More subtle is the denial of the truth that there are three divine Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The denial of this truth leads to modalism…For some reason many feel that there is a hierarchy of “error” when it comes to the Trinity. It is really bad to be a polytheist. It is fairly bad to be a subordinationist such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, if you are going to be an anti-Trinitarian heretic, you might as well be a Oneness advocate. Or so many think. It just sounds closer than the others. They often speak of the truth that there is only one God and of the deity of Christ, but the fact of the matter is, heresy is heresy. A direct denial of any one of these biblical truths is just as serious as any other – James White, Loving the Trinity (link)
According to James White, denying any of the Biblical truths in relation to the Holy Trinity is heresy, and that heresy is as serious as any other heresy. That’s what he wrote in Loving the Trinity for the Christian Research Journal. Modalism is as damning, White argues, as the subordinationism of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the polytheism of the Greek pantheon. And per usual when his emotions aren’t blinding his judgment, James White is right. The Holy Trinity is the locus classicus ontological doctrine of God and without it, there is no Christianity. Sadly, however, it seems that White views heresy as slightly less heretical when it has a personal stake for his own pride, and he has doubled down on his efforts to defend, endorse, and promote the archetype of the charismaniac movement, Dr. Michael Brown.
A day after appearing on James White’s Dividing Line podcast, Michael Brown claimed that Oneness Pentecostals were believers and that the debate over the Trinity was an “in-house debate” among Christians. He said that, to him, Oneness Pentecostals “sound perfectly orthodox.” Ironically, White brought Brown just the day before on his podcast to demonstrate that Brown himself was perfectly orthodox as he took Brown through a softball pitching contest of an orthodoxy checklist. Giving Brown passing marks on the Sufficiency of Scripture aside (which is as absurd as it is inane), White mocked Brown’s critics as extremists and dangerous sectarians, while Brown himself used the Dividing Line to tacitly endorse false teachers, Bill Johnson and Heidi Baker. Claiming not to know the teachings of these individuals (as well as mentioning his ignorance of charismatic heavy-hitters, Jack Deere, C. Peter Wagner and others), White stepped aside as Brown told the Dividing Line audience that these were people who loved Jesus and were commendable. The very next day, Brown took a call on his own program about Oneness Pentecostals, which you can view in the video below.
Simply put, there is no excusing this. There is no denying that Brown effectively “Elephant Roomed” Oneness Pentecostals. The debate over the Holy Trinity, James White should know, is an important one. So then, one would think that James White would do the only thing a sensible, rational human being would do; take a step back, a deep breath, and admit that his unbridled, passionate support for Michael Brown has been misguided. But, admitting error is not something that James White does, or at least, it’s not something he’s ever done yet. We pray he’s brought to repentance.
At G3, the speakers were very uneasy sharing the stage with White, given his recent support of Michael Brown who the vast majority in those more solid, Reformed theological circles know is a danger to the Christian church. Some of the speakers have even spoken out about Brown, hoping to get the attention of White and usher some humility into his life. Those attempts at reasoning with White have fallen upon deaf ears, however, and he’s continued to support Brown even after he gave a thumb’s up to Oneness Pentecostals.
Ed Dingess, who runs the website, Reformed Reasons, holds a doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University and Theological Seminary. He is also a certified financial planner and investment management analyst. Like James White and myself, he holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession. He has been critical of Theordore Zachariades and Sonny Hernandez, and supported James White in their brouhaha over Hyper-Calvinism. It’s safe to say that Dingess is a pretty impartial party to the discussion, shares our theological convictions, seems pretty mild-mannered, and like anyone else with common sense sees the danger of promoting a man with the theological problems of Michael Brown. Dingess reached out to White on the subject…
Dingess: I have decided to pull back from my glowing endorsements of you, something I have done for YEARS. Michael Brown endorses heretics and leads people toward those who practice outrageous acts of blasphemy in worship practices that are extremely bizarre. Recently, he went on record to say that the denial of the Trinity is not heresy. He sends people to heretics. He sends them to blasphemers, people he calls his friends, his brothers in Christ. And he uses your name to enhance his own credibility. I am deeply saddened by your decisions regarding Michael Brown. Your decision as to who is dangerous and who is not seems arbitrary at this point. If you like me, I am not dangerous. If you don’t, then I am. With all due respect, you could use a dose of your own older medicine.
