Whitaker’s Preface

You can see an excellent introduction to Whitaker’s work over at Beggar’s All. I don’t need to overlap what he has already said regarding this most excellent work. It has been noted that this work is available on Google books. I would highly encourage the Roman Catholic readers of my blog to read this book along with me. It is usually best to engage the strongest arguments of one’s opponents. This is something Whitaker was remarkably good at doing, as we will see. I don’t know how many posts Whitaker will take up, but I intend to set forth his strongest arguments, and note any updates that need to be applied to his arguments. I would certainly like to encourage readers also, if they think of updates to his arguments that I miss, for them to note said updates in the comments. It is important also to note that Whitaker’s entire project here is to affirm the Protestant position of sola Scriptura over against the Roman Catholic position.

Whitaker says an important word concerning the importance of this doctrine:

The matter of our dispute is certain controversies of religion, and those of the last importance, in which whosoever errs is deceived to the eternal destruction of his soul. In a word, we have to speak of the sacred scriptures, of the nature of the church, of the sacraments, of righteousness, of Christ, of the fundamentals of the faith; all which are of that nature, that if one be shaken, nothing can remain sound in the whole fabric of religion (p. 15).

Whitaker lays out also on page 19 what will be his method:

We must, lest we should seem to construe the doctrines of the papists otherwise than the practice of the Roman church requires, or to take for granted what they grant not, or to ascribe to them opinions which they disclaim, take care to follow this order, namely, first to inquire what the council of Trent hat determined upon every question, and then to consult the Jesuits, the most faithful interpreters of that council, and other divines, and our countrymen at Rheims amongst the rest. And since Bellarmine hath handled these questions with accuracy and method, and his lectures are in every body’s hands, we will make him, so to speak, our principle aim, and follow, as it were, in his very footsteps.

Notice several very important things about Whitaker here. Firstly, he is extremely concerned to state the Roman Catholic position accurately. He notes some of the very common pitfalls in debate. Secondly, he desires to take the stated position of the Roman Catholic Church as the point of departure. This is as it should, for all will allow that conciliar documents are much more clearly the position of a church than any individual opinions are. Later on down the page, he makes note of the fact that he will have to make reference to “the fathers, tradition, and the practice of the church; lest perchance we should appear to shrink from the battle, we have determined to make use of that sort of weapons also.”

His goal is stated very plainly: “I hope to make it plain to you, that all our tenets are not only founded upon scriptural authority, which is enough to ensure victory, but command the additional suffrage of the testimonies of fathers, councils, and, I will add, even of many of the papists, which is a distinguished and splendid ornament of our triumph” (p. 19).

In closing, it should be noted that Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, probably the greatest debater that the Roman Catholic Church had at the time, held Whitaker in very high esteem, even to the point of bringing in Whitaker’s picture to his study (see page x). If this is Bellarmine’s opinion, then modern Roman Catholics would do well to give Whitaker the respect due an adversary worthy of the steel. Bellarmine and Whitaker both could wipe the floor with %99.99 of modern theologians in a debate. And so we will follow the progress of these excellent fencers as they do battle for their respective beliefs.

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32 Comments

  1. Paige Britton said,

    May 21, 2010 at 5:48 am

    This Whitaker feller writes:

    Prudent and grave moderators should preside in this disputation; who should restrain petulance, repress clamors, permit no breach of decorum, and maintain order, modesty and discipline.

    y’all ready? ;)

  2. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 21, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Thanks so much for posting this! I am a direct descendant of William Whitaker, who is my 13th-great-grandfather. I thank God for His covenant faithfulness through many generations.

  3. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Here’s another interesting fact about the Whitaker line: One of William’s sons, Alexander, was the minister who baptized Pocahontas in 1614 and married Pocahontas and John Rolfe. I am directly descended from another son, Jabez Whitaker, who was a sea captain.

  4. Reed Here said,

    May 21, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Paige: not quite :-) Praying for moderation in demeanor, clarity in thought, love in motive.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    May 21, 2010 at 10:34 am

    That is really cool, Frank!

  6. louis said,

    May 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

    That is awesome. I’d like to hear more about the Whitaker family from Frank.

  7. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

    My genealogy information is very sketchy–basically just a family tree researched by a great aunt many years ago. I’ve always hesitated to play the “we were here before the Mayflower” card.

  8. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I was just reading a little from Whitaker’s chapter, “On the Aurthority of Scripture.” I hope that if some of our Catholic friends decide to comment, that they do so after carefully reading and considering what Whitaker has to say on the role of the Church from the Protestant perspective. Catholics often hear us speaking of sola scriptura and the inward testimony of the Spirit and immediately respond as if we are speaking to the individual response to God’s Word without regards to the role of the Church. From my experience getting the Catholic to focus on the sola scriptura and the testimony of the Spirit within the context of the Church is no easy task. So far as I’ve read Whitaker goes right to the heart of the matter.

    Cheers….

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    “I’ve always hesitated to play the “we were here before the Mayflower” card.”

