An Open Letter to James White

An Open Letter to James White

By Matt1618

To all readers:

I wrote a critique of a chapter of Mr. White’s book, “Roman Catholic Controversy” in a prior letter. I emailed him my critique and he responded to me. My original critique is HERE. I posted the following letter in response to his letter. He never responded to my critique. The parts of my letter that Mr. White initially responded to are put in brackets {and are red } Mr. White’s response is in grey. My response is in black.


Dear Mr. White,

I originally sent you a letter refuting a chapter in your book "Roman Catholic Controversy". You responded with a sneeringly insulting letter which did not address the substance of my arguments. I have left your responses to my original letter untouched, and have left the contents that you addressed of my original letter in tact, so that we can see the context of both of our remarks.

{When you summarize the Baptist Confession of faith, which declares the forensic character of justification, you state something that must be examined. "Justification is an act undertaken by God, and it is not based on anything done in or done by us as believers. It is an act of sovereign grace, because it is something God does, not something we do" (p. 143). This statement leads to obvious untenable conclusions in regards to justification. If what you do has nothing to do with your salvation, what is the difference between you and the village atheist? It would not matter to God if one person puts his trust exclusively in God, and the other person is a violent, swearing atheist. If your logic is followed through the whole way, that it does not matter what people do in regards to justification, it leads to the absurd conclusion that there is no difference between the two.}

Such a conclusion shows a very deep misunderstanding of the Protestant position on salvation, to be sure.

{I know that you accept most vehemently that there is a huge difference between an atheist and a justified individual. One person has a faith in Jesus as Lord, and the other person does not have this faith.}

No, one person has been regenerated by the grace of God and is a new creature in Christ, the other is a reprobate sinner under the wrath of God.

I believe if you would have read the content of my whole letter, you have underestimated my grasp of the issues. In fact your response to my letter shows a misreading of my arguments and a sidestepping of the issues I raise. I quote your book throughout, and in fact I have read prior to my original letter "Faith Alone" by RC Sproul. Just because I disagree with the contents of your theology, does not mean I misunderstand it. It is just that this theology does not withstand biblical scrutiny. You misstate my arguments and in fact create a straw man and beat it up, and then proclaim that you have refuted my arguments, without dealing with them in substance. Your statement that one is regenerated by the grace of God and is a new creature in Christ, and the other is a reprobate sinner is not in any way contrary to Catholic doctrine. However, my original statement still stands. One must believe, and thus do, even if it is the grace of God that enables him to do it. The church does not teach that one believes on his own. The regenerated person must believe, and that is a condition of salvation. So it does matter what the person does. The other person who does not believe is under the wrath of God precisely because he does not believe. If it is God's grace that enables one to believe, it is God's grace that enables him to work out his salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).

{You would also agree with Catholics that the only means that this person does have Jesus is Lord is that it is God's sovereign grace at work. One person has faith as an instrument (p. 144) to appropriate that justification. Once that is admitted, then the statement in the above paragraph is shown to be false. God's grace produces faith within the individual, which is the very means of justification. If God's grace is what produces faith, it also is the means to produce works, right in line with the Catholic view of justification. If you admit that it is God's grace that produces faith in the individual, then you must admit that his grace produces works. This radical separation that you create between what God does as opposed to what we do, is therefore not rational.}

I would highly suggest that you do much more reading on this subject, for it seems you have not dealt with any of the defining Protestant works on the topic, including Calvin, Buchanon, Warfield, Murray or Hodge. You are taking shots at a system you do not understand, and your confusion is only due to a limited exposure to the position you are denying. God's grace is given to the elect, not to all people (seemingly you are universalistic in your view of grace). Yes, justification is always connected with sanctification, as I said in my chapter on the subject. Regeneration will always lead *to* good works (not meritorious works, but works consonant with a changed nature). But that does not make justification anything other than the forensic declaration based upon the finished work of Christ.

