Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
When Call-In Radio Programs Become "Debates"
06/28/2006 - James WhiteYou may get the fairly regular fund-raising e-mails from Catholic Answers like I do if you have ever signed up for their forums. I noticed one arrived last night, and could not help but chuckle:
FIRST, you'll receive Jimmy Akin's "Bible Answer Man Debate" audio series. From non-Catholic misinterpretation of the Reverence due Mary to the Protestant notion of justification by faith alone, the central differences between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians are tackled in this three CD-series of debates between Jimmy Akin, Catholic Answers director of apologetics and evangelization, and James White, director of the Fundamentalist apologetics organization Alpha and Omega Ministries.Remember, "Fundamentalist" is a Roman Catholic buzz-word, always meant to engender visions of Jack Chick. Anyway, the irony is that Akin referred me to a paper he has written on what is necessary for him to consider a debate challenge. I would say I would agree with the vast majority of what his paper notes. I would also say that if he took his own writing seriously he would stop calling his BAM appearance a "debate" of any kind. He demands equal time for a debate, rightly so. Nobody gets equal time on a call-in radio program. He demands a clear thesis that is debatable, rightfully so. Just what was the clear thesis statement on BAM again? Uh...right.
Of course, this "masterful debate" (their words) would normally cost you $28 from them. Save your pennies. We offer it as well, but for what it is: the BAM discussion with Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers, available here, #468, and it's $10.00.
Another Reason Why I Do Not Have "Comments"
06/19/2006 - James WhiteOne of the greatest draw-backs to "comments" sections is they allow people to post lies, innuendo, and rumor with impugnity. The thread on Akin's blog, for example, on his hit-piece against me (you know, the "Mr. Kettle, Mr. Pot is on line one, something about color?" post?), has taken a complete left turn into a Roman Catholic debate over the merits or demerits of Peter Stravinskas, my opponent in the purgatory debate on Long Island a few years ago. Oddly, none of the Catholics claimed Stravinskas won that debate. A number admitted that in public debate I have performed professionally and respectfully. Anyway, mentioning that debate started things off, and I didn't even follow how many comments came after that, but it added up to many pages. In any case, earlier, a completely anonymous person identified only as "Chris," with no contact information, posted the following hit-piece:
I'm a reformed baptist, and thus I am to a certain degree a fan of James White. I do have to say though, that whilst he appears to be a reasonable sort of fellow on the Dividing Line etc, to try and have a sensible interaction with either him or the rest of his cohort, whether the others at aomin, or his group in the Phoenix church, is near impossible. To even raise questions to him/them about other points of view gets a very antagonistic attitude. To try and get even a semi-intelligent response from them on IRC is impossible too. Sorry James, I'm torn. In some ways I like the work you are doing. In other ways I think you've become very insular.See what I mean? How do you respond to something like this? It is grossly unfair for some anonymous person to make such personal, cutting, unfair, and untrue, comments in such a context and in such a fashion as to preclude any meaningful response. The chances are very, very good that this person is not even a Reformed Baptist at all. But if he is, I challenge him to contact me. I'd love to know what nick he allegedly used in our channel (I have logs---it's amazing what you find when you go back and look at what was actually said). When did this person visit my church? How about providing some specifics? This kind of "knife in the back---anonymously, of course" attack is disgusting, but the Internet, and nigh-unto unmoderated comments threads that often take on the aura of a feeding frenzy, encourage them.
By the way. Insular? Traveling more widely than ever, studying whole new areas of scholarship, and I'm becoming insular? What an odd statement.
06/17/2006 - James WhiteHow do you let a ridiculous situation just die? Every time Jimmy Akin and I trade blog articles I throw my hands up in frustration before long realizing that there is nothing that can be said that cannot be parsed into oblivion if someone is willing to go to such lengths. Surely this is not the first time I've encountered someone who will constantly accuse you of doing what their own writings demonstrate they are intent on practicing with regularity and evidently impugnity. The "double standard meter" I installed a while back on my system exploded as I read the next installment on Akin's blog. But I'm finally getting old enough to realize there is simply nothing you can do about such things. Speak the truth, realize lots of folks are not listening to what you are saying and are so biased and prejudiced against you they will believe whatever they want to believe, and trust the rest to the Lord. I would love to simply drop all of this, but there is one thing that needs to be addressed, aside from the "You are so mean and that's why nobody will debate you, you obnoxious, mean-spirited dolt" kind of stuff. And that is the issue of ad-hominem.
