“Theology matters and theology determines apologetic methodology.” – Dr. James R. White
The entire program of presuppositional apologetics can be summed up in the “need for consistency” challenge constantly set forth by Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. If one ever wonders where the present day Greg Bahnsen of apologetics is one need look no further than Dr. White. Such a statement might ruffle some feathers, but having followed Dr. White’s ministry for a few years now I believe the statement is substantiated by the ministry delivered to Dr. White by the grace of God.
From C.L. Bolt, “Redemption in Apologetics” in Jamin Hubner, The Portable Presuppositionalist: Biblical Apologetics in the 21st Century; Essays, Quotes, and Debates (First Edition), 2009, 167.
Most of the readers of this blog will be very familiar with Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. He is, in my opinion, the greatest Christian debater alive today. Not only is my claim in line with the massive number of debates Dr. White has participated in, but it takes into account the amazing quality of the aforementioned debates. Dr. White has every mark of a scholar, but is first and foremost a churchman. Dr. White serves as elder at the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona and is Director of AOMin. But I need not go on about the positions he holds, the degrees he has earned, the books he has written, and the debates he has had. You may find the bulk of them listed here.
Dr. White has had a rather profound influence upon my life. He trumpets truths that have long ago fallen by the wayside in mainstream apologetic discussion and debate. He is uncompromising concerning the truths of the Gospel and its implications, emphasizing that, “The Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit.” He calls Christians as much as unbelievers to consistency, claiming that, “Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.” When young would-be apologists ask him questions about studying philosophy, he asks them why they desire to study that discipline, wisely and gently nudging them toward a more pronounced theological discipline instead. He cites Greek and Church History as two of the most valuable types of classes he had pertaining to what he does. However, “A little bit of Greek is a dangerous thing,” and so one needs to really know the languages if one is to attempt to use them. He denies that “apologist” is any type of office in the church, but constantly expresses his concern that the role of the local church in various ministries, apologetic and otherwise, is far too often downplayed to the apparent detriment of the church, apologist, and unbeliever alike.
Dr. White’s love for the church is evident in his clarity while discussing difficult subject matter. He is undeniably an intellectual, with an ability to quickly grasp and intelligently comment on a host of different topics, but is at the same time a practical preacher who can teach Sunday School lessons to laypersons or engage unbelievers on the street. For an example of his ability to bring things down to a level that virtually anyone can understand, listen to his MP3 called, “Why Am I Christian?” It is a rare gift to be able to not only study textual apparatus, but to immediately incorporate what one has learned from said text criticism into the next video one posts to Youtube. Dr. White has such a rare gift. One of my favorite things about him is his willingness to debate notable scholars like John Dominic Crossan and Bart Ehrman while not neglecting to give an answer to relatively unheard of Internet personalities on Youtube and to respond to teenagers on his bi-weekly podcast, The Dividing Line. All of this assumes that Dr. White has the technological aptitude to put his studies into relevant and cutting edge media. And he does! When Dr. White is not studying or speaking on apologetics – well, actually I am not sure what he does when he is not studying or speaking on apologetics. White is an avid cyclist (and by “avid cyclist” I mean that Dr. White is a beast on a bike), but he has found a way to turn his written resources into audio and listen to them while riding the hundreds of miles that he logs each week. It is evident that he loves what he does, and many others have benefited from his work because of it.
White unabashedly subscribes to a presuppositional apologetic. It affects every topic with which he engages, and he engages with a lot, from textual criticism to cults to Islam and much else besides. White’s unwavering commitment to the truth has made him many friends and a lot of enemies. The latter category enjoy attacking the man as opposed to his argumentation, which is a great shame given not only White’s immersing himself in the thinking of whatever opposing system with which he is currently dealing, but also given White’s kind, charitable character with which I have come to be acquainted over the years. To speak frankly, some of Dr. White’s former opponents and their supporters have propagated lies about White in an effort to poison the well and turn their followers away from his very thorough, fair treatments of their material. Watching White in action during one of his debates dissolves any doubts a person has that Dr. White is set on treating his opponents with dignity and respect as Scripture calls us to do.
I could go on and on, but I suspect my readers get the point. Suffice it to say that James White is another very large contributing factor to the recent rise of covenantal apologetics. Most notably, he has used the method in more debates than any other apologist I know, and has done more to develop covenantal apologetics with respect to Islam than any other apologist I know. While he cites a classroom experience where a professor claimed that Thomas Aquinas “proved the wrong god” as the day the lightbulb came on for him regarding presuppositional apologetic methodology, Dr. White claims that his exchanges with Muslims focus more upon biblical fidelity and the Muslim’s lack of internal consistency than some type of “transcendental argument.” However, if one is familiar with what little the late Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen had to say about Islam, then one also knows that Dr. White has, whether intentionally or not, picked up right where Bahnsen left off. Perhaps more than any other apologist, I highly recommend the work of Dr. James R. White, and am extremely thankful to God for his ministry.
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