Vatican has no idea who James White is, nor do they care who James White is. 

4) Explain to the sufferer that if they really want to be faithful to following the authority structure of the Roman Catholic Church, they should primarily be concerned with the issues that the Vatican is currently concerned with. Instead of obsessing over James White, they should regularly be reading all the news coming out of the Vatican and first being concerned with that.

5) If this doesn't work and they insist that James White is a significant threat, encourage them to contact the Vatican directly to ask if James White is someone the Magisterium should be concerned with. In waiting for an answer,  encourage the sufferer to fast and pray rather than mention "James White" on social media. Breaking this social media addiction though by fasting and prayer probably won't work. Most people would rather spend their time online than doing that boring prayer and fasting stuff.

This has been a public service announcement.  Have a nice day... especially the folks on the "Catholics & Reformed" Facebook Group


zipper778 said...

This is so true, lol. Thanks James.

DTK said...

Thank you, James, for this public service announcement.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you edit the Wikipedia page on Martin Luther? It says that he called for the death of Jews in the introduction but it's literally and unbelievably false (I know it, I've read his infamous and virulent tract many times and it's very far from obvious ; there's a wide difference between advocating expulsion and murder). It is giving a pitoyable and inaccurate image to the Reformer and whether we like it or not, Protestantism also, sadly, to thousands.

James Swan said...

Why don't you edit the Wikipedia page on Martin Luther?

Of what I know about Wiki, since almost anyone can edit a page, it's really not a fruitful endeavor. I foresee spending the time to edit an entry, only to have my edits deleted.

TommyK said...

James, on another note: I have Luther' Sermons from Baker Books (8 Volumes in 4 books) John Lenker. In the introduction to Vol's 1-2, the editor on page 5 mentions that Creuziger differs from Luther; and further states that some of the text was "often twisted and altered in the interest of certain dogmatical tendencies." I was curious to know if these volumes could be under some degree of editorial bias/translations? There are numerous places to where Luther sounds like a free-will preacher. What do you know of these translation/editorial discrepancies? Luther's Works seem to be more sound and accurate to his theological convictions against free will in salvation in comparison to the sermons I have from Baker. Anything on this would be much appreciated. Take care and thanks again for contending for the Reformation. Tommy

James Swan said...

Hi Tommy:

My apologies for the delay. I don't have any specialized insight to the editorial work of Creuziger other than what I've read in the introductions, both in my 7 volume Baker edition and the recent republication of the critical English edition of the Church Postil in the recent volumes of Luther's Works. Fundamentally, Luther trusted Creuziger and approved of his work. That said, over my years of interacting with Luther-texts, I'm amazed with how many hands were involved with Luther's sermons, provoking in me, at times, a sense of skepticism as to whether or not I'm actually reading Luther. For instance, LW volume 1 begins with Luther's comments on Genesis, all based on his sermons. The editors mention something like: there's parts of the sermons that are clearly not Luther's that have been edited in!

At least with Creuziger, Luther praised his efforts on the Church Postil (as compared to say, Roth's work). Whichever sermons you find suspicious, you would need to actually see whose hands put the sermon together.

James Swan said...

By the way, according to the introduction you're citing, it wasn't Creuziger that ""often twisted and altered in the interest of certain dogmatical tendencies." Rather, the text says,

"After Luther’s death, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Church Postil was often, and mostly according to the text of 1543, printed at Wittenberg and other places. But it was changed even more, and often twisted and altered in the interests or certain dogmatical tendencies. In the first complete edition of Luther’s works neither the Church nor the House Postil appears."

TommyK said...

James, thanks for the correction as well as the edification that some of Luther's writing/sermons have been tampered with. When comparing to the doctrinal aspects of Bondage of the Will; it is obvious that some translators/editors have manipulated Luther to various degrees. Luther predicted of problems within the Protestant Reformation; and the proof has manifested itself with the "liberalism" within some Lutheran Churches and seminaries. These editorial changes are sporadic and are offset by Luther's constant proclamation of faith/grace alone, etc. etc. Keep up the site!! Thanks again, Tommy

James Swan said...

The entire genre of textual criticism fascinates me, so I appreciate your comments. There is a large corpus of "Luther" material that mirrors some of the same issues of Biblical textual criticism.

Luther's sermons are at times not something he wrote himself. Rather, note takers transcribed them, and then they edited them. In some particular instances there are different versions of the sermons due to multiple people transcribing them. Sometimes bootleg editions of the sermons appeared (book sellers were trying to make money). One interesting compilation of Luther's sermons was put together by Stephen Roth and he apparently added in positive comments about Mary's immaculate conception. Luther himself re-edited the sermon and took it out!