    Don’t worry about it. I always brag that my lineage traces back to Noah. And before Noah, I trace my lineage back to Adam and Eve.

    Whitaker and Mayflower? Pshaw! I got that beat.

    ;-)

  10. johnbugay said,

    May 22, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Truth Unites … — I really think your boasting here is very unseemly….

  11. johnbugay said,

    May 22, 2010 at 7:41 am

    That was a joke. He and I are good friends.

  12. Stephen Welch said,

    May 22, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I have been working my way through Whitaker’s book. It is not a quick read, but one that deserves careful reading and attention. I agree he is careful in stating the Roman position accurately, but be prepared for our opponents to discredit his work, especially the new apologists who think they understand Rome’s position better than anyone. Johnbugay, as a former Papist I appreciate your blog and apologetic work. Who better to understand Roman Catholic doctrine then former Papists. Keep at it.

  13. johnbugay said,

    May 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Stephen, thank you so much for your kind thoughts.

  14. Nick said,

    May 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I eagerly await future posts in this series and will keep Whitaker as a continual reference when I discuss Sola Scriptura. For those who want to see some problems in his work I’ve already noticed, see the Beggars All link (in the ComBox).

  15. May 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Nick, at least no one can say you were slow to poison the well.

  16. May 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Btw., you reveal your predisposition and anticipation to reject Whitaker’s conclusions when you speak of problems you’ve “already” noticed. I hope as we work through this series we will not also be treated to your customary claims of neutrality and openmindedness.

  17. Nick said,

    May 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Already doesn’t mean all the rest are bad; that’s yet to be seen. I’m open to all good arguments from any side, but I won’t close my eyes to what is not a good argument, or what does not adequately defend/prove a given point. And this should never be about ‘neutrality’, considering it’s an apologetics piece aimed at defending a most critical doctrine – this is anything but a neutral discussion. The most important lesson all folks should take away from this is that good apologetics is about addressing the best and most accurate claims the opponent has to offer, and your above quotes show that is indeed the intent.

  18. johnbugay said,

    May 23, 2010 at 4:21 am

    Matthew — I find myself shaking in my boots at the possibility of what Nick will reveal. His effort to convert James White may have fallen short of the mark, but Nick is smart, cunning, and resourceful — and he finds arguments that no one in the history of Christianity has ever found before. We need to pray and be vigilant. I don’t wanna go back to Egypt, or Rome, but in the face of Nick’s onslaught, we may all find ourselves bowing to the papacy. I think we do have to worry that this study of Whitaker is going to be sunk before it ever gets off the ground.

  19. johnbugay said,

    May 23, 2010 at 4:22 am

    … end sarcasm …

  20. Nick said,

    May 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    John,

    If any of my work is off the mark, feel free to expose it. As for James White’s comments, people are free to see the evidence for them self as to whether White actually addressed my claims or misunderstood and/or misrepresented them. You’re giving off the vibe I got ‘thumped’, when the reality is nothing close to that happened.

  21. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Thus Bellarmine himself, where he undertakes to impugn our doctrine of the perspicuity of the Scripture, lays this down as the state of the question, “Whether Scripture be so plain in itself as to be sufficient, without any explication, to determine controversies of faith;” and he imposes on us the office of maintaining that Scriptures are of themselves plain and easy, and stand in no need of interpretation: — as if we thought that every part of Scripture was plain, easy, and clear, or ever rejected the interpretation and exposition of the Scriptures! — Whitaker 9.

    It seems clear that framing the question properly continues to be one of the challenges here.

    I could wish that this were the only place in which Bellarmine had shown bad faith, and that he had elsewhere not also played the Jesuit in matters of no small importance. For there can be no end of writing and disputing … until, laying aside all party feelings, … we apply ourselves entirely to that point where the stress of the controversy lies. — ibid.

    I like this guy already. :)

  22. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2010 at 6:14 am

    NIck: might you explain what you mean by “neutrality” in comment no. 17?

    Thanks.

  23. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2010 at 7:31 am

    As we read this issue now, do we agree with Whitaker (and Bellarmine) that the issues separating Catholics are ones on which salvation depends?

    From a Protestant point of view, under what conditions does a denial of sola fide or sola scriptura amount to a denial of Christ?

    Another way of putting this: The state of the question has clearly shifted somewhat, in that we no longer affirm that the Pope is antichrist (WCoF 1647 25.6). In what other ways has the question changed?

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Does anyone have links to Bellarmine online? Or Allen or Stapleton?

  25. Phil Derksen said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Jeff,

    Don’t know how helpful this is to most people in a practical sense, but here is an online source that has most of Bellarmine’s works – in Latin…

    http://libguides.calvin.edu/content.php?pid=70620&sid=532924

  26. Phil Derksen said,

    May 24, 2010 at 8:57 am

    The same source has some works by Allen (English and Latin

    http://libguides.calvin.edu/content.php?pid=70620&sid=739313

    and Stapleton (Latin

    http://libguides.calvin.edu/content.php?pid=70620&sid=533225

  27. johnbugay said,

    May 24, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Jeff — there’s a link to the Google Books version in the first paragraph of Lane’s posting. And Matthew Schultz has been linking directly to the various pages he discusses:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/05/whitakers-disputations-refutation-of.html

  28. D. T. King said,

    May 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Does anyone have links to Bellarmine online?…

    You’re only going to have access to Bellarmine’s works in Latin.

