As we were packing our things there were
lots of discussions as to which would be the first rides to
get on. "I am definitely going to get on Supreme Scream
first." "Oh, I can't wait to get on Ghostrider."
These were the exchanges taking place between my daughters
Angelique and Abigail and their close friend Summer White.
They were anxiously waiting our 3 day "get away"
which included a trip to the Knotts Berry Farm Theme Park.
Little did they know that they were about to go on a
"ride" long before their Saturday at Camp Snoopy.
I am speaking of course of the James
White vs. Tim Staples debate that took place on Friday evening
July 7th. It was an event that had been marked on
our calendars for months, an event that we (Kelli White, my
wife Jody and myself) had eagerly awaited. For our kids,
however, it was perhaps the "long night" before the
"big adventure," the "bump" in the road
before we get to the "fast track."
I guess debates and lectures are not the kind of things
most young people look forward to. After all, my daughters
Angelique (14) and Abigail (12), had never even been to a
debate, and while Summer (11) and Joshua (14) had seen their
dad in action before, they no doubt had their eyes set on
Saturday and Supreme Scream.
The evening began as expected with Tim
Staples beginning with a 30 minute opening argument followed
by a 30 minute opening by James White. Sitting next to me was
Angelique and sitting right in front of us in the first row
(known as the "spit pit" to young people) sat
Abigail and Summer. The
beginning argument, by Tim Staples, brought some yawns amongst
our young people. That is, until Angelique whispered to me,
"what is he talking about?" "I have no
idea," I responded, "but I am sure he will make his
point soon." Sadly, after 30 minutes, I was proven wrong
because no such "point" was made.
Some more yawns and obvious distraction
had set in. No doubt they were beginning to wonder if this was
going to be a long evening after all. It was now James
White's turn. He was very quick to point out that he, unlike
Mr. Staples, was focused on staying on the debate topic for
the evening. Hence he wasted no time in getting to the issues.
This relieved my daughter because evidently James had shared
the same "frustration" she had in Mr. Staples'
opening. It was encouraging to see that Dr. White's opening
argument had managed to recapture the kid's attention. Now to
be sure, there is no getting around the obvious bias the kids
had for James. After all, to Angelique and Abigail, James is a
dear friend as well as one of their pastors, and there simply
was no missing the obvious twinkle in Summer's eye that
lovingly expressed that "this is daddy."
After the opening arguments things got a
little more intense. It became increasingly evident to the
kids that we were in the minority that night. They began to
look around as the large Roman Catholic crowd began to cheer
their champion, while expressing their displeasure (that is
putting it mildly) at their Mr. White. Emotion and intensity
were definitely in the air and it was during the 15 minute
rebuttals that I began to notice a definite change in the
kid's attention and in their body language.
They began to follow the arguments. Oh, I
am not suggesting that they understood everything that was
said, but one thing is for sure, they were working hard at
trying. No longer was there "Knotts on the mind"
(pardon the pun) but they were, in the fullest sense of the
word, into the
debate. They began to scoot up on their seats. They began to
nod their heads in approval as well as shake their heads in
disapproval. They began to listen with a measure of
discernment as they heard and saw Dr. White address issues
that Mr. Staples failed to answer. They were also given a
brief history lesson as they heard of popes Honorius, Sixtus,
Liberius, and Zosimus. Unlike other history lessons they had
received, this one was most
interesting… yet… it became evident, however, that Mr.
Staples did not share their interest in history as he
desperately sought to get as far away from it as possible.
As Mr. Staples attempted to answer
charges against Honorius, my daughter whispered, "He
looks nervous," and if I am not mistaken my younger
daughter turned and said, "his hands are shaking."
Summer just kept nodding her head in frustration as Mr.
Staples chased convenient rabbits and seemingly
"forgot" about Honorius. "How come he doesn't
answer the question?" my daughter asked, to which I
responded, "because he can't." "Oh", she
said looking at me with a smile. I mean, how would you like to
defend Honorius while seeking to defend papal infallibility?
Such would make even the most eloquent of men stutter, as Mr.
Staples repeatedly did that evening.
Well what more could I say? Like the
children clapping after Mr. White had silenced the roaring
crowd by reminding them that Sixtus died in August after his
Vulgate was put out in April (you had to be there). Or how
about the unanswerable and devastating question posed to Mr.
Staples before the break regarding Alexander IV? Alexander put
forth a decree that forbid laymen from debating a heretic in
any public forum. Mr. Staples, a laymen himself, was posed
this dilemma. If he believed in papal infallibility then he
would end the debate in accordance with Alexander's decree. If
he continued the debate then he had to prove that the decree
had been rescinded and if so, when and why? Finally, if it did
change then how could it have been true once and not anymore?
During the intermission Abigail leaned
over her chair and said to me, "He told Summer and I that
he was going to ask that question dad." "What
do you think he will say, dad?" responded Angelique. Well
it wasn't too long before their questions were answered.
Unfortunately, Dr. White and the rest of us saw once again
that Mr. Staples had no answer.
The cross examination was where I
observed my most amusing situation. The children were
expecting the apologists to ask questions of each other.
Unfortunately Mr. Staples had forgotten this and was more
comfortable preaching than he was in asking questions. Maybe
it was because he was somewhat concerned about Dr.White's
answers. At any rate, Mr. Staples had 12 minutes to ask some
questions. I believe he asked two. They were couched in what
seemed like 5 minute diatribes. After he finally asked his
first question he began his second diatribe. Midway through
Mr. Staple's "preaching" my attention was stolen by
an exclamation that was made: "Just ask the
question!!!" My eyes surprisingly focused on my usually
reserved daughter sitting next to me. "Did she actually
say that?" I thought. Incredible!
As Mr. Staples concluded his closing
argument the kids watched as the Roman Catholic crowd stood in
a thunderous ovation. The kids looked a bit confused.
"Didn't they hear the debate?" they must have
thought. "Why are they applauding?" their
expressions said. They soon recognized that it really didn't
matter what Mr. Staples said or didn't say, seemingly he could
have simply said "You're wrong Mr. White" (which is
about as much as he said) and the crowd would have roared. The
kids learned that these folks were loyal to their traditions,
sadly, at the expense of truth. No one but God could change
the hearts of those Roman Catholic people, and now more then
ever the kids had learned this lesson.
As Dr. White began to conclude his
closing argument there was no getting around the fact that the
kids were not going to be outdone. They anxiously sat on their
seats as James White closed his presentation with passion and
conviction. They were so filled with emotion that they quickly
erupted with an ovation of their own. "We may be
outnumbered," I thought, "but we are not
silenced." Our young people had led the way in showing
their appreciation to the masterful job that James White had
As we left the building there was much
discussion. Each of the children were talking as if they had
just seen an NBA game. "I can't wait till the next debate!"
"Did you hear when James…?" "How about when
Tim couldn't…?" Well you get the point. It had become
clearly evident to me that the children were treated to a most
memorable occasion. They had their minds challenged. They had
learned to listen with discernment. They had demonstrated a
passionate interest in the defense of the truth. Finally, they
had shown tremendous love and loyalty to James White. Little
did they know, as I heard them talking, that at least for a
little while they had forgotten all about Knotts Berry Farm.