Then there are the textual issues that happened after Luther died. I've presented some of them here on the blog. In an edition of the Table Talk, a positive mention of "John Calvin" was inserted into one of Luther's comments. In another, Luther is presented as acknowledging his errors on the Lord's Supper.

I've interacted also with people out in cyberspace (typically Rome's defenders) that argue various translations of Luther either "downplay" or "hide" this or that fact. Sometimes there is a ring of truth to this. For instance, I've come across some English translations that try to soften Luther's scatalogical language. Other times though it's simply conspiracy thinking (like Luther's "devotion" to Mary is being covered-up).

In regard to the "free will" issue, I'd have to see the contexts. As I've read Luther over the years, he is not fixated on the "TULIP" issues like many modern readers are. Even with his Bondage of the Will, he does not fixate on that issue his entire career. I have a vague recollection of some comments by the Lutheran Robert Kolb in regard to early factions of Lutherans after Luther's death vying for control of his written corpus, and one of the factions had a more um, "liberal" view of free will.

AnAmericanCatholicMale said...

I’m a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, and I’m greatly indebted to this blog. After I first decided to convert to Catholicism, I HATED Martin Luther and Protestantism perhaps more intensely than I’ve ever hated anything. I blamed Luther and all who followed him for the decade of suffering that followed the loss of my childhood Protestant faith. (Of course, my own sins precipitated the “intellectual” loss of faith, but I did not become an atheist willingly, and I would have abandoned my unbelief in a heartbeat if I had only known how.)

But when at last I found the True Faith, I felt, looking back, that the Protestant beliefs I had inherited, and indeed Protestantism in every form, was a house built on sand, doomed to collapse as soon as sin took hold. The pure and good among us seemed to do fine, but strugglers like me dropped one by one, like a plague had ravaged our church which spared no weakness or personal failing. And I hated Luther for for it, because though my sin was the “why,” the contradictions and absurdities I had been taught to believe were the “how.”

For the first 19 years of my life, I had never knowingly met a Catholic. I am the first and only Catholic in my entire family history, as far back as the genealogies go. I have no reason to feel proud of this — rather I should feel humbled and grateful like the beggar I am — but I admit I have often stupidly, pridefully credited the incredible grace I had received to my own efforts. And back then, I wanted to spread that grace by my own efforts as well, and the rage I felt would be my bottomless wellspring of motivation. If this had been happening in 1616, I might’ve ended up hunting heretics or burning people at the stake; fortunately, it was 2016, so I mostly just looked up awful things supposedly said by Martin Luther and regurgitated them, without effect, at my Protestant family members. (Better to be an annoying prick than a murderous fanatic, so I thank God for my impotence.)

That’s how I found this blog, where I quickly learned that I was, in fact, full of crap and totally out of my depth. And I think it was when I looked up the origin of this blog’s name that I found the “Beggar’s All” Luther quote, along with the rest of his (disputed) last written statement. It showed me part of the side of Luther that I had ignored, and was an early step towards changing my perspective on him, the reformation, and Protestantism, while also growing in my understanding of my Catholic faith as well — particularly, learning to stop attacking Pope Francis, and instead just listening and trying to learn and understand.

So this is a very long way of saying thank you. Selection bias probably means that you interact with a lot of anti-Protestant zealots, but you should know that the work you do was a blessing for me, and I suspect for many other Catholics as well.

James Swan said...

AnAmericanCatholicMale said...

Thanks for reading this blog. The Roman church has reacted to Luther in various ways over the centuries. See the two links on the sidebar: "The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther." These entries were put together many years ago (I suspect even better information is available now). As I've been able to grasp it, there is typically a push for ecumenism within Roman Catholic leadership and scholarship about the Reformers, while in cyberspace, many laymen cling to vilification. The deeper question (as I see it) is which interpretation is right? That's not a simple question to answer.

TommyK said...

Keep reading and digging; Look to Christ and Him alone. Read the Scriptures, and ask the Spirit to guide you into all truth (John 16:13). As for attacking the current Pope; let it go, there are actually more 1st Vatican Catholics discerning the liberalism of Francis than Protestants or Baptist. Yes, this site here that James has created provides a wealth of information and is edifying as well.

James Swan said...

As for attacking the current Pope; let it go, there are actually more 1st Vatican Catholics discerning the liberalism of Francis than Protestants or Baptist.