    Look for Roberti Bellarmini, Opera Omnia, De Controversiis via Google books. I have six of these volumes downloaded in .pdf format, but I can’t remember if I acquired them all from Google Books or not.

    Example…

    Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621): If, however, the Pope should err by enjoining vices and forbidding virtues, that is, he will enjoin a particular work, although it would be actually vice, but not obvious vice, or prohibit a good work but not an obvious good work, the Church would be bound to believe vices to be good, and virtues to be evil, unless she would be willing to sin against conscience.
    Latin text: Si autem Papa erraret praecipiendo vitia, vel prohibendo virtutes, id est, praecipiendo aliquod opus, quod esset revera vitiosum, sed non manifeste vitiosum, vel prohibendo opus virtutis, sed non manifeste opus virtutis teneretur Ecclesia credere vitia esse bona, et virtutes malas, nisi vellet conscientiam peccare. Roberti Bellarmini, Opera Omnia, De Controversiis, Tomus Primus, De Romano Pontifice (Neapoli: Apud Josephum Giuliano, 1856), Liber Quartus, Caput 5, p. 484.

    Of course, Bellarmine was a Jesuit, and his statement above reflects something *similar* that of the founder of his order…

    Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Rule 13: That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which appears to our eyes to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtingly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same; . . . See Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 260.

  29. May 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I really appreciate what Andrew said (#8) about the role of the Church and Whitaker’s understanding the necessity of exploring the ‘…nature of the church’. From my (very limited) experience in this area, most of the argumentation will boil down to an argument over ecclesiology. Is the church the door that admits to Christ, or is Christ the door that admits to the church.

    When we discuss the nature of the Church, over which Christ is the Head, we will necessarily have to discuss the nature of Christ, and so Christology plays a vital role.

    When Protestants discuss the internal witness of the Spirit, a Pneumatological discussion will result.

    SO… to have this argument in the full, requires (in the main) a full-orbed understanding of the loci of Systematic Theology. That is what can make the effort so interesting and difficult at the same time.

    May the Lord, by His Word and Spirit lead us onto the path of truth in this discourse. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet…”

  30. May 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    [...] Preface   [...]

  31. Kerberos said,

    November 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    “In closing, it should be noted that Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, probably the greatest debater that the Roman Catholic Church had at the time, held Whitaker in very high esteem, even to the point of bringing in Whitaker’s picture to his study (see page x). If this is Bellarmine’s opinion, then modern Roman Catholics would do well to give Whitaker the respect due an adversary worthy of the steel. Bellarmine and Whitaker both could wipe the floor with %99.99 of modern theologians in a debate.”

    St Robert Bellarmine has been recognised not only as a Saint but also as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. That he has been so highly honoured, gives his respect for Whitaker further weight.

    One has to wonder how much modern apologetic – Catholic or Protestant – will last 400 years, as their works have. It sounds as though Whitaker is very fair-minded.

    As for the quotation from Bellarmine, & the reference to the famous words of St. Ignatius Loyola in the “Rules for Thinking with the Church” – if Luther can say “Pecca fortiter”, and not be misunderstood as advising Melanchthon to sin, because Luther was exaggerating to make a point – can’t the founder of the Jesuits be allowed the same latitude ? Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

  32. D. T. King said,

    November 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    As for the quotation from Bellarmine, & the reference to the famous words of St. Ignatius Loyola in the “Rules for Thinking with the Church” – if Luther can say “Pecca fortiter”, and not be misunderstood as advising Melanchthon to sin, because Luther was exaggerating to make a point – can’t the founder of the Jesuits be allowed the same latitude ? Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

    Actually there is no real comparison. As for these words attributed to Luther, it should be noted: “The letter is now but a fragment. It has no address, salutation, or signature, but scholars are certain whom it came from and whom it went to. The majority of the letter has nothing to do with “sinning boldly.” The letter itself begins mid-thought, as if the first page were missing. As far as I’m concerned, it is uncertain, and if Luther’s it was not written for the public eye. My friend James Swan has offered some extended study on these words allegedly attributed to Luther, http://tquid.sharpens.org/sin_boldly.htm#a1

    Whereas the Jesuits’ words are of a different nature, and cannot be misunderstood as the words allegedly attributed to Luther have been. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits included those words as part of His “Rules for Thinking with the Church,” in his Spiritual Exercises, part ii, Rule #13, clearly intended for the members of the Society. Robert Bellarmine’s words were likewise published, and there is no question but that they were offered for a wide audience, Roberti Bellarmini, Opera Omnia, De Controversiis, Tomus Primus, De Romano Pontifice (Neapoli: Apud Josephum Giuliano, 1856), Liber Quartus, Caput 5, p. 484.


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