James White writes in his book, The Fatal Flaw (1990):
“We live in an age of ‘ecumenism.’ Everywhere we look, we find ‘dialogue’ going on between Catholic and Protestant. I have nothing against ‘dialogue’ in and of itself, but it seems that the vast majority of these dialogues are not based upon any desire to present the truth of God, as found in Scripture, but rather to find areas of agreement at the expense of doctrinal distinctives. These discussions, if they are to have any validity for a Christian at all, must first of all define the key issues of the Gospel, and assert that any issue discussed must be related first and foremost to that truth.” (James R. White, The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel? Crown Publications, 1990; underlining mine–CD)
Defining “the key issues of the Gospel” is of crucial importance. Is at least one key issue or doctrine of the true Gospel, the efficacious work of Jesus Christ (as presented in, say, Hebrews 7:24-25 and Hebrews chapters 9 and 10)?
Are such “key issues of the Gospel” believed by every single saved (regenerate) person without a single exception? Are these “key issues” (doctrines) so key and so distinctive that, if a person does not believe them, we can say that they are not saved? If we cannot say this, then what precisely is meant by a “key issue”? Would it not be more intellectually honest, forthright, and unequivocal to just call the alleged “key issue” an “optional” or “secondary” issue?
If the efficacious atonement of Jesus Christ is NOT truly a key issue of the Gospel that is believed by every single saved (regenerate) person without exception, then NOT ONLY is Christ’s true atonement relegated to optional and secondary status, BUT another “atonement” by another “Jesus” becomes the essential key issue of another “Gospel”, that the Apostles did not preach (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:8-9).
“One who takes the New Testament as authoritative must realize that for any real unity to exist between Christians, it must exist upon the only ground that true Christian unity can be based: the unadulterated truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Any discussion, action, or coalition that does not have as its primary design the propagation of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ must, by definition, be foreign to the Christian Church. It is simply impossible to claim faith in Jesus Christ and yet be unconcerned about the message of His Cross.” (James R. White, The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel? Crown Publications, 1990; underlining mine–CD)
How would James White define “the unadulterated truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”? He says that “the unadulterated truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” is “the only ground that true Christian unity can be based.” I suppose White would not appreciate being falsely accused of what he has falsely accused us of — namely, “*perfection* of faith as the standard” of judging who is, and who is not, a true Christian with whom there is FELLOWSHIP in the Gospel.
The Gospel includes the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. A biblical way to discern how adulterated or unadulterated a gospel James White believes in, is to find out who he judges as his brothers in Christ and what he knows about them. In the words of White, what “gospel” is his “true Christian unity” based upon? The important issue is NOT whether he “gets along great” with a given person or not; rather, the important issue IS whether he judges a given person to be his regenerate brother in Christ. For instance, what does James White know about Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. William Lane Craig? Does he consider both of these men his spiritual brothers? Or only one of them? What does James White know about these mens’ beliefs? And with this knowledge does he still judge them to be believers in “the unadulterated truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” upon which he said is “the only ground that true Christian unity can be based”? Or, would White assert by force that they are just “blessedly inconsistent” believers in the unadulterated truth of the true God, the true Christ, and the true Gospel?
“Could ‘ecumenical’ dialogue, then, properly take place with the Roman Catholic Church? In our opinion, no, it cannot. Why? That is the subject of this book. Some books make you hunt and search or make a wild guess about the ‘thesis statement’; We shall be quite open about it. Here it is: The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on the work of Jesus Christ (specifically, His atonement) is anti-Biblical and false; hence, the Roman Catholic Church is not in possession of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and cannot, therefore, be considered a Christian church. Therefore, not only would ecumenical dialogue be an impossibility, but the Christian Church must make the evangelization of Roman Catholics a great priority.” (James R. White, The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel? Crown Publications, 1990)
James White says that the “evangelization of Roman Catholics” must be “a great priority.” But from a previous post we saw Tim Challies quotation of White’s 1996 work, The Roman Catholic Controversy:
“Does the Roman Catholic gospel save? I do not believe it can. Does it follow that all Roman Catholics are lost? Not unless we believe that all Roman Catholics walk in lock-step with the official teachings of the Vatican. I am thankful there are those who know the freedom of grace even while maintaining a relationship with a Church that does not give place to that freedom in its official teachings” (page 221). [James R. White, The Roman Catholic Controversy]
So, only SOME Roman Catholics are to be evangelized. Presumably, and depending on various factors and considerations, White would approach SOME Roman Catholics as believers and SOME Roman Catholics as unbelievers.
“It is our contention that the fatal flaw of Roman Catholic theology is to be found in its false teaching on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. To the end of demonstrating the truth of this contention, we will very carefully document the position of the Roman Church on two subjects that best illustrate their teaching: the ‘sacrifice of the Mass’ and the teaching of purgatory. In so doing, we will demonstrate that the Roman Catholic Church presents ways and means outside of the completed work of Jesus Christ whereby sin (either in reference to its guilt or its punishment) is atoned or propitiated. This fact, if demonstrated, is more than sufficient to forever ban such teaching from the title ‘Christian.’” (James R. White, The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel? Crown Publications, 1990)
Presumably those who DO walk in doctrinal “lock-step with the official teachings of the Vatican” are those who affirm (virtually?) every element of Rome’s teaching. But what of those who affirm belief in only one element — namely, the “sacrifice of the Mass”? Would James White say that they need to be evangelized as unbelievers who are not “in possession of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” over the single elemental teaching of the Mass? Or, would such a judgment require at least the second related Roman Catholic teaching of purgatory?
Or, is their doctrinal stance on the Mass merely one of innocuous inconsistency (and not of insidious denial), and thus they should NOT be approached as unbelievers to evangelize, BUT approached as muddled believers who require gentle and encouraging rebukes to “grow out of” their “blessedly inconsistent” belief in “the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice” and “grow into” the more consistent doctrine of the efficacious atonement of Jesus Christ?