White: A few points in response. 1) I will try to muddle on without your “glowing endorsements,” since, to be honest, I’ve never seen them, nor are you known to me. 2) Your misrepresentation of MB is common, but nonetheless reprehensible. MB’s unwillingness to join the anti-charismatic polemics cabal is understandable, given he is a charismatic. But the unwillingness of others to honestly evaluate who MB actually endorses (there are few) and who he refuses to condemn (not the same thing as endorsing—though in the minds of many, they are in fact the same) is a sad testimony to the degradation of truthfulness in Christian discourse. 3) Your statement, “he went on record to say that the denial of the Trinity is not heresy” is a bald-faced absurdity, worthy only of the source you derived it from, Pulpit and Pen. It is a lie. Period. Anyone promoting it is a liar. Period. Unlike MB’s wild-eyed and dishonest critics (like P&P), I contacted MB and he read my words on his program and agreed with my statements. Let me guess—you didn’t actually listen to what MB said. You just believed whatever you were told by P&P. Not unusual, but reprehensible nonetheless. I can’t stop you from spreading falsehoods and misrepresentations—it is the common behavior of folks on the net these days. But I can hope you will become serious and start being careful about being truthful.
COMMENTARY: It’s here that we see James White in typical James White fashion. His argument begins with ad hominem, to paraphrase, “I don’t know who you are and you don’t matter to me.” He then continues by asserting that Dingess had “misrepresented Michael Brown” and it’s “reprehensible.” That’s a pretty strong word. Reader, if you watched the video, do you think – in any way – Michael Brown has been “misrepresented?” Really? Did his words not speak for him? Are all of Brown’s critics similarly misrepresenting him? Seriously? Furthermore, to claim that Brown doesn’t endorse these false teachers is patently absurd. When you claim that someone “walks with Jesus” and “has a heart for Jesus” and that by your personal testimony they are “friends who are good Christian brothers and sisters” that is what you call an “endorsement.” It is beneath intellectual sobriety to say with a straight face (and maybe White wrote it smiling like the Cheshire Cat, I do not know) that Michael Brown doesn’t endorse false teachers when he talks about how his personal knowledge of them vindicates them of all discerning criticism. If White wants to argue that Michael Brown does not “technically” endorse these individuals because he doesn’t use the word “endorse,” he’s arguing pure semantics and it’s beneath him. And if James White is arguing semantics on an issue as important as the Holy Trinity, he is not worthy of honest Christian discourse.
White continues with ad hominem, and in the world in which he lives (the color of the sky we are unsure), apparently, he thinks that by posting a video of Michael Brown speaking in his own words at the Rolex of Polemics blogs, somehow changes what it is Brown said. We may be “wild-eyed” but compared to Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, Brian Houston, Rick Joyner, and Lou Engle, we’re pretty tame. While Brown paints his critics like Justin Peters, Phil Johnson and Chris Rosebrough as “radicals,” it’s bizarre that James White is doing the same. Furthermore, James White needs to understand that a “lie” and a “falsehood” does not mean “something that I don’t want to hear.” White is soaking drenched in post-modernism, apparently operating from a lexical playbook that says, “If I like it, it is true and if I don’t like it, it’s a lie.” Michael Brown said what he said. It’s on video. It cannot be denied. Again, if White wants to accuse Dingess of “lying” because he didn’t cite him **exactly** as Brown said it, White is taking the nailed-jello methodology of Michael Brown and running with it, arguing semantics to slip out of a noose like a greased pig.
Dingess: Actually, I am not a P&P fan. I find JDs tactics reprehensible. And you are WRONG sir. I listened MB’s answer TWICE. TWICE Dr. White. I have appreciated your ministry for years. But MB has CLEARLY said you can hold to the fundamentals of the gospel AND be Oneness. This is a rejection of Nicea even though it isn’t a rejection of the Trinity. Just calling me a liar is not addressing the issue. You’re right, Dr. White. I am a nobody. I am NOT a celebrity. I am nothing. I am one of many who has been blessed by your ministry. And now, I am one of many who is extremely disappointed. You know PJ, TF, and JP and many other respectable men believe you are 100% wrong. That alone is enough for my position, which is identical to theirs, to at least deserve something more than a “your a nobody who is a liar and unworthy of consideration.” I have tried NOT to get into this issue. You insist on pushing the MB issue and I felt like I should say something.
