Tim Staples vs James White

Tim Staples & James White
Tim Staples & James White

Is this debate, Tim Staples of Catholic Answers debates James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries on the topic:

Is the Bible the only infallible rule of faith? 

This debate took place way back in 1996. Tim Staples gave me permission to publish it.

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona.  He is the author of more than twenty books, a professor, an accomplished debater, and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church.

Tim Staples is the Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers, but he was not always Catholic. Tim was raised a Southern Baptist and later, as an adult, enrolled in Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and became a youth minister in an Assembly of God community. He converted to Catholicism in 1988.

Enjoy the debate!

31 thoughts on “Tim Staples vs James White

  1. Because, only with faith one does accept the truth and the truth are in His only one true Church which is the Catholic Church. Blessed be God forever!

  2. Great debate. Mr. Staples revealed how solid biblically and historically the Catholic position is and also revealed how Mr. White takes Fathers of the Church way out of context. Loved it!

  3. I did not know that there is such thing as Staples Vs. White debate. Good job defending our Catholic faith Tim! Thanks for posting this Mr. Fradd.

    PS:

    Is there a free downloadable version of this?

  4. Thanks for posting this Matt. It was funny to hear Tim get so animated back then. He has grown so much in the last 17 years. It’s sad that Dr. White is still to this day just as stubborn about his anti-catholicism, despite all the former protestant pastors who have converted to the Catholic Church including Dr. White’s own sister! He still travels the country, debating anyone willing to give him a pulpit. Again thanks for posting. I really enjoyed it.

  5. Never heard of either men before listening to this and personally i believe each individual must “work out his salvation with fear and trembling” to Quote; phil 2:12. Both are very good debaters, but Tim slipped up admitting some impatience with his opponent. His closing was inspired though Quoting St Augustine, Mr White could debate all night long his position so rehearsed and repetitive it was infuriating at times, but that doesn’t make him right!

    1. Jean-Pierre Cote,
      Are you another person who just refuse to accept the stubborn facts. If you take the Bible so seriously what does Jesus mean when he says to Peter that he is the rock on which he will build his Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Did the RC Church not take the Church down the centuries weeding out the various heresies, and yes these were all sinners who God appointed to do it. Now James White comes in this century to tell us they were all wrong and he is the Authority on which you will build your Church. I say not.

    1. We read it, Rick, with open mind. Now I hope you read Matt’s response to James White letter as well. We urge you if you haven’t read it yet.

      James White’s defeat on the debate must have hurt his ego that he had to write that letter to attack Tim Staples.

      Thank you, Matt, in response to James White’s letter.

      1. I did read it… and I have a lot to say on it, but I’d like to take the time to write up something more formal and structured (and I’m still taking notes on debate itself.) Quickly though, it’s odd to me that both Staples (and the author of the follow-up posted) hinge so much on the fact that in the Bible we see cases of “oral binding doctrine” being established. Staples spends a bunch of time referencing the OT to prove this as well. Or course during the revelatory period of the laying down of scripture there was the use of prophets and apostles who spoke authoritatively before anything was written down. The question is does this type of special revelation continue today? (From my understanding, even Roman Catholics deny that we have special revelation today.) Do we know of any binding tradition that the apostles taught that was not recorded in Scripture? Indulgences? Papal infallibility? Purgatory? Marian dogmas? If they were taught by the apostles, why didn’t anyone believe them during the first three centuries? My point would be that we have no oral tradition that we know to be apostolic and binding apart from what’s revealed in Scripture.

        And in regard to that author making this comment “because I affirm with Paul (1 Cor 9:27, 1 Cor 10:12, Romans 11:22, etc.) that one can lose his salvation.” Come on now,he doesn’t see the context of fall as in “fall into sin?” No one denies that we don’t sin. In regard to Romans 11 what has been the whole context leading up to 11? The jews no longer have special privilege by simple national lineage, Christianity is now open to the gentiles… but (paraphrasing) ‘don’t think you can just keep on acting as you were.. without proof of a changed heart (works) or you prove yourself “cut off” (not in the sense that you had salvation and lost it.) Anyway, I’m digressing.

        Obviously a lot more to be said and I apologize for being so short at this time.

        Since I’m assuming most on this site are Roman Catholics, how about someone recommend one book that I should read that presents the clearest case for the authority of the Roman Catholic church? I do want to understand “the other side” better. Thanks.

