Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
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.
White's characteristic use of ad hominems, insults, and jabs then begins. These are directed toward me, my readers, and Catholic apologists in general. Here are some samples:
Now, keep your eye on the ball. Ad-hominem argumentation is that which follows this line of faulty reasoning: "You are wrong about topic X because you personally have character flaw Y." I.e., "You are wrong about Roman Catholic claims about tradition because you wear a funny hat and your nose is big." That would be ad-hominem argumentation. However, saying, "Jimmy Akin seeks to avoid serious interaction with many of his most serious critics by denigrating their importance or achievements in the eyes of his audience" is not ad-hominem argumentation. Keeping that in mind, let's look at Akin's examples. He places in blue, evidently as examples of what he calls ad-hominem, the following phrases in this paragraph:
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.
Now, immediately we see that there is not a single example of ad-hominem argumentation cited by Mr. Akin. Not one. We surely see lots of examples of hyper-sensitivity on his part, but we do not see a single example of ad-hominem anywhere in this paragraph. Evidently, for Mr. Akin, if he doesn't like what someone says, or disagrees with what someone says, then they are guilty of ad-hominem argumentation. I said Mr. Akin has not done his homework on this topic. He has admitted as much. The only way he can get around this is to say that what one of the most active, published Protestant apologists says about one of the key, central points of debate regarding Roman Catholic claims is irrelevant to his work as a Catholic apologist. Again, if he really wants to try to sell that argument, I leave him to it. I believe it is self-refuting.
Next, it is truly humorous to see the terms "failed" and "Rome" marked as "ad-hominem." If I was not so busy with other things I'd take just a few minutes to rummage through Akin's articles over the years in This Rock and pull out dozens and dozens and dozens of examples where some hyper-sensitive person could take some imagined "offense" at the use of such terms as "failed." What does he expect me to say, "successful"? Please! And "Rome" is an insult? Jimmy Akin can consistently refer to me as an "anti-Catholic" and then turn around and feign offense at identifying Roman Catholic apologists as "Rome's apologists"? Amazing, utterly amazing.
Next, it hardly need to be noted that saying someone is trying to "get around" a biblical teaching is not ad-hominem, nor is claiming that Jesus' words comprise a "plain teaching." Can you imagine a Mormon complaining that Jimmy Akin uses "ad hominem" if Jimmy Akin were to write, "It is the plain teaching of the Bible that there is only one God"? Again, the double-standard Akin is using is beyond all question.
And finally, I would direct folks to the comments I referenced for all the substantiation they could ever want of the fact that I spoke the truth, and if Mr. Akin is offended by the truth, he needs to consider his ways very closely.
He goes on in that vein, and can't resist throwing in more insults and jabs whenever he raises the subject of me or my readers (e.g., "I am truly surprised at the shallow nature of this response by Akin," "How can Akin be ignorant of this?", "Sadly, in reading the comments left by Roman Catholics after this very poor example of Catholic apologetics, no one seemed to notice, and no one seemed to have actually read any semi-meaningful non-Catholic critique of Rome's position")...Not only do I stand by every single one of these statements (truth is its own best defense), but I challenge Akin to prove these are not true statements. Once again, just look at the comments left at his site: almost none of those who identify themselves as Roman Catholics actually recognize the double-standard or the fact that what Akin calls ad-hominem is, in fact, anything but. Facts are facts. Now, remember above Akin taking offense at my saying a particular argument "failed," and then compare these words he himself pens:
...and he closes with one of his patented, sonorous "Oh, the burden that we, The Chosen, face!" declarations ("The task for all who believe in the sufficiency of God's Word remains ever present in all forms of evangelism, as we have seen over and over and over again, whether we are seeking to bring the message of life to Muslims, Mormons, or Roman Catholics").Upon what logical basis can a rational person take offense at someone saying, "The argument made by group X fails" and then turn around and speak of someone's "patented, sonorous" saying, which is then a gross caricature of the reality? There is a technical term for this kind of double-standard: hypocrisy.
His remarks are marked by the constant assumption that I am talking about him (E.g., "You will note that nothing here comes close to actually responding to what I have said," "he accuses Protestant apologists, and myself by implication, of the error of 'hasty generalization'"), to which one is tempted to reply: "James, please read carefully. Not everything is about you."I allow the reader a moment's pause to consider the lengths to which Akin will go to cover his errors. He pretends to respond to a question about my views. The question names me specifically. But, his response, when proven to be in error and without basis, all of a sudden is no longer about what his questioner asked. No, in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all! My name just magically appeared in the question. How could I have been so blind to think that his cavalier remark that the Corban rule was a "staple" of "Protestant anti-Catholic" arguments had anything to do at all with me? Surely no person would think that his response had anything to do with me at all! Once again, we are left wondering just why it was that Mr. Akin called The Dividing Line to point folks to this kind of rhetoric.
