Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Rebuttal of William Albrecht's Response to the November 4, 2008, Dividing Line Program
11/18/2008 - Tur8infanMr. William Albrecht (aka GNRHead) is an apologist promoted and endorsed by Steve Ray (a lay apologist and pilgrimage tour guide who frequently appears on the “Catholic Answers” radio program). By way of background, I should point out that I am not usually this harsh in my criticism of Internet videos. I recognize that a lot of folks slap such videos together in a hurry. So, before presenting this critique, I made sure that Albrecht was aware that this was coming, and offered him the chance to withdraw or clean up his video in advance.
Naturally, he refused. I didn’t expect otherwise. I encourage everyone, before they read this article to listen to the November 4, 2008, edition of the Dividing Line (link). Mr. Albrecht called into the show and discussion ensued between him and Dr. White.
With that background, I proceed to address a video by Albrecht. I’ve provided a full transcript in seven segments from the following video source (source). Albrecht doesn’t have the clearest enunciation of his words, so in some places I have been forced to make an educated guess as to what he was trying to say. Also, I have tried to eliminate unintentional stutters and/or filler (“umm” etc.) in the interest of simply providing what Albrecht was trying to say.
For those unwilling to read the entire 5,000 word article, here is the summary. The video was long on rhetoric short on substance. The few matters of substance raised are easily dismantled, because Albrecht’s methodology is (apparently) to simply insult and denigrate those who disagree with him, rather to present a cogent and coherent argument. Finally, a lie on Albrecht’s part with respect to the historical facts of the Dividing Line (DL) is exposed.
Alright, alright, alright, well, well, well, anyone that saw the Dividing Line, I must say I doubt you are surprised. Before the Dividing Line show in which I appeared, I predicted just what would occur: Mr. White would sidestep the question, delve into other topics, and mute me, and even hang up on me, which of course, he did do.
This was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. What Albrecht fails to point out is that what he means by Dr. White “sidestep[ping] the question,” is answering the questions Albrecht posed in any other way than that which Albrecht wanted. What Albrecht fails to point out is that Dr. White “delve[d] into other topics,” because Albrecht raised other topics. What Albrecht fails to point out is that Dr. White muted him because he was trying to interrupt and talk over Dr. White. What Albrecht fails to point out is that Dr. White accidentally hung up on him at the very end of the show. Albrecht had the opportunity to talk with Dr. White from around 18 minutes into the show, to the accidental disconnection in the 58th minute (around 57:19 or so) of the show. Unfortunately, a transcription like the one above doesn’t capture the tone of the video, but it should become more evident in further segments.
Mr. Albrecht’s comment regarding “anyone that saw the Dividing Line,” is – of course – a bit odd, since the Dividing Line was presented in audio only. Perhaps Mr. Albrecht is simply not precise at expressing himself.
Well there isn’t any substance in this segment, so it is not really possible to provide a substantive critique. It’s all rhetoric. Once Albrecht gets into the substance, the substantive critique sections will be more meaty.
Unfortunately for James, he refuted himself. He admitted to logical (of course) and biblical distinction between latria and dulia, but his cop-out was, “Oh, oh, but there’s no distinction with reference to religious usage.” Of course, this make no sense, because, as I attempted to point out many times over, we don’t give dulia in a religious worship usage to any saint. I tried to hammer this point home to James, but he only yelled and yelled and yelled and muted me. I think it particular bothered James that Acts 7:7 was a prime example that his position is completely superfluous. After acknowledging the two distinct words, James simply says this cannot be a viable usage, because dulia is not a religious context.
Notice how Albrecht starts by claiming victory. He starts by saying that Dr. White refuted himself. Of course, Albrecht does not refer to him as Dr. White, but instead as “James.” It is interesting to recall (you did listen to the DL as I requested, didn’t you?) how hot under the collar Albrecht got when Dr. White pointed out to him that Albrecht had refuted himself (around 25:30). The difference is that Dr. White first demonstrated that Albrecht refuted himself, he did not simply claim it.
In fact, even after Albrecht claims that Dr. White refuted himself, he does not back it up. Albrecht seems to think that the fact that latria and dulia are two different words that are often used in different ways is an important point (more on that in the substantive section below). However, Albrecht refuses to consider Dr. White’s clarification, calling it a “cop-out.” A cop-out, however, is not a self-refutation. Even if it were a cop-out, which it is not, it would not be a self-refutation.