      2. Rick, your question is “Do we know of any binding tradition that the apostles taught that was not recorded in Scripture?”

        One of them was the “didache” or the teachings of the Apostles as mentioned in Acts 2:42. It contains traditions concerning baptism and how it should be done or administered. It also contains teachings concerning the Eucharist and how it should be administered and many others.

        Another one is the canon of scripture. Based on tradition and the teaching authority of the magisterium, the 27 book of the new testament and 46 books of the old testament became the binding tradition and truth that the 73 books now called the Bible is the infallible inspired Word of God.

        Another one is the doctrine of the Trinity. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. All those dogmatic doctrines you mentioned were already existing before the Bible but they were just reaffirmed later during the centuries only to become dogmas. A dogma is a doctrine that was disputed and brought to the Church Council for discussion and settlement. Once issues regarding the doctrine are settled, the doctrine is reaffirmed and become a dogma. It is not invented but reaffirmed and becomes official and undisputed teaching of the Church.

  6. Rick,

    You seem to presuppose that there is no evidence of Indulgences, Papal infallibility, Purgatory ,Marian, or whatever other Catholic teaching you disagree with in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. I disagree.

    But, if one were to turn that back around on you, please show us in the writings of the Early Church Fathers that one was unable to forfeit their own salvation.

    1. @Nicholas Gulda I’m not sure what you mean by “turn [it] back around on you” – I’m not trying to justify the position of assurance of salvation based on ‘early church fathers.’ This just goes to show again where protestants differ in their approach to what we are relying on as authority.

      1. Hi Rick, I meant use the standard you were using to judge our Dogmas on your own teaching. But since that you are not holding your teachings to that standard, I don’t know; at the very least it should be a way for you to check your beliefs and interpretations of Scripture with those of early Christians. I know that as a former Protestant, reading the Early Church Fathers eventually got me to question the way I was interpreting certain verses (I used to believe in the eternal security of the believer.)

      2. St. Augustine is an Early Church Father, and one of the Doctors of the Catholic Church. But, if you were trying to tell me that he believed that a Christian couldn’t forfeit their own salvation then you would be mistaken. He certainly believed that those who were once regenerated could end up in Hell through their own free will. Here is a citation from his work, “The Gift of Perseverance”:

        “‘”[O]f two pious men, why to the one should be given perseverance unto the end, and to the other it should not be given, God’s judgments are even more unsearchable. . . . had not both been called and followed him that called them? And had not both become, from wicked men, justified men, and both been renewed by the laver of regeneration?” (The Gift of Perseverance 9:21 [A.D. 428]).'”

        (Source: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mortal-sin)

        Notice here 2 pious men “both…called and followed him that called them” (i.e. they are Christians.) They had “both become, from wicked men, justified men, and both been renewed by the laver of regeneration.” Now, if you are familiar with the teaching of the Fathers and Catholic doctrine (as well as Orthodox Christian and many Protestants), you will know that “the laver of regeneration”, is a reference to the Sacrament of Baptism, where one is born again. (cf. John 3:5). Seeing how the Early Church Fathers *all* interpreted John 3:5 really was a bit of a shocker for me.

        You can see here:

        http://www.catholic.com/tracts/born-again-in-baptism

        Anyway, you can see St. Augustine talks of 2 Christians, “both been called and followed him that called them”, both justified, both born again “by the laver of regeneration”, but only “one should be given perseverance unto the end” and be saved. (Just to note, St. Augustine did not teach a double predestination as if some are predestined to Hell while others are predestined to Heaven.)

    1. James white is so funny guy, Early protestants reformers they followed a man name Martin Luther was so crazy he rewrote the latin vulgate to german language, Martin luther was wrestling with hes own Demons and devils and rewrite on faith alone and sole Scriptura. The Early father’s never never teach that it was always grace of faith and charities of works help the poor and caring for dead. Helping people’s needs both faiths Eastern and wastern Orthodoxs christianity and Roman Catholics on both sides 1.2 billion christians all round the world. First off the Protestant’s reject the Church. Started more wars with the Roman Catholics church’s on both sides shed more blood in name jesus. But But Both sides where where wrong!!! Can’t we all be be forgive. GOD IS Not Mad at us. Jesus is love