For what it is worth, I not only came out of the Pentecostal world, I was very close to oneness people, having gone to their churches and conversed with them for a number of years.
COMMENTARY: I assume “PJ” is Phil Johnson, “JP” is Justin Peters, and “TF” is Todd Friel. Dingess makes clear that he doesn’t like P&P or our “tactics.” He also rightfully points out that ad hominem doesn’t actually address the issue.
White: 1) Before I replied to you, I looked at your page….you linked to the P&P hit piece. Oversight? 2) Which answer? His answer to the caller or the one where he read MY comments and agreed with them? I await your answer.
COMMENTARY: To James White, it seems, someone citing Pulpit & Pen makes them anathema, even though we have been repeatedly proven right on these matters. To James White, facts he doesn’t like are “lies,” reporting he doesn’t like is “yellow journalism,” and the discernment he doesn’t like is “wild-eyed criticism.” White then refers to Michael Brown reading his comments and agreeing with them. Regarding this, James White refers to the video here, recorded after James White had frantically contacted Michael Brown (start at 4.02 if you want to watch the back-peddling). Brown and White went into cover-up mode, and Brown said that the problems we (Trinitarians) had with the video was due to “ignorance and misunderstanding.” A few things here. First, note that Brown continued to argue that Oneness Pentecostals could be saved because they’ve accepted Christ and – like James White – just attacks his critics. Second, am I the only one who thinks that it’s incredibly sad that Michael Brown has to get cliff notes on Trinitarianism from James White? White had to rush to Brown’s rescue, handing him notes on the Trinity for Brown to read out loud on his program and re-affirm himself in orthodoxy. It’s one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen and embarrassing to boot. In the clip, Brown again argues that there are “bigger battles” than that of the Holy Trinity and brushes aside his critics. This demonstrates, which I’ll cover on the program today, that James White fundamentally misunderstands (or has forgotten) James 1:8 and the dangers of the double-minded man. That Michael Brown would try to use James White as an eraser for his theological errors is abundantly sad, and that James White would assist him, is even sadder.
Dingess: That is the only pace I could find the video. I don’t like JD’s behavior over the last couple of years but I still think he makes a good point on occasion and I think this is one of those occasions. My point is that Brown spent over 5 minutes refusing to call the rejection and denial of the Trinity heresy. He was teaching this woman that called in and ALL his listeners that the Trinity is NOT fundamental to the gospel nor to orthodoxy. You can reject it and still be saved. Its an “in house” debate. We look for you to step up and refute your friend openly and distance yourself from such teaching. It is deadly. Instead, you bring him on your show and enhance his credibility. Why can’t you look him in the eye and say, Michael, your friends are heretics. Much of what you call “fire” is just blasphemous worship. And your downgrade of the Trinitarian doctrine is reprehensible. Do you not believe that it is. And when you attempt to spin it and interpret MB in the most positive light, we all shake our heads James. I love your ministry but you are losing us sir. We will not stand for another MB Toronto blessing movement that we all know is coming. He is not one of us.
I appreciate your ministry…I rely on you…but this MB is hurting all of us…at least all the guys I talk to.
White: In other words, “Yes, I just listened to the one question, and no, I did not hear the rest of what MB said, and no, it doesn’t matter that he read your comments, clarified his statement.” Got it! That’s where we part company. I am sure some folks would take my statement that more than 50% of evangelicals I know are modalistic in their views of the Trinity and twist that into saying “James White denies the Trinity is definitional of the gospel!” Easy to do—so common—my standards won’t allow me to join in such internet hay-making. If you want to do it—you get to answer for it. Next, HURTING you? Oh goodness—now the “victim mentality” is invading Christianity, too? You can’t take the good and leave the bad, can’t go, “Wow, this is solid stuff on Psalm 22” without going “Oh and that means I have to adopt every attitude MB portrays toward Charismatic activities”? PLEASE! I just can’t believe this, “Oh, we are being HURT by Michael Brown” drivel. Man up!
COMMENTARY: Michael Brown helped Carl Lentz “clarify” his pro-abortion statements on The View. But in fact, all Brown did was Whitewash Lentz. There is a difference between clarification and obfuscation. There was no “clarification” in the aforementioned clip; there was only obfuscation, and Brown’s partner in crime in that obfuscation was James White. Furthermore, White seems to distance himself from the quotation in the Christian Research Journal in which he said “heresy is heresy.” White points out – as though it were in any way relevant – that most evangelicals lean modalistic. Of course, most evangelicals are probably lost, so why that matters I am unsure, unless White is arguing, “What Brown said really isn’t that bad, most evangelicals are ignorant of the Trinity,” as though ignorance were ever an excuse for anything.