Furthermore, in addition to calling it a cop-out, Albrecht claims it makes no sense. His explanation for why it supposedly makes no sense is to change the subject (see Segment 1, Rhetorical Critique, above) to what he thinks is the application of the issue to his religion. Of course, even if the point made no sense (although in fact it did make sense), it would not be a self-refutation.
Albrecht claims that he tried to hammer his point home to Dr. White, but that Dr. White yelled and muted him. Albrecht, however, forgets to inform the reader that he tried to hammer this point home while Dr. White was talking. That is to say, Albrecht attempted to interrupt Dr. White, forcing Dr. White first to talk a bit louder – and then when it was clear that Albrecht wasn’t taking the hint to wait his turn, eventually mute Albrecht so as to be able to return to a more normal level of volume. “Yell,” of course, is an exaggeration, but it is true that Dr. White tried to help clue Albrecht into the fact that Dr. White was still talking, by raising his voice.
Albrecht’s comment regarding why Acts 7:7 would bother Dr. White is a bit odd too. As the reader has probably noticed, “superfluous” is just not the word Albrecht is looking for. Something superfluous is something extra. A position cannot really be superfluous, so it becomes clear that Albrecht simply let the four-syllable word get away from him. Advice to Albrecht: make sure you know what the word means, before you use it.
It’s a bit like his attempt to characterize Dr. White’s position in the very next sentence. Albrecht claims that Dr. White’s position is that “this cannot be a viable usage, because dulia is not a religious context.” In fact, however, Dr. White’s point was that the use of a form of dulia in Acts 7:7 was dulia in a non-religious context. Thus, it is not a relevant usage.
Substantively there is not a lot here. Albrecht’s basic point is and was that there is a difference between the words latria and dulia. As Albrecht noted we agree that those are two different words.
Nevertheless, in a religious context, Albrecht is unable to substantiate any relevant difference. In a religious context, both latria and dulia are (in the Bible) inappropriate for things that are not God. In a religious context, both are encompassed by the broad term προσκυνέω (proskuneo). Proskuneo in a religious context, giving religious reverence, is only for God. The idea that mere religious dulia (or religious hyper-dulia) is acceptable while only latria is forbidden is simply without Biblical foundation.
Albrecht either mistakes his own church’s position or is throwing up a red herring when he states, “we don’t give dulia in a religious worship usage to any saint.” Catholicism does admit to giving dulia in a religious context to the saints, and “hyper-dulia” to Mary. It is in the context of religious worship, although it is claimed that God receives the worship (see more discussion on that below, where Albrecht claims that the reverence goes directly to God). If Albrecht is attempting to point out that today this dulia is not labeled “worship,” he is providing a red herring with such a statement – or simply begging the question. After all, the issue is whether dulia in a religious context is to be considered worship biblically, not whether Catholicism acknowledges the Bible’s teaching on the point.
Acts 7:7 doesn’t help Albrecht. The dulia mentioned there is not in a religious context, as Dr. White pointed out during the DL. Accordingly, the idea that dulia of someone other than God is permitted in a non-religious context is an irrelevant point. We acknowledge that dulia can be rendered to the creation outside the religious context. We insist that all religious proskuneo, whether latria or dulia, is improper if directed to anyone but God.
Of course, when I then asked James to give me one lexicon in support of his thesis, he couldn’t even give me one. Instead he named the Bauer, Danker, Arndt & Gingrich but he didn’t even say that that gives the distinction. Notice his little verbage that he comes up with, “Oh, it doesn’t even deal with it!” Well James, the reason I asked you that pointed [?] question in the Greek lexicons, is because, on my laptop [pointing to a laptop over his left shoulder] right back there you can see, well James, I’ve got all of the standard lexicons popped right up onto my screen. Any type of Biblical software that exists, James, I run it, James. The software that you use, I use. Any kind of software that you’ve ever used, I’ve got every single version, James. The reason being, is because, you know, I realize you love to use lexicons, you love to bring up the Greek, and I would agree the Greek is quite important, but when you do what you do, you know, the gymnastics you do on the Greek language, it’s almost laughable. There isn’t a single scholar, or a single professor of Greek, that would say there is no biblical distinction between latria and dulia as you do. It’s quite laughable, James. Coming from somebody who claims to know Greek so well, it’s almost a joke. It really is.