Okay, I have not read Buchanan or Warfield, but I have read RC Sproul's book and I do in fact grasp the issues.(Update - I have read the full book of Buchanan, specifically on Mr. White's recommendation,and the exact same points hold) In addition, I did do a thorough study of how Calvin and other reformers attempt to sidestep James 2. If you want a thorough critique of how Luther, Calvin, and current Protestant theologians such as John MaCarthur deal with James 2, I will be glad to send it to you. I quote them verbatim. In regards to justification, regeneration and sanctification there is an unbliblical separation. Just because the reformers state it, does not have to mean that I have to accept it. In fact Alister McGrath in his two volume doctoral dissertation admitted that it was a totally new idea to the church in 1500+ years that separated justification from regeneration and sanctification. There is no biblical rational for making such a distinction.

I am not universalistic in my view of salvation. I was just quoting scripture. If I was universalistic, it would not matter what doctrine anybody teaches. My concern is for the salvation of those who fall for the faith alone theology.

You admit that "regeneration will always lead to good works." But likewise state that they are not meritorious. Well, do you believe in faith alone or not? If you truly believe in salvation by faith alone, then why are works consonant with a changed nature necessary? The old "one is justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone" theory is inconsistent with itself. If works necessarily will follow faith, how are they thus not meritorious? After all, if they do not do such works, your own theology holds that those people are not really justified.

{You misrepresent the Catholic position when you write about your own viewpoint (as opposed to Roman Catholic. " This viewpoint is God-centered, not man-centered. This is not merely a plan that we work to gain something from God. It is God's work and when God does something He does it well (p. 143)." Somehow you imply that Catholicism teaches that man is the cause of his own salvation and works to get something from God.}

Since I specifically defined the Roman viewpoint elsewhere, why do you isolate this summary statement from its context? Such is not the role of the honest exegete.

I can only rebut one chapter at a time. I don't intend to rebut your whole book, the errors are too voluminous. Then do you admit that your statement here contradicts what you wrote in the prior chapter? If not, you are clearly beating up an as you would say "straw man" in saying that the Catholic church view is man-centered and we work to gain something from God.

{On the contrary, we teach that God does justification so well that he makes man righteous (Rom. 5:19). God works through man so well that "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:13). From start to finish it is God who does everything. He even uses man to do this. He does not do some legal fiction, and then just turn his eyes away from the filthiness of man.}

More straw-man argumentation. You seem to have read Hahn and Keating well. But again, I would highly suggest you take the time to read some first-hand material so that you can argue the real positions. By the way, when you undergo satispassio in purgatory, is that God working in you?

Protestant theology does not teach Romans 5:19 that man is made righteous, but only declared righteous. How is that straw man argumentation? Quoting scripture that shows the Catholic viewpoint is scriptural is straw man argumentation? Or if you are upset about me stating that your position being that God does a legal fiction and just turns away from the filthiness of man, let us consider what RC Sproul asserts in his book. Sproul writes "By imparting or imputing Christ's righteousness to us sinners, God reckons us as just. It is "as if" (Sproul's quote) we were inherently just. But we are not inherently just.... We are just by imputation even while sin still remains in us, though it does not reign in us...He quotes Calvin "To justify is nothing else that to acquit from the charge of guilt, "as if" innocence were proved"...When God justifies us...he does not acquit on us on a proof of our own innocentce, but by an imputation of righteousness, so that "though not righteous in ourselves", we are deemed righteous in Christ" (Sproul, 102). I elsewhere state that your view does assert that Christ's righteousness is actually imputed to the individual. Nevertheless, Sproul and Calvin unhesitatingly assert that God reckons us righteous "as though" and "even though we are not righteous". You declare all along in your book the forensic (legal) basis of justification. Reformed theologians admit that God justifies those people who are not actually righteous. When something is termed as true as that which is actually not so, that is fiction. I read Sproul's argument that it is not a legal fiction (pp. 105-108), but any way you term it, God reckons one righteous even when he is inherently unrighteous. The term legal fiction is thus justified. Thus when I say "He does not do some legal fiction, and then just turn his eyes away from the filthiness of man" I am not creating a straw man at all. Talking about straw man, why do you bring purgatory in the issue? That is a totally different issue. By bringing it up, you do not deal with the point made.

