I took a few hours off of writing tonight to sorta de-compress, came back over to the office to do a little more work on an article, and found it necessary to put on my helmet and dodge a flood of incoming fire, both in channel and then in the “blogosphere.” Though I had commented only on Jimmy Akin’s ruminations about me, and then replied to theological issues raised by some of his commentators, he has chosen to post a rather lengthy response to a much wider set of “issues.” He calls it “The James White Brouhaha.” And he starts out his comments with, “Although I personally find James White as abrasive as anybody…” and later adds, “and however un-Christlike White may be in his demeanor….” Wow, how is that for a “How do you do?” Why Mr. Akin chose to start out on the “slash and burn” road I’m not sure. It sure doesn’t help in setting up a future debate! But I’m sure it is my fault, for some reason, and should I find such a comment offensive, I’m sure it is just because I am the abrasive, un-Christlike one!
Now, for those who may not know, Jimmy Akin is “Staff Apologist” for Catholic Answers. For those who have somewhat lost track of Catholic Answers, they are the organization that gave Gerry Matatics his start in the apologetics world. Back in the 1980s they were big on challenging folks to debate, and Matatics was their main man. But in early 1990 that all changed, and over the years the emphasis on debating has waned greatly. For a while it was Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, and James Akin. Then Madrid left and began Envoy Magazine, and Akin took over most of his duties, appearing frequently on their national radio program, and handling a lot of the writing and editing in This Rock magazine. So, with that brief history, some brief replies, following Mr. Akin’s numbered comments:
- I will avoid personally commenting on whether I find Mr. Akin abrasive or not. I do find his discussing issues such as “inceptive aorists” without having any background upon which to do so “less than useful.” I do not seek “fans,” and have not, at the time of this writing, even read the comments on Akin’s blog to which he refers.
- Outside of the gratuitous insults, some of our readers could read this paragraph and honestly think it was written by someone I will be debating later this year! 🙂 I recognize what God did for me in my salvation, and that my baptism was my witness to others of what God had already done in my heart, which is what made it so special and meaningful, rather than an empty action looking forward to some hoped for fulfillment (in one view), or one that allegedly put me in a “state of grace” before my heart was ever touched by grace.
- Here is the obligatory attack upon my scholarship based upon the “you can’t do scholarship unless an agency of librarians approved by the gov’t says you can” argument, one that, I do believe, will self-destruct in the not-too-distant future for other reasons. For now, I invite Mr. Akin to try a little harder, examine the work I have done in my field, and dare demonstrate that the years I spent on those degrees produced published work below par for the field in which the degree is claimed. Keeping in mind that those degrees are in apologetics, scan down the list of my work here and see if you can figure out a logical basis for Akin’s comments. If scholarship is something you buy from a school you can argue as he does: if it is something you do consistently in teaching and writing and research, then I think the rational person can judge for themselves. Oh, and as to the “why go that route” question, the answer is simple: obedience to Christ’s call on my life as seen in my commitment to Alpha and Omega Ministries and the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. [Update: Dear Alexander: Are there any depths to which you will not sink? Any cause you will not aid? I have been very open in promoting the propriety and viability of doing advanced educational studies within the purview of the local church. Now you slander me by saying I have been deceptive! Witness to the deception, Alexander, or again admit your constant lack of honesty and forthrightness!]
- I do not claim infallibility in anything. And I deny it to Mr. Akin as well. And since I continue to grow in my sanctification and therefore in the assurance of my salvation on an experiential basis, I do not use the term “infallible” of my certainty. I say it is sufficient, and it is part of saving faith. How any Roman Catholic can claim to have something superior in light of the never-perfecting sacrifice of Christ and the entire sacramental system of Rome, I have no idea.
- Chris Arnzen arranges the Great Debates on Long Island. And he talked to Mr. Akin twice regarding representing the Roman Catholic position in debate on Long Island. Mr. Arnzen is the singular person who arranges these debates, and hence is as official as you can get regarding the Long Island debates. And, if we were to arrange a debate as part of a future ministry cruise, for example, Mike O’Fallon would be the one who arranges it. When I debated Dr. John Sanders on Open Theism at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando in 2002, I never spoke to Dr. Sanders until the day of our first debate. Mike O’Fallon did all of that work, and properly so. It would be ridiculous to say that since I did not personally speak to him on the phone beforehand that he had not been challenged to do the debate. Hence, if Mr. O’Fallon calls Mr. Akin to discuss arrangements, that is just as “official” (and, given my schedule and inability to do a good job working on arrangements and the like, much smarter) than if I did it myself.
- A debate has a thesis, a format, and equal opportunities for discussion. I am sorry Mr. Akin thinks a widely-ranging call-in radio program is tantamount to a formal debate. I find that utterly without merit, and leave it to the reader to decide.
- No one has ever once contacted us to my knowledge about any irregularities regarding the KIXL debate, including Mr. Akin. Why wait years to even raise the issue? I have never listened to the debate myself, and hence have no idea if what Akin says is true or not.
- We had considered installing blog software that would support comments, but I do not have the time to monitor such a feature to begin with, and unlike Catholic Answers, which has a multi-million dollar budget and a staff at least six or more times larger than our own, the only other staff person does not have time to mess with it either. My blog developed out of the fact that it took me far too long to post new articles on the main page, and the “blog” idea allows me to discuss a wide variety of issues and to keep folks up to date on upcoming topics on The Dividing Line.
Now, as I said earlier, I would like to arrange a debate with Mr. Akin either in 2005 or 2006, depending on our schedules. Despite Akin’s dismissal of my education, I happen to teach, regularly, and it has gotten more and more difficult to arrange large “events” (like this November’s conference and cruise) around my teaching duties, let alone my publishing deadlines. Hence, I would like to involve those who have expertise in making such things work (Mr. Arnzen, if Mr. Akin would like to join the likes of Patrick Madrid, Mitchell Pacwa, Gary Michuta, and Peter Stravinskas—all of whom have engaged in the debates on Long Island; Mr. O’Fallon if he would rather not travel by air that far in hopes of combining the event with his future plans for the ministry), for I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and organizing and arranging such things is not something I handle with expertise. The Lord has given me great colleagues and friends who are the “detail” men, and they are the ones who will get in touch with Mr. Akin.