It’s a little hard to believe that Albrecht has literally every Greek software package and every version thereof ever made. I suppose with enough funds one could accomplish such a thing, but I’m not sure why one would go beyond buying the most recent versions of the most popular and/or most high quality materials.
Obviously there is also a fair bit of mocking in this segment – but it is hard to make sense of the rambling monologue here. While Abrecht concedes that the Greek is important, and has apparently invested (or had invested for him) a considerable sum of money in obtaining every software package ever made, he accuses Dr. White of “gymnastics” and suggests that Dr. White’s claims to know Greek are not founded. On the other hand, no evidence of Greek gymnastics is presented, and Dr. White’s credentials with respect to Greek are readily open to serious question – particularly in view of Albrecht’s admission on the DL that Dr. White knows Greek much better than he does.
Additionally, although Albrecht makes the “couldn’t give me a single one” claim, Dr. White did in fact identify lexical support for Dr. White’s position. As a final rhetorical note, although Albrecht uses the term “verbage” he probably should have used the term “verbiage” in this particular context, though certainly “verbage” would be the more pejorative expression. Verbage usually refers to unnecessary wordiness, as opposed to verbiage, which can refer simply to a manner of expressing oneself in words.
As noted above, we agree that latria and dulia are two different words. Dr. White’s failure to bring up a Greek lexicon against his own position is simply a matter of internal consistency. Although Albrecht tries to re-characterize Dr. White’s position, Dr. White’s position remains that attempting to justify “dulia” as opposed “latria” of the saints (two forms of proskuneo of the saints) is without Biblical warrant. Pointing out that the two words have different semantic ranges, while certainly of lexical interest, is not relevant to the discussion, without some further argumentation: argumentation that Albrecht is either unable or unwilling to provide.
There is only one person who would agree with you. That is correct, only one. Not even Luther. Not even Zwingli. Not even Wycliffe or Huss. Or Augustine or Jerome or anyone – only John Calvin, the creator of your religion. The same person who rejected the early Christian writings because of their Catholicity, claiming them to be spurious. Something not even you would do, James. James was wise in avoiding that question, very wise. Even wiser in sidestepping whether an early father was devoted to Mary viewed their devotion as latria. Very, very, very intelligent, James. Putting me on mute and being able to try to slam down on me. Too bad everybody heard the show, James, whether you put me on mute or not, everybody heard. The sinking of the ship of Protestant beliefs was on show for the world.
Albrecht lets drama get the better of him here. His outrageous claims regarding the teachings not only of the church fathers but also some of the Reformers and proto-Reformers is a bit absurd. Likewise, his claim that Calvin is the “only one person” that would agree with Dr. White is just silly.
It is interesting to note that the issue of “whether an early father was devoted to Mary” is an issue that was not the main issue under discussion. Recall how Albrecht previously complained that Dr. White would turn his attention to other issues. Here he complains that Dr. White did not follow him down a rabbit trail. The double-standard is glaring.
It’s also interesting to see that Albrecht thinks that the issue of whether some father or other held some non-Reformed position is the sinking of the Protestant ship. Perhaps Albrecht is simply unaware that the Reformed position just lets the fathers be the fathers. The Reformed position recognizes that men err, and leaves room for error even in the most renowned of church fathers.
The “even you” jab is an interesting tactic. It is apparent that Albrecht views Dr. White as radically reformed, but not quite as radically reformed as Calvin. Since he views this “reformed” characteristic as something bad and stupid, he naturally doesn’t think twice before making a comment in which the implication is “even you [stupid as you are] wouldn’t say that.” This is ironically reinforced by Albrecht’s mocking “wise, very wise” remarks.
Calling Calvin the “creator of your religion” is obviously intended as an insult, but is simply so far from the truth, that only Albrecht’s most diehard supporters would find it compelling. In fact, I expect that most readers would see through this comment with great ease. Of course, the “creator” of our religion is God himself, who through Moses, the prophets, and the apostles provided us with the Word of God by which we know how to worship and serve him and him only.