Now, after noting the documentation I provided that demonstrated that, had Akin actually cared enough to look into the matter, he could have easily answered the question in a meaningful manner (does anyone else note the irony found in the fact that Akin would be asked questions about what I have argued in dozens of debates with other leading Catholic apologists while at the same time doing his best to declare me irrelevant?), and that he has not, in fact, been keeping up with debates being done by his compatriots on central topics relevant to his own self-professed area of expertise, Akin opines,
Now, there are several absurdities connected with the idea that I should be instantly familiar with what White said or wrote on korban on these occasions. [I thought I would "Akinize" his own comments just for the fun of it].Briefly, the point is that it is part and parcel of repeated apologetic discussions regarding Roman Catholicism--discussions that have appeared in published works and in public debates. The fact that his questioner even asked the question proves this. If Mr. Akin wishes to say that what Protestant apologists say about sola scriptura and how they specifically respond to the published claims of Catholic Answers is irrelevant to him, fine. Say it loud, say it clear. But the documentation exists, and if Akin had wanted to actually answer the question in a meaningful way (the way I answered his errors on John 6 for years before he finally got around to admitting his mistakes), he could have done so. He didn't.
First, if--as White says--he does not make a big deal out of the korban passage then he hasn't really made it a signature of his ministry, and presumably it's a small part of his presentations. He thus would be expecting me to be familiar with a minor aspect of his arguments if, as he says, he doesn't make a big deal of this.
Second, the second point on the list concerns a response he wrote to an article by David Palm that involved Moses' Seat and the Mishnaic tract Aboth.My translation: "Sure Palm's article appeared in a magazine I work on. But we don't care what people say in response to our arguments. We are Roman Catholics. We have the Pope. We don't need to sharpen our arguments or listen to the other side. We are right bey definition. Just believe us." And those who have read my writings over the years know I have more than once noted this very attitude on the part of those firmly ensconced behind the walls of Catholic Answers. This explains why their apologetics have not improved, grown, or deepened, from the start. Point taken, case proven. Many thanks.
But if White were familiar with my writings, he would know that I don't make use of these in my apologetics, so I have had little reason to read his refutation of Palm on these points. (Not like I have reason to go rushing out to read White's responses to other apologists in general.)
Further, what White said in reply to Palm is simply irrelevant to what I wrote.Right: since it actually defines what I say about the Corban rule which was the question he was allegedly responding to. Amazing how much energy one can put out to avoid admitting you gave a shallow non-answer to a question asked of you.
The fourth point on the list is perhaps the most absurd: I not only wasn't at Mark and Pat's seminar in Phoenix fifteen years ago, I wasn't even Catholic fifteen years ago. The only way I would have learned what happened there is if Mark and Pat were so thunderstruck by what White said that they felt the need to memorize it and repeat it to me years later. (They weren't, and they didn't.)Of course, the reason I mentioned the seminar was to given the Catholic statement to which I respond with the background on the Corban rule. It was not meant to document my argument, it was meant to document the Catholic claim refuted thereby. Here is what I actually said: "I remember pointing this out to Patrick Madrid and Mark Brumley at a seminar they did in Phoenix fifteen years ago. Are we to believe the largest Catholic apologetics organization in the world doesn't take the time to develop meaningful responses to arguments that clearly challenge their standard presentations?" The absurdity here is Akin's misreading of what I said. Truly he must feel confident his followers will not even take the time to read the other side so as to see such blatant errors on his part.
Underlying all of these items is an assumption on White's part that he is of such unique importance that I should be familiar with what he said on these occasions.Underlying all of these items is the assumption that when the head of apologetics of Catholic Answers presumes to answer a question about what I say about a specific issue relevant to one of the key and central issues in Protestant vs. Catholic apologetics he will show some familiarity with the books published in the field and the debates undertaken on the subject over the past decade so as to do so meaningfully.
