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A Debate Between Professor James White, Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, 
and Brother John Mary, Representing the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

 Resolved: The Church of the Council of Nica is not the Roman Catholic Church 


First Rebuttal: Brother John Mary

[Note: Many of the hyperlinks on this page must be read to understand the commentary.]

I couldn't agree more with James' technique for identifying a church: "Well, you ask the folks what they believe, and determine their theological beliefs from that." This approach is very logical and certainly makes the delineation between us quite noticeable. I will use his methodology to show that whatever church he claims membership in is not the same Church of the Council of Nica. Remember: James White "accepts" The Nicene Council as valid and authoritative, but says it is not Roman Catholic.

To organize his presentation, James used five categories of doctrines not believed or practiced in the Nicene Church (according to him). I will use these same categories as my outline.

1) "…look to the Bishop of Rome as the Vicar of Christ, the head of the universal Church, the pastor of all Christians."

For this section, I will simply rely on the writings and history of Athanasius. This Catholic Bishop said, "For this will seem to be most good and very proper, if to the HEAD that is the SEE of PETER the APOSTLE, the BISHOPS of the Lord shall refer FROM ALL provinces." (Letter from the Bishops of the Council of Sardica -- including Athanasius -- to Pope Julius.)

Athanasius, in his Defense against the Arians called the (local) Council of Sardica a "Great Council." This Council, in two of its canons (3 and 6), graphically states the primacy of the Roman Pontiff over other bishops. These canons were no doubt in Athanasius' mind when, around 360 he noted in De Synodis that "…a charge had been laid by some people against the bishop of Alexandria before the bishop of Rome... [Pope Julius]" Athanasius himself had been personally vindicated by Pope Julius after he appealed to the Holy Father. He appealed not only in writing, but in person, traveling all the way to Rome whither he stayed for three years. What's more interesting is that the Eusebians (the bad guys) also asked the Pope to judge in the matter.

Athanasius himself quotes this same pontiff rebuking the Eusebians for bypassing his authority (which he "received from the blessed Apostle Peter") in condemning the church of the Alexandrians. (Apologia Contra Arianos 35)

Writing about a pre-nicene condemnation of Arianism, he says "For Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, having written also against those who said that the Son of God was a creature and a created thing, it is manifest that not now for the first time but from old the heresy of the Arian adversaries of Christ HAS BEEN ANATHEMATIZED BY ALL." (De Sententia)

Not the Universal Pastor?

2) "…believe in the Marian doctrines that set Rome apart, such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her Bodily Assumption…"

Since no Marian doctrines were addressed at the Council, I will not go into detail here. The Marian doctrines were touched upon in my opener and will be more thoroughly explored in our next debate. For now, I will refer the reader back to here for a refutation.

3) "…embrace such concepts as the thesaurus meritorum, purgatory, and indulgences…"

Lest James accuse us of "cut and paste" methods with our patristic sources (used, no less, in a "willy-nilly fashion"), we will confine ourselves to the mere mention of a few names of Fathers who affirm the truth of Purgatory: Sts. Epiphanius of Salamis, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem, Tertullian, Perpetua. If James is interested in examining our willy-nilliness, he can ask us for references in the Q&A section.

Now, for a little more of James White's intellectual insanity, we direct your attention to some of Luther's 95 Theses found posted on his web page. We only speculate that White had an anti-Catholic intention in mind when he posted these. You figure it.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.

17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.

25.The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.

26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).

73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.

74. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.

James White: Did you bother to read the 95 Theses before posting them on your web site? To reiterate an important point made by Prof. White in Paragraph #1: "Well, you ask the folks what they believe, and determine their theological beliefs from that." His acceptance of Luther's 95 Theses, coupled with his rejection of the doctrines of Purgatory and indulgences, forms a contradiction. Can we expect an explanation for this?

Luther confesses that not only does the Pope exercise authority over Purgatory, but even the bishops and ordinary priests in their parishes. Two questions here: 1) Does the Reformed Baptist Church of James White have bishops and priests? 2) Do they exercise authority over Purgatory as their "pope" does?