{Your view of Titus 3:5-7 (p. 145) not only distorts the actual verses themselves, but ignores a description of grace that Paul had spelled out in the previous chapter. Yes grace is an obvious free gift from God, but Paul's definition of grace in (Tit. 2:11-14) belies the external, imputational assessment of grace that you spelled out.}

More straw-man argumentation. I have never used the term "imputational" of grace, but of justification. Please attempt to deal with the issues as I presented them.

Here I will admit an error. However, that is a technicality, and not dealing with my main points.

{"The grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, so that we can live righteously, piously and godly lives in the present age, looking for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a special people, zealous for good works." According to Paul, why did Jesus send his son? To impute righteousness in a purely forensic manner? Apparently not. His definition of grace is that not only does it teach us to live righteously but the purpose of sending his Son was to purify (internal, subjective change in the individual) his people and redeem them from all iniquity. Paul does not say that this is a byproduct of his grace, but is grace. God's very purpose for sending Jesus thus includes this intrinsic change in the individuals. How can this vital description of grace be left out of your discussion of Titus 3:5-7?}

Again, a person who does not deal with the actual argument, but attacks other issues, is not doing himself, or anyone else, much of a service. You don't understand the system you are attacking, and hence fall into error after error. You confuse grace and justification, I do not; you confuse justification and sanctification (as Rome does), but I do not. You ignore my own clear assertions that God is about making a pure people for Himself: but you don't seem to see how justification is the foundation of that work, sanctification the continuing process and outworking of it. Christ came to save sinners: those sinners are made perfectly just in God's sight by God's grace through faith alone. No merit on our part. And it is not merely the grace of Christ that allows us to then merit eternal life: the very righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer. That is how we can *have peace now* with God. But He doesn't stop there. He conforms us to the image of Christ throughout our lives, not to make us "more saved" but to bring honor and glory to Himself and accomplish His purpose in this world. It is a canard of massive proportions to say that there is no place in Protestant theology for Titus 2 and grace teaching us to shun ungodliness (a passage I have preached on more than once).

I do see that justification is the foundation of that work. However, as McGrath admits, it was a totally new idea in the 16th century that justification and regeneration differ. I do not confuse justification and sanctification, just state that scripture shows them to be inextricably linked. Justification is also a process, just as sanctification is. I agree with Augustine, and all Christian believers who believed such for 1500 years. You are indeed beating a straw man yourself when you say that the Catholic view denies that the very righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer. We say that at the same time his righteousness is actually imparted to the believer, and is not extrinsic. As an adopted son of God, he gives us his power at the same time he declares us righteous. BTW, divine sonship, intrinsic to Trent was never dealt with in either your book or by Sproul in his book. Also, you will find that nowhere did I state that Protestant theology does not teach that one must shun ungodliness. What I wrote was that shunning ungodliness is not a part of the Protestant view of justification. You put shunning ungodliness as something part of sanctification, but not of justification. Paul here ties this to justification.

{When you actually get to Titus 3:5-7 itself, even leaving aside this description of grace already elaborated by Paul, there are definite problems. You are obviously well versed in church fathers. You well know that the church fathers used these verses to support baptismal regeneration, as a companion verse to John 3:5.}

Of course they did. They erred, just as they erred on many other issues.

{Not one that I know of used these verses to even hint at salvation by faith alone.}

Not one of them ever used John 21 to make the Pope infallible, either. That doesn't seem to bother you, so why should this bother me?

Since Titus 3:5 is important to your argument, you would think that someone in 1500+ years would come up with your interpretation. In regards to John 21:15, please let me know what Catholic apologist argues that John 21 speaks specifically of papal infallibility. I know it is used for papal authority, as John Chrysostom speaks of Peter's authority over the other apostles in his commentary on John. Chrysostom does speak of papal authority elsewhere, but that is another issue.

{Does Paul contradict his earlier definition of grace (Tit. 2:11-14) and here state some extrinsic means of grace which produces no internal change in the individual, but becomes the basis for justification?}

More straw men. I'm truly sorry you don't understand the position you are denying, but I do hope you will take the time to learn more about it. BTW, why do you make a moral section in Titus 2 THE "definition" of grace for Paul, rather than entire sections relating to grace and justification in Romans and Galatians?