Words have meanings. In debate (which is what apologists do, at least once in a while---Akin has done so as well, though not very often), the term has a fixed meaning. Here is that accepted, fixed meaning:
An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:Look again at the alleged ad-hominems Akin noted in my own blog. Obviously, if I were to take his writings and mark off everything I could possibly take as merely offensive, or, even more, every term that disagrees with my own conclusions, I could accuse him of being a mean-spirited, ad-hominem using, insulting Catholic apologist. But that accomplishes nothing relevant to the truth. And this insistence upon expanding this phraseology out to where it can cover basically anything at all considered "offensive" is just another illustration of how empty this kind of thing is. Rather than focusing upon the real issue ("is the Corban rule, as viewed by the Jews in the days of Jesus, relevant to how we should test Rome's claims today?"), 90% of the rhetoric that has been posted has in fact been ad-hominem itself: "White's arguments are to be dismissed because he has a character flaw---he's mean!" The irony is thick on this one.
1. Person A makes claim X.
2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
3. Therefore A's claim is false.
The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).(source)
Oh, one other thing: listeners to the DL will note that in admitting his error relating to Greek that I had never "contacted" him about it Akin has once again proven the thesis that the folks at CA just don't think there is anything worth knowing about what folks "out here" are saying. Remember when I played the phone call from the Roman Catholic to Akin who challenged him on this very point and raised my own refutations of his statements? See, if the Catholics put out a claim or argument, it is our job to obtain their materials and respond thereto. If we refute their claims, we are supposed to call them at home to do their research for them. Just amazing. He then complains that I have never admitted an error regarding Greek or anything else. First, that's false. Second, Jimmy Akin hasn't been busy proving me wrong. And given this kind of rhetoric, and the hit pieces he's posted in the past, he's not overly intent upon getting in that kind of apologetics business any time soon, either.
But that is it for me. I need to get back to Pulpit Crimes. I am preaching for four weeks at PRBC soon; teaching at the School of Theology in London soon; have a little debate on baptism to be preparing for with Bill Shishko, and another with John Shelby Spong a few weeks after that. I will let what I'm writing and the presentations I'm doing give testimony as to who is doing serious, biblically based, full-orbed apologetics work.
Continuing with Akin and False Charges of Ad-Hominem Argumentation
06/15/2006 - James WhiteI continue responding to Jimmy Akin and his blog articles. I am aware another has been posted, and given the string of, well, simply amazing comments posted as well, we once again observe the same kind of behavior we observed last year regarding the Catholic Answers forums and the Envoy forums. In any case, Akin continues,
Notice that he's begun with an ad hominem. My post was titled "Korban & Sola Scriptura," because I was interested in talking about an issue rather than an individual, but for White the headline--the first thing he wants his readers to see in introducing the matter--is to say something nasty about me.
Let's track the amazing double standard that appears in this blog entry. I documented, thoroughly, that Jimmy Akin, as the head of apologetics for Catholic Answers had attempted to respond to a question that related to me and my arguments related to probably the key issue between us, sola scriptura. In documenting this I demonstrated that Jimmy Akin, by saying (and proving by his poor reply) that he was unfamiliar with what I was saying about the Corban rule, is a decade behind in his research. Either he does not care what people write in response to articles in This Rock magazine, or say in debates against folks like Mitchell Pacwa, etc., or he doesn't think anyone can come up with any kind of argument that is worth his notice. In any case, I find it somewhat humorous that Akin would take the title as "nasty." Nasty? Saying he is a decade behind in doing the research or study I would think would be part and parcel of his regular duties as the lead staff apologist at Catholic Answers is "nasty"? Well, OK. I invite folks to wander past a single blog entry by Art Sippo, or the Envoy message board, or even the comments section on Akin's blog right now, and get an eyeful of "nasty." Not even a comparison.
I was informed today that Jimmy Akin had made some comments regarding sola scriptura, the Corban rule, and my comments on the subject.
Actually, the third point was a piece of misinformation: I did not comment on White's comments. I deliberately avoided doing so.
Yes, I'm certain all of Mr. Akin's readers got just that impression from his original article. I'm sure everyone took this statement, "I haven't read or heard specifically what James White may have been doing with this passage, but it is a staple of Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics" which was then followed by a discussion of this "staple" of Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics and an alleged refutation thereof, to mean, "I do not know what White says, and I am not commenting on it at all, and in fact, I am carefully avoiding commenting on what White says, since I don't know, but instead, I am commenting on something completely different, because I'm sure White is not a Protestant anti-Catholic, and he would never be presenting the Corban rule in the same way as all the others." I'm sure everyone reading the article got that very impression, and no one was actually thinking that Akin's comments had any relevance to me at all. Well, except for the fellow who dropped me a note about the article. He somehow missed that part. ...
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Jimmy Akin and the Actual Definition of "Ad-Hominem Argumentation"
06/14/2006 - James WhiteI confess, if I had written what Jimmy Akin posted on his blog recently, I would not be calling into webcasts that have fairly wide-ranging audiences to advertise it. And I likewise do not know why Mr. Akin would suggest that responding to his personal attack post would in any way alter what I said in response to his discussion of the Corban rule. But, since he called The Dividing Line and raised the issue, I will take the time, somewhat reluctantly, to respond.