I'm sorry, James, but you're just not that big a fish in the overall scheme of things.That's fine. For some odd reason your questioner had heard of me. I'm sure you are busy responding to those who have done more debates relevant to Roman Catholicism over the past decade, including...hmm, ok, well, you must be responding to those who have written more relevant books on the subject, which would include...ummm, well, you must be studying those who regularly play clips from your own Q&A and point out errors, including...hmm, OK, so just what do you do over there as the head of apologetics? I heard of you doing a debate on the priesthood (I debated Mitch Pacwa on that topic recently). Have you debated folks like, say, Greg Stafford, JW apologist, on the deity of Christ? How about John Dominic Crossan, co-founder of the Jesus Seminar? How about he and Marcus Borg on the resurrection? Shabir Ally, leading Muslim apologist? I'll be debating John Shelby Spong later this year on homosexuality...if you've been engaging these folks, or this wide a range of topics, I'd be interested in hearing about it. I realize I may be a minor player out here, but since that is true, just who are you majoring on in your far more important studies who is more active as a Protestant apologist, especially one who makes note of your own claims in his published works? Just wondering.
I've got Dan Browns to fry, and a whole field of world religions to interact with, not to mention the questions people have about their own faith.Odd, my 20+ part blog series, and lectures across the country and in the UK, on Brown and his absurdities in The Da Vinci Code have not kept me from responding to your claims, and that with, it seems, a significantly busier travel schedule and publishing schedule than your own.
Ministering to people is a supply-and-demand thing, and there just ain't that much demand for answers to your arguments. In order to meet people's needs, I need to spend much more time working through moral theology and canon law and the issues raised by the latest anti-Christian book/movie/TV show/news story than your stuff. Economics is the study of the application of limited resources that have alternative uses, and my time is a limited resource with alternative uses, so I've got to use it economically.That's a mighty fancy way of saying "I don't care what folks say about my arguments once I make them, and I will answer questions about your views from a position of ignorance all I want," Jimmy. If that is your stated apologetics policy, I leave it to you. As for me, when someone asks about you, I will do you the honor of actually looking up what you have to say.
The idea that I--or any Catholic apologist--have any kind of an obligation to become a specialist in the writings of one individual is simply hubristic. You are not the naked singularity into whose gravity well everything in apologetic spacetime must be drawn.Clearly not. Evidently that spacetime singularity, naked or otherwise, resides in San Diego, and pulls in a multi-million dollar a year budget as well. But again, that you could produce such a caricature in light of your own self-professed ignorance of a key apologetic issue and its background that has been a part of the debate for a decade speaks volumes, especially since you, Jimmy, are the one who has yet to engage our standing challenge to debate right there in San Diego. Papacy, purgatory, Marian dogmas, priesthood. I stand ready. I can document my capacity to engage these topics on a scholarly level in moderated, fair, honorable public debate. That is not even questionable. I leave it to the reader to decide the issue of motivations here.
My department answers going on 20,000 questions a year, and I did a quick estimate of how many are related to James White's arguments. My preliminary finding was that about 00.25% of them are. Even if I'm off by a factor of two, we're only up to one half of one percent, so it would be foolish of me to assign someone in my department (or myself) to become a specialist in James White's works given the overwhelming pastoral needs elsewhere.Congratulations, Mr. Akin. I'm sure you work hard. None of that changes the fact that you had not done the homework necessary to post what you posted. All the sand-throwing and feigned offense cannot change that reality.
Even aside from the issue of how many requests we get for information on White, the constant assumption by a person working in a field that his writings are of such unique importance that other professionals are delinquent if they haven't studied them in minute detail is so arrogant and offputting--especially when combined with a seemingly pathological addiction to ad hominems, insults, and jabs--that it makes one simply not want to deal with him.
Or, you have been caught displaying the common Catholic Answers hubris and you don't want to admit it, so the best thing to do is to attack the person you misrepresented, dishonestly try to make it sound like you were not actually answering the question you were answering, accuse your target of everything you yourself are doing, throw enough dust and dirt in the air to cloud things real well, and hope like anything your readers do not bother actually reading both sides and seeing the documentation for themselves. If I had written another article about how many in Roman Catholic apologetics are content to simply repeat the same mantras without ever feeling challenged to actually engage their critics meaningfully I could not have come close to providing as clear an example as you have in this situation. I would thank you for the opportunity, but I'm sure that would be "obnoxious" as well.
So James: If you want an explanation for why you've had difficulty in getting certain Catholic apologists to engage you over the years, this is a big part of why.Yes, Jimmy, this has surely illustrated it well. I will once again allow the reader to judge. And though the point has been lost through all your feigned offense and personal insult via misrepresentation, you are still wrong about Jesus' teaching about tradition, we are still held accountable to test all traditions by the higher authority of God's Word, and you have still never shown us a single word spoken by Christ or the Apostles that Rome has defined dogmatically that exists outside the canon of Scripture. But thanks for your phone call.