No straw men, just an understanding of the text. In fact Paul is writing about the grace that brings salvation (v. 11), and gives us the reason that he sent his son. He sent his son not only to sanctify, but to save people from damnation. Paul is giving us the means of this salvation. Nowhere does he write "well, in v. 11 I was talking about salvation, but in v. 14 I am only talking about a moral order." Purification is the reason he sent his son, and here Paul writes that it is intricately tied in with salvation.

Please, I encourage you to read my original letter. Most of my letter in fact dealt with Romans and Galatians. I showed in detail how your analysis of Romans and Galatians miss the mark.

{The washing of regeneration (cf. Acts 22:16, baptism) is shown to be a renewal by the Holy Spirit.}

I reject the identification of the washing of regeneration as baptism.

I guess I am just supposed to take your word for it? I guess we are supposed to just forget the similarity of John 3:5 to Titus 3:5 which shows the necessity of baptism?. I also am supposed to say that baptism does not wash away sins, even though Paul is told specifically that baptism will wash away his sins in Acts 22:16.

{Paul is saying that that this grace from beginning to end is from God. No man can do anything good by his own power. The Holy Spirit through this washing renews the individual who produces the works as previously mentioned (Tit. 2:11-14). In Titus 3:5-6 Paul writes that "through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.." In other words, at the time of justification God infuses (that is what pours out means) his Holy Spirit into the individual.}

I'm sorry, but "infuse" does not mean "pour out."

You got me. I am technically wrong on that; nevertheless at the time of justification, the Holy Spirit is poured out into the individual. The byproduct of the Holy Spirit being poured out is infused, at the time of justification, as Paul writes. That is what I meant.

{It is amazing that you use Titus 3:5 to show salvation by faith alone with an external imputation.}

It is amazing that you can't see the freeness of God's grace in this passage, and the denial Paul makes of any kind of meritorious act on the part of Christ. But then again, one of us believes in sola scriptura, and hence allows the Scriptures to interpret themselves, and one of us believes in sola ecclesia, and allows the Church to tell us what we should find in the text. So why, in reality, would you care to debate biblical texts, when it is quite clear that your faith is not derived *from* those texts, but from another source (i.e., the Roman Church?).

You can only come to your conclusion, Mr. White, by ignoring the context of Titus 3:5, both before and after. Paul is writing about how his grace redeems his people. In. v. 3, he shows the state of mankind without his grace (living in malice, envy, and hate). Of course the Catholic Church does not teach that those who do good works outside a state of grace avails anyone anything. So your quoting Titus 3:5a is irrelevant to the discussion, as the Church agrees with that. What does God's kindness do (v. 4)? V. 5b shows that he saves us through the washing of rebirth and renewal. That is also part of v. 5. In my prior comments I showed how Paul shows this pouring out as tied to salvation. You go by Sola Scriptura? Seems to me you go by Sola Scriptura as interpreted by Calvin. You don't go by scripture alone, but by how John Calvin interprets it, by James White. It seems like you, following your Calvinist interpretation want to look at Titus 3:5a, and ignore 3:5b, and the verses prior to and after the text.

{The words themselves show that there is an objective change in the individual. The context shows Paul means grace which is active, cleanses and purifies, and applies what he did on the cross to one's life.}

Again, if you knew Protestant theology, you wouldn't fall into these misrepresentations and errors. The passage speaks of regeneration. Protestant theology says man is changed, internally, substantially, by regeneration. He's made a new creature. So why you think this passage contrary to the Protestant position, I have no idea. The passage says that our salvation is based upon God's mercy, not upon our works---even deeds done "in righteousness." Yet you say you earn merit when you do good works in a state of grace. You artificially separate "initial justification" from "final justification," saying the one is by grace, the other the result of "works done in righteousness." Paul makes no such artificial distinction. He contrasts the mercy and grace of God, by which believers are made righteous in His sight, with the very same kind of "yes, grace is necessary, but it isn't enough in and of itself" viewpoint that you are presenting.