Now really James: Does it look like Martin Luther would agree with you in your trashing of Purgatory and indulgences? I think he would more likely say: "Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences." (#71 of 95.)

Rhetorical question, James: was Martin Luther 1) a member of the Church of Nica, 2) a Roman Catholic or 3) something new under the sun?

Regarding the thesaurus meritorum (treasury of merit): not only did the Church of Nica believe it because it was a tradition from the Apostles, but it is clearly found in Holy Scripture. Matt. 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33, Luke 18:22 all indicate that there is merit for doing good works. All deal with the "treasure in heaven" given those who do charitable works. If James White wishes to deny Scriptural facts which are so clear, then surely he will lose his credibility.

4) "…believe in the Roman concept of authority, replete with extra-biblical, revelatory or inspired "traditions" that add to the "deposit of faith" items and beliefs not found in Scripture…"

Oral tradition is, of course, provable from scripture. We read 2 Thes. 2-15:

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."

Furthermore, can you tell me what Christ was revealing to His Apostles in Acts 1:3 if it was not doctrine meant to be received by the ministers of His Church by way of oral tradition?

"To whom He shewed Himself alive after His passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God."

Where in the New Testament can we find all the words spoken by Our Lord during the forty days after his Resurrection?

Is not all of God's revelation important, especially when He speaks of the Kingdom of God, His Church? Luke 4:4:

"And Jesus answered him: it is written that man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word of God."

EVERY word is important. Do you mean to tell me that not even one of those words, which Jesus spoke during that specific period of time, was passed on orally? The burden of refutation is on your shoulders, James White.

White Claims: "Many Roman apologists have realized the impossibility of tracing many modern Roman dogmas to the primitive Church and have, as a result, abandoned the historical field of battle at this point."

Really? I would like to know who these Roman apologists are that find it impossible to trace many Roman dogmas to the primitive Church. (If that is the case, then it is recommended that they find new work, and don't give up their day jobs.) I dare James White to offer me one Roman Catholic dogma which he believes cannot be traced to the primitive Church. Whatever formal teachings found in His Church at any time of history must have originated from Christ Himself directly or through the Apostles. Our Lord's very own words guarantee the infallibility of the teachings of His Church:

"He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." (Luke 10:16)

"And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." (Matt. 28:20)

There was no universal church in existence at the time of the Council of Trent that would dare claim physical and doctrinal "genealogy" back to the Apostles except for the Catholic Church (and the eastern schismatic churches). Would James care to produce counter evidence? Were not all of the major Reformers ex-Catholics?

If the above scriptural quotes are true and inerrant, then certainly there was a Church in existence in the 16th century which could claim to have preserved the teachings inherited from the Apostles by oral and written tradition. James White denies it was the Roman Catholic Church. If it wasn't that Church, then tell us James, which visible body was the True Church, and why weren't the Reformers members of that Church? Why were they originally Roman Catholic? If James answers that the Reformers were returning to original and true Christianity, because Rome departed from it, then how is it the Reformers (when regrouping) excluded the Pope, who existed, according to him, even during Nica? (White simply calls him the Bishop of Rome. If White acknowledges the existence, authority and legitimacy of the Bishop of Rome in the fourth century, then would he be kind enough to name the successors of that bishop up to and including the twentieth century?) Why did they abandon the Papacy? You see, according to non-Catholic "christians," the Papacy has been part of the Roman Catholic Church at least since the fourth century. Maybe James implies that the Great Apostasy occurred in the fourth century, as many non-Catholics claim? If that didn't happen, James, then in subsequent centuries beyond the Council of Nica, identify by name, members of the visible True Catholic Church. I choose the eighth century as a focal point. If you don't answer this here, you will be forced to do so in the Q&A section where one cannot skirt issues.

This may be a good place for James White to explain what he means by the this line excerpted from his "Statement of Belief."