James White has periodically complained about certain Catholic apologists not wanting to interact with him, and this week I was reminded of why.Correction: I do not seek "interaction" with Catholic apologists. I don't want to go by Starbucks and hang out a while. What I have noted is the unwillingness of certain Catholic apologists to defend their position and do their homework. There is a major difference. I have challenged Catholic Answers to debate various issues, and as you can see by scanning through the three dozen or so debates we have with leading Catholic apologists, they are not at the top of the list for being willing to respond (if you don't include Matatics, anyway, and believe me, they don't want to be reminded he was once their poster-boy convert-apologist). I likewise linked, in my previous response, to a number of historical situations where they have taken demonstrably false and cheap shots in the past. My "complaint" at this point was simple: if someone wrote to me and said, "Why does Jimmy Akin make such a big deal about [fill in the subject]?" and I did not have Akin's books or was unwilling to even do a web search of his on-line materials, I would not reply by saying he was presenting a "common anti-Protestant ploy and here is why it is wrong." I would ask where he has made these statements, check my resources, look at his books, and interact from there. Akin did not do so, and as a result, he gave his correspondent a surface-level, and in fact, misleading and false response. It's just that simple.
Now, Mr. Akin has, in the past, used sources with such solid reputations as Texe Marrs to attack me personally. In this blog article he includes some great lines. I wonder what prompted such a shrill reply? Perhaps his unwillingness to simply say, "Oh, I'm sorry, my response was, in fact, incorrect and misleading"? Now, if Mr. Akin wants to publicly say, "I do not believe it is my job to know what Protestant apologists believe," that's his right. I wish he'd come right out and say it. But given that I purchase, and read, not only his books, but those of Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, etc., and have many times played sections from their radio program on The Dividing Line and interacted with their claims (refuting them where necessary), I can at least say that when I comment on their beliefs, I am doing so on the basis of direct reading, as an apologist should. Now, it is clear that the primary goal of Catholic Answers has been, for a very long time, to marginalize, often through the liberal use of mockery and sarcasm, anyone who responds directly to them. Here is an example from 1994. While they wish to make it seem that I am obsessed with...me, the fact is it would not matter who it was who was pointing out, and documenting, the errors in their arguments. I would simply ask Mr. Akin, or Mr. Keating, or Mr. Staples, a few basic questions. If they are apologists, then who are they studying who opposes them within the sphere of Reformed and Evangelical Christianity? Who has published books directly citing them of late, responding to their own arguments? Who has done around three dozen moderated, public debates against their leading apologists? Given how much time they spend going after Jack Chick, are they seriously suggesting that Chick provides a deeper, more challenging critique of Roman Catholic theology than that offered by myself, or Bill Webster, or Eric Svendsen, or David King? Is it really a wise apologetic stance to simply refuse to grant legitimacy to those who take you on directly, and by name? How many of their critics have published as many books in as wide a variety of areas? How many have taught Greek and Hebrew, Church History, and the like? There may have been a day, back in, say, July of 1990, when they could dismiss me as irrelevant. But they need to remember, they challenged me to my first debate. Now the "he's not credible, he's not relevant" argument just doesn't work. ...
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Jimmy Akin Replies
06/12/2006 - James WhiteA few days ago I posted an article showing that Roman Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers had demonstrated a basic lack of research in responding to a question regarding the Corban rule, Matthew 15, and sola scriptura. I documented that one of the leading Catholic apologists was unaware of the specifics of the discussion regarding Jewish sources, Tractate Aboth, the Jewish view of tradition, etc., as it relates to this issue, even though this information had been available, published, on the web, and had appeared in debates with Roman Catholic apologists, in my own works, for a full decade. The question had been asked of him why I make such a "big deal" out of the Corban rule, and in my response I pointed out the substance of the argument: that given the background of how the Rabbis viewed their "traditions" as coming from Moses outside the written Scriptures and hence being "divine" in origin Jesus' words give us an inescapable example, a vital paradigm, that we must follow: when men claim "divine tradition" we test it by Scripture, we do not simply accept the claim at face value. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for allowing this allegedly divine "tradition" to make void God's Word. Hence, when Roman Catholic apologists rather glibly respond to Matthew 15 with, "Oh, He was just talking about human traditions there," we must respond, "No, He was not, for the Jews believed the very tradition He singles out was divine in origin."