Also, we have not argued that James White says the Trinity isn’t foundational – as he said – but that Michael Brown said that (and he said it very, very clearly) and that White should look at the facts, recognize his error in endorsing the man, humble himself, and be forgiven.
White seems altogether unconcerned with what his endorsement of Brown is doing to evangelicalism, or at least the small sliver of it over which he is influential. Like Dingess, when I speak to people, they are greatly concerned that White is doing serious damage in circles of his influence. White apparently thinks that’s absurd, and tells Dingess to “man up!” Notice it’s not Dingess who’s hurt, and so accusing him of having a “victim mentality” is a foul ball. It’s the church of Jesus Christ that is hurting when men like Michael Brown are promoted, and it’s to the Bride of Christ that James White seems totally indifferent.
Dingess: So, again, I listened to the 5+ minutes entirely, twice. I thought you would have been annoyed he dropped your name in an answer that bad. I respect you Dr. White. I will continue to use your materials and listen to your debates. The fact remains that you have done NOTHING to refute my points about MB. And you have done NOTHING to justify your endorsement of him other than to tell me I should be able to take the good and throw the bad away. I don’t need MB’s good, what little there is. I can get his good from good guys who don’t endorse heretics. We are all sad to see you run to this man’s defense. We can’t justify it in our minds. MB endorses heretics: yes. Michael Brown pushes worship practices that are blasphemous: yes. Michael Brown displaces the Trinity, making it a non-essential component of Christian belief: yes. And you seem immovable. And we cannot understand why. I won’t trouble you any longer. I know you are busy. I love you. I appreciate your ministry. I respect you highly. But on this issue, you couldn’t be more wrong in my humble opinion.
White: OK, so, he AGREED with my position and answered my question and yet you go, “Nope, didn’t change a thing.” OK. We’re done. Have a nice life!
COMMENTARY: This is how James White treats his “fans.” He says, “Have a nice life!” In James White’s world, Michael Brown can call a debate over the Trinity an “in house debate” and all he has to do to excuse himself is quote a line that White tweeted. **Bam** It’s just that simple. Sprinkle a James White tweet on that heresy and it’s all good, now! After all, Brown referenced James White, so that should make all of our concerns go away, yes? And if not, then it’s off you, you pleb!
On his Facebook page today, James White insinuated that this was possibly a “set up” between Dingess and Pulpit & Pen. If this was a set-up to expose James White as a bully who needs to listen to the wisdom of others and repent of his errors, then I guess we succeeded. It was not a “set-up,” however, and other than booting Dingess from the Bunker at one point, I’m not sure I’ve ever spoken to him. What you are witnessing right now is essentially the entire Reformed world telling James White he is wrong and should stop promoting (endorsing, commending, etc…) Michael Brown. Whether or not Brown knows Hebrew is impertinent to whether or not he is dangerous. Wolves come in sheep’s clothing, and why James White can’t see that, I don’t know except that maybe he’s blinded by his own vainglory.
In the meantime, I want you to understand what White is doing here. It’s called “triangulation.” During the Interfaith Dialogue kerfuffle of 2017, James White (pretty successfully) got people to believe there was a binary choice between he and Brannon Howse and that everyone had to pick a team (Howse also use triangulation in his methodology). In other words, White convinced people by the sheer brashness of his personality that if you disagreed with his Interfaith Dialogue, you were of the “Howsian Group.” Knowing that no one really wants to be in the “Howsian Group,” the strategy was fairly successful; it killed criticism in Reformed circles. Likewise, if you disagree with his promotion of the chief apologist of the charismaniac movement, Dr. White wants to triangulate you into a pigeon hole of being of the “anti-charismatic polemics cabal.” Well, first of all, every 1689 Baptist ought to be anti-charismatic (welcome to Chapter 1 of our Confession). But secondly, you don’t have to be pro-polemics or pro-Pulpit & Pen to think it’s absolute lunacy to promote Michael Brown or to think that White’s unabashed promotion of him has been downright shameful.
I’ll dissect this further on today’s Polemics Report from the P&P FB page at 2:00PM MST.
[Contributed by JD Hall]