James, would you explain what you mean by "general revelation?" And how can revelation that is "supernatural" be anything other than infallible? To say otherwise is self-contradictory. If you are sure it is from God, you can call it supernatural. How can it NOT be infallible? Can God err? If you are not sure it is from God, then why do you call it "supernatural?"

This sentence in paragraph 29 is pregnant with meaning: James has revealed one of the cardinal weaknesses of Protestantism, and, at the same time, he has shown why it was so necessary that I spend as much time as I did in my opener on the concept of continuity of religion. Simply put, if the three religions named by the Prof. are not the Church of Nica, and if the Church of Nica was the true Christian Church, then none of these sects are the true Church. But if the Church of Nica continued as God intended, and can be found today as a modern reality, then which one is it? James admits it's not Protestantism; but, as any reader of this debate can tell, WE have not given up the ghost. Nica is Roman Catholic in its doctrinal content, and its hero, Athanasius, was a Roman Catholic. (Not even a Reformed Baptist).

James claims there is a "fundamental disjunction" between the teachings and beliefs of the Nicene Church and those of the modern Roman Catholic Church. If that is true, then he himself has a responsibility to be able to identify those doctrines taught at the Council of Nica that are now formally rejected by the Roman Catholic Church. Similarly: Can James White state unequivocally that he embraces all of the doctrinal teachings disseminated by the Nicene Council the same way we Roman Catholics do? I, for one, reject not even one of those teachings.

James spends #34-39 on Athanasius, a section in which he does some willy-nillying of his own: He accurately quotes Athanasius partially and out-of-context, only the Saint goes on to say …"…but the ill disposition and the versatile and crafty irreligion of Eusebius and his fellows, compelled the Bishops, as I said before, to publish MORE DISTINCTLY the terms which overthrew their irreligion..." (Decretis 32) More distinct than Scripture? How can that be? (Sarcasm intended). What "extra-biblical" standard could possibly permit the Nicene Fathers to reformulate the content of Scripture in their own words? Athanasius himself will give us the key to this when he says:

"But beyond these [Scriptural] sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian and should no longer be called" (Ad Serapion 1:28)


"But you are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from APOSTOLIC TRADITION, and frequently accursed envy has wished to unsettle it, but has not been able" (Festal Letters, 29).

These, and the above quotes from Athanasius should settle the issue of that Father's Catholicity.

5) "…nor practice the necessary devotions to reserved, consecrated hosts that would substantiate the leap from a belief in "real presence" to the much later belief in "transubstantiation."

James has approached the brink of dementia at this point. The belief in the doctrine of Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist - a doctrine James admits is historically provable, but one he rejects as a Protestant - finds its devotional expression in reserving the Sacrament in our tabernacles for private adoration. (We hope this fact gives the reader some insight into the "logic" of James White.) The fact that this particular devotion was not practiced in the time or region of the Council of Nica is a moot point. (If James wants to know why it wasn't practiced, I'd be happy to let him know in the Q&A section).

He would like to make "transubstantiation" depend on reservation of the Host, where as "transubstantiation" is proven from the doctrine of the Real Presence - a doctrine James concedes as "Nicene" (even though he rejects it). This is something of a catechism lesson for James on what Transubstantiation is: In between "bread" and "Real Presence" what happens? In other words, we know the early Christians weren't worshipping bread as God - that's idolatry (right?); so when the priest said certain words on the altar and then the people worshipped - as God - that which had formerly been bread, what do we call this change? The correct philosophical word is "Transubstantiation." That's not too difficult, is it? The Copts, who went into schism from Rome in 451 and the Greeks, who did so in 1054 both believe this same doctrine of Transubstantiation. James' point here is either totally dishonest or pathetic and maybe a little of both.

By the way, James, since you complain that we Romans leaped from a belief in the "Real Presence" to "Transubstantiation.": Do YOU believe in the Real Presence? A simple "Yes" or "No" will suffice. The audience awaits your response. ???????????

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