  7. James white is so funny guy, Early protestants reformers they followed a man name Martin Luther was so crazy he rewrote the latin vulgate to german language, Martin luther was wrestling with hes own Demons and devils and rewrite on faith alone and sole Scriptura. The Early father’s never never teach that it was always grace of faith and charities of works help the poor and caring for dead. Helping people’s needs both faiths Eastern and wastern Orthodoxs christianity and Roman Catholics on both sides 1.2 billion christians all round the world. First off the Protestant’s reject the Church. Started more wars with the Roman Catholics church’s on both sides shed more blood in name jesus. But But Both sides where where wrong!!! Can’t we all be be forgive. GOD IS Not Mad at us. Jesus is love

  8. I’ve always been amused by White’s argument that the Church is the pillar of the truth, and not the truth itself. The scriptures are the truth, we’re told. The pillars hold up the roof, and aren’t you glad about that? Well, if the pillars are unsound, then, no, not really. What good is a roof if the pillars are bad? Bad pillars won’t hold up a roof, and what a mess we’d be in if the roof fell on us for lack of sound pillars?

    I do agree with White, however, that sola scriptura need not (probably does not) imply there will unanimity on the interpretation of any given verse of the Bible. However, a problem still remains: if two or more practitioners of sola scriptura disagree on the interpretation of the Bible, how do they know who’s right (if any of them are?).

    My whole approach to discussing sola scriptura, though, bypasses all these issues. For me, it is enough to show that sola scriptura is an impossible doctrine to maintain because the Bible itself doesn’t tell us which books are scripture and which aren’t. All scripture is inspired by God. Well, of course it is, or it wouldn’t be scripture, would it? The problem is knowing WHICH books are scriptural and which aren’t. White seems not to appreciate the difference between ontology (what is scripture?) and epistemology (which books are scripture?). I know this gets repeated a lot, but it I’ve yet to hear a good refutation of it: since the Bible has no divine table of contents, how do you, as a Protestant, know that the book you’re referring to as scripture is actually scripture? And let’s have none of that Sproulian nonsense about a fallible collection of infallible books.

    1. [quote Timothy]
      I know this gets repeated a lot, but it I’ve yet to hear a good refutation of it: since the Bible has no divine table of contents, how do you, as a Protestant, know that the book you’re referring to as scripture is actually scripture?
      [/quote]

      Well Timothy, How did the early Jew or Christian know what Scripture was without this divine Table of Contents?

      As Mr. White has pointed out before “How did the Jewish man 50 years before Jesus Christ know that the books of 2 Chronicles and Isaiah were Scripture? ” The Jewish leaders were fallible, yet somehow Jesus held man accountable for knowing the OT scriptures (Mat 22:29)? How were they able to know what Scripture was? ‘The earliest Christians did have a canon, namely, the Old Testament itself (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6; 2 Tim. 3:15–16), which seems to have existed just fine prior to the founding of the church. There are no reasons to think that the Israel of Jesus’s day had any infallible revelation from God that helped it choose the books of the Old Testament canon. ‘ [quoting Michael Kruger]

      So why do Catholics keep bringing up this “Golden/Diving Table of Contents?” Somehow the early Church was able to know Paul’s writings were Holy Scripture (1 Thes 2:13) and yet this was LONG before the Council of Trent. And even other writers saw letters “as scripture” 2 Pet 3:16 “There are some things in them {Paul’s letter} that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the OTHER SCRIPTURES” {emphasis added}

      So what mechanism was in place before the 1500s that enabled the early Christians to know what Scripture was? How could the Catholic Church make the claim that without them, and their infallible declarations, “there would be no New Testament” when apparently Paul and Peter both understood the early church would recognize Scripture, and earlier the fallible Jewish church was also somehow able to understand what Scripture was as well.

      Protestants do not deny that the church played a role in recognizing and affirming books that were scripture. Since protestants believe that the books have a self authentication nature to them we would EXPECT the early church to recognize which were to be included as Canon. Where I think the rubber meets the road is in the Catholic insistence on their role in providing the ONLY and DEFINITIVE role in those infallible declarations. They fail to give credence to the self-attesting feature of the books themselves that could have worked within a fallible body of believers (the church.)

      So, Timothy, having this mythical “table of contents” would only kick the can up the road a bit. You’d then still claim that you would need an infallible proclamation from the Catholic Church to declare that table of contents was in fact Scripture.

  9. Clearly, Dr. White won this debate on the fats and merits alone. Truth always prevails even though it is vigorously suppressed by the self-willed hearts of blind men.

  10. praise god for the reformers are we would all still be burned alive by the satanic catholic church- a church who has the worst rotted fruit of poison!

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