There is no question that the passage talks of regeneration. However, there is absolutely no differentiation between regeneration and justification according to this passage. Am I misrepresenting your position? Let me quote from Sproul's book. "In like manner Luther argued that the righteousness the ground of our justification is an "alien righteousness." This is the righteousness of another." (Sproul, Faith Alone, p. 107). That is indeed the Reformers position, and it is totally foreign to Paul's thoughts in Titus 3:3-7. Not only is it foreign to Paul's thought, but let us look at another glaring inconsistency in the Reformer's position exactly on regeneration and justification, according to RC Sproul. Remember, I just quoted that justification is based on an alien righteousness, as quoted by Luther and Sproul; however, according to Sproul " a work of grace "comes before justification." Regeneration is necessary for the fallen person to exercise faith. Faith is exercised by the believer, not the unregenerate person. The grace of regeneration must come before or precede faith." (Sproul, p. 139) As quoted above by you "Protestant theology says man is changed, internally, substantially, by regeneration." Therefore, you have already had this infused change, prior to justification! How can you claim that there is no internal change in the individual, when you have already admitted such by your own words?

{You say that justification is a once for all action, referring to Romans 5:1, "having been justified by faith." The context, and even the following verses you quote (Tit. 3:7; Rom. 3:24) show that to be incorrect. In regards to Romans 5:1-5 (why ignore the context?)}

I didn't ignore the context, of course. Why clutter your response with such comments?

{We see that justification, faith, hope, and love are all a part of it.}

More strawmen.

It is clear that you are not dealing with the points I made. It is easy to claim straw man argumentation without dealing with the substance of what I am saying. I must repeat to you that nowhere in any of my original letter, or in this letter, did I write that Protestants did not care about sanctification, or pursuing holiness. Your claims of straw man are thus false. However, at every point in my argument I show how this infused grace is intricately tied in with justification. That is exactly the point that Protestants deny. That is exactly the point that I made in this section of Romans 5:1-5. Justification is used in the past tense in 5:1, but also the other terms (such as love) is used in the past tense here. There is no reason to say that well, it means exclusively past tense for justification here, but in regards to love, etc. that is ongoing. As that is ongoing, so is justification.

{If you notice, v. 5 says "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." This does two things that belie your interpretation. First it shows that when the Holy Spirit comes, it is poured out in the individual.}

I think I'll stop here, if you don't mind. Eventually it becomes so painfully obvious that a correspondent has completely missed the point that it becomes a waste of time to repeat the same corrections over and over and over again. Of course the Holy Spirit enters into the individual. No Protestant theologian says otherwise. Of course there is a change in the individual---in regeneration, not justification. Since it does not seem you have taken the time to learn uch about the position you deny, may I suggest taking the time to correct this problem? You would be greatly enriched by actually interacting with the *real* Protestant position, rather than the straw-men you have been beating up so far in your paper. Read John Murray's works on the subject, especially, _Redemption: Accomplished and Applied_. Warfield's works contain many chapters on the same subject that are crystal clear. Sproul's latest work, _By Faith Alone_, would settle many of your misapprehensions on a first reading.

Most importantly, consider well why you would be so intent upon denying a position that, in point of fact, you know very little about. Why might this be? What does it tell you? Please think about this.

I understand your theology, thank you. You are misrepresenting what I am saying, and rebut what I did not say. Again, I did not say that Protestant theology denies the Holy Spirit enters the individual, only that the theology separates that entrance from justification. Paul shows in Romans 5 and Titus 3 that this Holy Spirit's entrance occurs at the same time as justification.

According to Alister McGrath there are four characteristics of the Protestant doctrine of justification. I will focus on the first three.

1. Justification is the forensic declaration that the Christian is righteous, rather than the process by which he or she is made righteous. It involves a change in status rather than in nature.

2. A deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification (the external act by which God declares the believer to be righteous) and sanctification or regeneration (the internal process of renewal by the Holy Spirit).

3. Justifying righteousness is the alien righteousness of Christ, imputed to the believer and external to him, not a righteousness that is inherent within him, located within him, or in any way belonging to him (Sproul, pp. 109-110).

This is exactly what I refuted here, and more substantially in my letter I originally sent you. I by no means refuted straw men, unless you say that you, and RC Sproul do not represent your position, because that is exactly what I argued against. My original letter to you is HERE This is my response.

I await your thoughtful response, Mr.White. Sincerely, Matt (

To all visitors Grace of Christ to you!

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