There is not much here of substance on the topic. Essentially the argument appears to be that the view that “dulia of the saints is bad” originated with Calvin. This claim is false.
To take but one example, the Waldensians of the 15th century were recorded by the papists as not giving honor to the saints, working on saints’ days, not revering the statues or images of saints, and not praying to them. Indeed, Claude de Seyssel (who wrote a work against the Waldensians) identified this issue as their ninth error. Claude died in 1520, when Calvin was only about eleven years old. Consequently, one can reasonably suppose that however late the Waldensians may have come to reject the practices designated “dulia” – they certainly held that view before Calvin did.
We could also add that Calvin did not “reject the early Christian writings because of their Catholicity, claiming them to be spurious.” In fact there are two confused concepts in this criticism. Calvin probably did (and rightly so) question the authenticity of some of the alleged writings of the early Christians. One has only to look to obvious forgeries that Rome has relied upon, such as the Isodorian decretals and the Donation of Constantine, to recognize that the Roman see is not above forging documents of great importance. We actually see the same thing today with Romanists citing questionable sources in support of their positions (example 1, example 2). In fact, we even see this problem in the works of leading Romanists, such as Cardinal Lambruschini (link to discussion).
With respect to the alleged “Catholicity” of the early Christian writers, but – as Calvin said:
Honor to the Holy Church Fathers: he among us who does not know them better than you, let him beware lest he mention their names. Too bad that you are not more thoroughly read in them, otherwise certain references could be of benefit to you.
It is too bad that Albrecht is so unfamiliar both with Calvin’s teaching as well as with the teaching of the church fathers.
Let me move on to White. He tried to argue about the assumption of Mary, then the deutero-canonical books, then Sola Scriptura. It is clear James was lost on his dulia/latria argument from the fact that bowing to a statue at the time of Moses was different than bowing to a statue of Mary. James yelled, “How? How? How?” so loud that my brand new iPhone headphones nearly busted. He yelled so loud that I really didn’t want to laugh at him, to be rude, but he was – phew – I mean I don’t know if he was joking or he was really yelling because he was upset, but I couldn’t help but laugh, I mean he went almost nuts. I mean, come on, James. I don’t need to explain to you, we honor Mary, not a statue. The honor the Israelites were giving to their statues was the honor due to a god, because that was their god. They were not just honoring it, they were worshiping it. The Israelites were giving dulia and latria to the statue. We give nothing to the statue, rather we give honor and respect to what it represents: a creature of God. The respect goes directly to God. Get it James? I’ll draw a cartoon for you, so you can get it even better. I have a friend who is a great artist.
The mocking in this segment is pretty obvious, even without being able to hear the tone of voice used. You’ll notice how Albrecht claims that “James was lost on his dulia/latria argument,” but Albrecht has great trouble in explaining why.
It’s ironic that Albrecht does not seem to understand that part of presenting an argument is explanation. Albrecht seems to think that he can just claim whatever he likes, and if people don’t agree with him, too bad. During the DL, Albrecht was either unwilling or unable to support “how” bowing to a statue in Moses’ day (giving proskuneo to the statue or the thing represented by the statue) would have been different from bowing to a statue today. Whether he even does so now, we’ll address in this substantive segment below.
The cartoon comment here is somewhat ironic. One of Dr. White’s friends has actually already drawn a cartoon to help folks like Albrecht “get it” with respect to trying to make overly nuanced distinctions. (link to cartoon – note that the cartoon is under ©)
In order to provide the critique here, we have to look at Albrecht’s argument without all the rhetorical baggage. Dr. White had asked how bowing down to a statue in Old Testament times is different from bowing down to a statue of Mary. Let’s explore Albrecht’s answer.
1) We honor Mary, not a statue;
2) The honor the Israelites were giving to their statues was the honor due to a god, because that was their god;
3) They were not just honoring it, they were worshiping it;
4) The Israelites were giving dulia and latria to the statue;
5) We give nothing to the statue, rather we give honor and respect to what it represents: a creature of God; and
6) The respect goes directly to God.
As to (1), this seems to be the “our ancient ancestors were quite stupid” argument. This is the argument that today people understand that idols are representations of Mary, the Saints, Jesus, etc., but back then idolaters really thought that idol was the god. But is this so? Of course not.
