Few things in evangelical Christian discussions have troubled me as much as the current controversy over some of the actions of Dr. James White, of Alpha and Omega Ministries.
I first came across James White's ministry, when I was trying to write a book chapter, and a presentation, about the Trinity. Searching for existing books on the subject, I came across White's The Forgotten Trinity. I had stumbled upon (and I will return to that phrase) the best book on the subject.
I quickly realized that I was reading great scholarship, but in a style that I could enjoy and understand. This, despite the fact that I probably did not, at the time, dot every i and cross every t of White's theology. I still don't. He is a cessationist, while I am a charismatic. But he is dedicated to a strong use of presuppositional apologetics. So was I, and still am.
In more recent years, I have found it helpful to keep up to date with a number of teaching podcasts, and James White's Dividing Line podcast is one of favorites. The organized chaos of the broadcast, coupled with engaging humor and sound theology is particularly appealing.
Early in 2017, James White, who is known for robust but fair debates with a number of different types of people, announced that he was going to hold two dialogues with Muslim scholar Yasir Qhadi. The reason for the dialogues, instead of debate, was because Qhadi felt that he did not know enough about Christianity, and felt that he would be at a disadvantage. So James White agreed to the two dialogues. The first would be held in the building of a Christian church. It was a free, but ticketed event, and was not billed as a worship service, but rather the publicity explained exactly what would happen – that Qhadi would explain aspects of Muslim faith. The next evening, the favor would be returned, as White would give information about the biblical Christian faith inside the Mosque.
I listened, after the event, to the reports of these events, and was greatly encouraged at how White was able to present the Gospel – including teaching about the Trinity – in the Mosque. Both men were friendly and open, but determined not to compromise. These events could not realistically be filed under the usual heading of “inter-faith dialogues”.
Some months later, self-declared discernment blogger and broadcaster Brannon Howse “stumbled upon” (his phrase) reports of these events, and went ballistic. He devoted a number of episodes of his show to detailing how White had fallen from grace. He and his guests referred to White as a “useful idiot” – a term referring to how Christian leaders or others can be duped by authorities into providing unintentional support to their cause. The vitriol poured out on Howse's program was amazing. But even more amazing was the fact that many other Christian leaders jumped on the same bandwagon, criticizing White in the most extreme terms. Lies about the events started to be distributed. For example, one writer questioned who paid for the events, strongly implying that these were Muslim propaganda events, fully paid for by the Mosque. In the various reports of the events, it has become clear that many writers have failed to read, listen to, or research what actually happened in the events.
Now, I can understand (well, perhaps) some people thinking that White was naïve. I don't think he was. I can also understand someone thinking that the events were ill-advised. I don't think they were. I can even understand someone thinking that White had been made use of by Muslim propagandists. I don't think he was. But I simply cannot understand the level of vitriol, insulting language, and downright lies told about a godly man, who has decades of faithful ministry behind him – including having written a book about Islam! For some reason, White's detractors, having had the truth explained to them, have felt unable to apologize and repent, or come down from their high horses.
There was never any doubt in my mind that these events were worthwhile, and have enhanced my understanding of Islam, with a view to sharing the Gospel. I have never met James White. Although I have emailed him a couple of times, he has never replied to me. No matter – I, for one, am happy to trust the judgment of this learned brother in Christ. I am glad he is doing what he is doing, and he has my full support. But even if I did not agree with what he did, I would still be equally disgusted by the attitudes and behaviors of so many so-called evangelical leaders, who seem to value noise over substance, and reputation over biblical truth.