Now in reading Mr. Akin's response I was struck immediately by the odd way he begins. "James White has now supplied a current description of his thought on the korban passage and sola scriptura, so let's look at what he says." A current description? This almost sounds as if Mr. Akin is trying to say I had not, in fact, plainly made these arguments a decade ago. I note he does not actually address the reality that he gave a false answer to his correspondent in his initial blog article and that he had no reason for doing so other than the attitude, prevalent, in my experience, at Catholic Answers, of not seeming to care much about what anyone is actually saying about current apologetic issues. I am reminded of my debate on purgatory with Father Peter Stravinskas, who had clearly never read any of my books, articles, or listened to any of my debates, and hence was caught utterly unprepared, for he obviously did not think anyone outside Rome could have anything meaningful to say on the subject. That seems to be a fairly common problem with many people: many non-Catholics get caught flat footed by a sharp Roman Catholic apologist because they make the same kind of assumption in reverse. But for someone in Akin's position, it makes no sense.
Now for some reason Mr. Akin begins with a discussion of what is a plain teaching and what is not, which, to be honest, strikes me as little more than sophistry. The Jewish claim about the Corban rule is parallel to the Roman claim about its "tradition." Let's keep our eyes on the ball. Note just a brief example:
...The argument is plain: Jewish tradition about the Corban rule made it a tradition that had a divine pedigree, though passed down outside of Scripture. Jesus specifically subjugated it to Scripture, hence, to follow His lead, we, too, would have to test all traditions by the higher standard of Scripture.
"To follow His lead" is another way of saying "to follow his example," so here Mr. White acknowledges that he is appealing to Mark 7 as a passage in which Jesus is teaching by example, and thus he must be able to find in this passage a "plain teaching" that "we are to examine all traditions by the higher standard of [Scripture]."
A difficulty for this claim is the one faced by all instances of trying to derive "plain teaching" from teaching by example: The extent to which the example is to be followed is often not clear.
It is too easy to improperly minimize or maximize the extent to which the example applies.
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Jimmy Akin More than a Decade Behind
06/08/2006 - James WhiteI was informed today that Jimmy Akin had made some comments regarding sola scriptura, the Corban rule, and my comments on the subject. In looking at his blog article found here I was just a little surprised to discover that Mr. Akin, the lead apologist for Catholic Answers, has not done his homework on this particular subject, and in reading the comments left by Roman Catholics on this blog entry, it seems the majority of them are happy to go on second-hand research as well, a sad state of affairs. The question Akin is responding to is, "What is the Korban Rule, and why does James White make such a big deal about it when he speaks of sola scriptura?" Of course, I do not make a "big deal" out of it. I have addressed the issue in relationship to the failed attempt by Rome's apologists to get around Jesus' plain teaching that we are to examine all traditions by the higher standard of God's Word, even those that claim to be divine in origin. Here is the basic presentation I made in The Roman Catholic Controversy a decade ago:
Traditions and the Scriptures
Another vital passage that deals with the doctrine of sola scriptura is found in Matthew 15:1-9:
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH. "But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’"
Here we find the Lord providing us with the example that we must follow. The Jewish leaders objected to the fact that the disciples did not follow the rigorous hand-washing rituals of the Pharisees. They identified this as a breaking of the "tradition of the elders." They firmly believed that this body of tradition was authoritative, and some even believed that it had been passed down from Moses himself, though this is surely without warrant. But does Jesus accept this claim of authority?
Not at all! Instead, He launches a counter-attack against these leaders by pointing out how they nullify the command of God through the following of their own traditions, specifically in this case, with reference to the corban rule, whereby a man could dedicate his belongings to the Temple and hence not support his parents in their old age. The Lord Jesus holds this traditional teaching up to the light of Scripture, and finds it wanting.
It is vital to realize that the Jews viewed the corban rule as part of the 'tradition of the elders.' This was, to them, a divine tradition with divine authority. They did not simply view it as a mere "tradition of men," but as a concept revealed by God and passed down into the body of such teachings entrusted to the "elders" of the faith.
The parallels to the Roman claim regarding Sacred Tradition are many. While Rome may claim divine authority for her supposedly sacred traditions, and even subjugate Scripture so as to make it a part of "Sacred Tradition," needing other aspects such as the supposedly apostolic, unwritten traditions, and the authority of the magisterium of the Church, the person who wishes to follow the example of Christ will hold such traditions up to the light of Scripture, knowing how fearful it is to be found guilty of nullifying the word of God for the sake of merely human traditions. The Lord Jesus subjugated even this allegedly "divine tradition" to the higher and hence supreme authority, the Scriptures. This is most important, for the most common response to the citation of this passage with reference to Roman tradition is, "Well, the passage refers to testing human traditions, not divine traditions." Yet, when it comes to authority, any tradition, no matter what it’s alleged pedigree, is to be tested by the known standard, the Holy Scriptures. (pp. 68-69)
Further, in responding to a Catholic Answers article in This Rock Magazine over a decade ago now, I wrote (note especially section 3): ...
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