I'm not sure how to calculate that... but I have seen a fair amount of Roman Catholics going after Pope Francis. The basic question is which Roman Catholic (those who oppose him, those who support him) is correct? It appears to come down to private judgment of a how a particular Roman Catholic interprets Roman Catholicism. For all their talk about how awful Protestantism is by using private judgment to interpret the Bible, I don't see any logical way of escape for Roman Catholics not to rely on private judgment when either choosing to become Roman Catholic or understanding Roman Catholicism. This is the sort of typical double standard that plagues Roman Catholic apologetics. I don't think I've ever seriously interacted with one of Rome's defenders that will admit their own private judgment in interpreting either their choice to convert or the private judgment used in interpreting all things Roman Catholic.

TommyK said...

James, there are numerous sites where conservative Catholics are very displeased with the current "Jesuit" Pope. From what I've read and with some dialogue, these Council of Trent Catholics (pro-Latin Mass, etc.) are against 2nd Vatican Council and the Ecumenism with Protestants. They are very traditional and consider Luther to be an apostate monk. Most of these 1st Vatican Catholics are more vocal against the current Pope and his agenda for Christian Unity, etc. when compared to the Baptist and Protestant voice; only a handful of Protestants/Baptist are exposing the agenda of Pope Francis. Personally, both 1st Vatican and 2nd Vatican dogmas/teachings miss the mark; and contradict Holy Writ at many points. Yep, the cyberspace Catholics may get upset reading this; but thank God Almighty for Luther and the men of the Reformation. Tommy

Ryan said...

For your Blueprint for Anarchy files.

James Swan said...

Ryan: Rome has spoken, the case is closed.... but the comment sections on Roman Catholic blogs % FB pages are still open so they can try and figure out what the Pope is saying.

Miguel Ribeiro said...

Hey, James. I read a very old test of you about Heinrich Denifle and you said you didn't own any version of his book Luther and Lutherdom in english.

There you go:

James Swan said...

about Heinrich Denifle and you said you didn't own any version of his book Luther and Lutherdom in english

Ah yes. When I began this blog, Google books (and all those websites making old books available online were still in their infancy stage). Denfile was not available (nor could I find any used copies). I eventually found a copy in a college library, and photocopied a good percentage of the book. A lot of the obscure material I searched out was done by going to different libraries.

Things are so much different now, there's so much available. Many of Denifle's books are now easily obtained... in German and French as well. If my memory serves me correctly: Denifle's series on Luther was a multi-volume set, with only vol. 1 being translated into English. I also vaguely recall that there were some interesting translation issues with the English or French version? I don't recall (I'd have to check my own blog!).

Miguel Ribeiro said...

Hey, James. I was the dude that posted here a link with the first volume of Henrich Denifle book about Luther in english. I was surprised with you answering! I would like to know if you have a channel or others social networks. I've been reading your blog and becoming more and more fascinated with your historical rigor. I deeply love all my beloved brothers in Christ and since I live in a majority catholic country (Brazil), I feel every effort to protect our faith isn't vain and I love to read a devoted expert as you doing this incredible work.

James Swan said...

Thanks for the kind words. I'm grateful you've found the material here useful.

Primarily, I maintain this blog, I also have "Beggars All" Facebook page that I periodically post material on. Due to time limitations, I don't post as often as I've done previously, but I am still active in Reformation research.

zipper778 said...

I've been listening lately to some of James White's archived Dividing Lines, and he has occasionally referenced you James for directing him to this or that audio clip from Catholic Answers and other media. Do you still provide him with any material? Or do you two still talk?

James Swan said...

Do you still provide him with any material? Or do you two still talk?

I think the last thing I sent Dr. White was a Tim Staples clip in 2019.

In the mid 2000's to around 2010 or so, I regularly contributed blog articles to I was also regularly listening to Catholic Answers and other RC broadcasts, so I would send Dr. White clips if something jumped out. What a tremendous opportunity! My interests though veered off more into Reformation research (Luther tedium), so, I sort of left the whole Roman Catholic stuff behind. I really didn't have anything meaningful to post on such a large platform as aomin. I also stopped listening to Catholic Answers! I could take no more!

I consider Dr. White a mentor. I have so greatly benefited from his work. He's been a major influence in the way I approach apologetics and theology. I am so grateful for his kindness to me throughout the years.

Ionatha said...

"Balthazar Meisner writes that Emperor Charles the 5th admitted on his deathbed "I think the Lutherans are right about justification" "It is the true and Scriptural doctrine".

Wow! The Bishop of Toledo reported this to the Pope."

I have received this information from a friend. It is found in page 113 of the work "Two books against the Papacy" by Nicolaus Hunnius and Balthasar Meisner, published by Repristination Press

Here's the book on Amazon, unfortunately no kindle :(

Did you know anything about this? Could it be true??? I really can't find anything on Google, but I've never ever done research on history or anything lol