There may have been some ancient superstitions associated with idols, just as there sometimes superstitions associated with Roman idols today. For example, today people sometimes bury statues of Joseph upside down in their yards in a particular way if they are trying to sell there house. This sort of practice is foolish. The statue is just an inanimate object. If it is made from molded resin, it could have easily been a toothbrush. If it is wooden, it could easily been part of your front door … and so forth.
But few people are so foolish as to attribute these powers to the statue itself. Instead, they attribute the powers to the saint or deity that the statue represents. Consider the Greeks and Romans. Now, granted that those were not the civilizations flourishing at the time of Moses, but do you think their concepts were much different from those of Persians and Egyptians? The Greeks at Ephesus did not think that Diana was the statue in the temple, or any of the copies that brought so much profit to the metalworkers of the city. Instead, those statues represented their goddess.
This kind of argument is just an insult to the intelligence of all of our idol-worshipping ancestors. Does Albrecht think they were all so stupid as to think that the piece of wood to which they bowed down was literally the god – or did they think that it represented their god? Surely the latter.
Thus, (1) is not a difference but a similarity between the forbidden use of idols in the Old Testament era and the forbidden use of idols in the New Testament era.
As to (2), this begs the question. It is true that Catholicism does not, at the present time, refer to Mary as a god or goddess. That does not conclude the matter. It may still be possible to give a creature inappropriate reverence – reverence that is proper for God alone. Furthermore, even if it did solve the problem with respect to Mary, it wouldn’t solve the problem with respect to Jesus – Christ is considered to be God by the followers of Catholicism.
As to (3), again, this begs the question. It is true that Catholicism today does not tend to use the English word “worship” to describe the reverence for Mary (though previous generations have not been so concerned about using such a description. Furthermore, it is plainly a part of the worship of Catholicism to give certain honors to Mary. Likewise, the difference between “worship” and “veneration” in Catholicism is just a rehashing of the very latria/dulia issue already being discussed.
That is to say, the question remains: why couldn’t an Old Testament Israelite simply say that he was “honoring” the statue if Moses caught him bowing down to it? I guess one could say that the Israelites hadn’t thought of the “honor/worship” distinction, but that basically admits that modern Catholicism invented it.
As to (4), the question is why Albrecht insists that this is the case. Why couldn’t the Israelite caught bowing down to a statue just claim he was only giving dulia to it? The answer is fairly obvious: no one would have considered that a legitimate excuse. To simply insist that the Israelites were giving both latria and dulia to the statue is not a valid answer, unless there is some reason that modern Catholicism can split the two up, which could not have been claimed by the ancient Israelites.
As to (5), this is already addressed under the “stupid ancients” discussion above. One must think that the ancient peoples were incredibly stupid if one thinks that the ancient peoples thought their idols were the gods themselves, not representations of the gods.
As to (6), to say that the respect goes directly to God is an odd claim. Clearly a certain amount of reverence is shown for the representation, which is transferred to the thing it represents. Even if the reverence to – for example – Mary is eventually transferred to God, it does not go there “directly.” Again, though, since we cannot really see the flow of respect (no need to draw a cartoon, Albrecht – we get the intended flow) – why couldn’t an Israelite caught bowing down to an idol have used this excuse?
A beautiful creature Mary was, of course, and is, which Saint Athanasius called “the mother of God.” And this is one point that I brought out and James, right away, he came out with, “Well, have you read my book? I cover the topic,” and blah blah blah and well, you know what James, I don’t need to read your anti-Catholic book to know what theotokos means, in any sense at all. That is a term that was used by the early church and the early councils and it brought glory to Christ our God and the wonderful faith he left us. It doesn’t need to be read upon in your book, ‘cause I already knew that. Would have been able to say that, as I was trying to say in the background, but I guess got muted when I tried to say stuff.
The issue of whether Mary was called “the mother of God” by Athanasius is another tangent that Albrecht redirected the conversation towards. It is interesting to note that Albrecht is not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that he has judged Dr. White’s position here without considering the arguments he presents.
Albrecht practically caricatures himself when he says “I don’t need to read your anti-Catholic books … .” Albrecht’s ignorance here is unassailable. The person who refuses to read what the other side has to offer is simply not a serious student of the matter.
Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
What’s perhaps even worse is that Albrecht ignores what Dr. White has to say even after Dr. White takes the time to try to explain it to him. Notice how he turns Dr. White’s statements into just so many “blah”s.
Albrecht complains about getting muted, but he forgets to point out that he got muted because he tried to talk over Dr. White. It’s almost as though Albrecht imagines that Dr. White muted Albrecht because Albrecht was offering up an argument that was too tough to handle.
Turning to the substance of the matter, Albrecht not only does not offer an argument that was too tough to handle, he offers something that could barely be considered an argument at all. Of course, Athanasius did not speak English. He did not use the term, “Mother of God.” Instead, he used the Greek term, Theotokos.
As Dr. White pointed out, this term was not a term of praise or honor for Mary, nor was it intended to be. It was a term that was Christological in its significance. The point of the term was that what was inside Mary was the God-man, not merely a man. This is significant against certain heretics that deny that Christ was the Word made flesh – that he was God-man from conception.
The term is perhaps more accurately translated “God-bearer” than “mother of God.” The entire point of the phrase, however, is not to give praise or reverence to Mary, but to describe the incarnation. The idea that using the term “theotokos” was somehow intended as “dulia” to Mary is completely absurd.
So, what it all boils down to is, James once again making all sorts of threats about embarrassing me on your show and all sorts of things to my, sending me all these sorts of emails, but it all ends with James being so frustrated, so frustrated that he had to hang up on me. So wonderful, James. You can mute me all you want and hang up on me all you want, it won’t change anything James, and don’t use the excuse that, “Oh, you know what, I accidentally hung up on him.” You put me on mute first, James, then, after a little while, you hung up on me. You didn’t accidentally cut me off James. You’re lying to your viewers. You are being really dishonest, because you tapped the mute button, and I was on the line for a little while to see if, you know what, maybe James will get the guts to hit the unmute button and allow me to at least say, “You know what, I had a good time being mistreated on your show,” but James put me on mute, and then, he hung up on me. Wow. Bravo. No matter what you do, James, no matter how many times you mute me or hang up on me, it won’t change the fact that I will forever oppose the false doctrines that your ministry puts forth. And yes, oh yes, I will be defending the Catholic faith until the very end. God bless!
Albrecht is just not telling the truth here. You can listen to the DL for yourself. We last hear Albrecht at 57:15 or 57:16, immediately before Dr. White says “Hey, William, Thank You .. Oh Sorry …” and begins apologize for accidentally disconnecting him. Albrecht may have taken a few seconds to realize that he had been disconnected, but there are less than three elapsed seconds (at the very most) between the time we last hear Albrecht’s voice and the time that Dr. White apologizes for accidentally disconnecting him.
Albrecht’s claim here that Dr. White is “lying to his viewers” (he should say, “listeners”) is simply inexcusable. It is Albrecht himself that has trouble with the truth.
Furthermore, Dr. White’s frustration had nothing to do with the strength of Albrecht’s arguments, but with the fact that Albrecht repeatedly tried to interrupt and talk over Dr. White. What is even more amazing is that Albrecht tries to make out that he was mistreated! All one has to do to see that this is not true is to listen to the great patience that Dr. White extended to Albrecht despite his failure to answer direct questions, his failure to let Dr. White talk without interruption, and so forth.
It is interesting that Albrecht himself is not embarrassed about how he acted on the show. He doesn’t seem to see how he abused the patience of his host and refused to be civil in the conversation. Albrecht’s not even embarrassed to suggest that if had not been providentially disconnected, he would have snidely said “You know what, I had a good time being mistreated on your show.”
Well, again, there isn’t any substance in this segment, so it is not really possible to provide a substantive critique. It’s all rhetoric. He calls Dr. White’s positions “false” and claims he will “defend” his own views “forever” and “to the end,” but he hasn’t established any falsity in Dr. White’s position and hasn’t provided a cogent defense of his own position.
For more discussion on this topic, consider reading Rhology’s post (here) at the Beggars All Reformation blog or the brief discussion in the blog archives (scroll to the 4/16/04 entry). You can also obtain a copy of Dr. White’s debate with Patrick Madrid on this topic at the Alpha and Omega Ministries bookstore (link).