A few moments ago Chris Arnzen forwarded me some correspondence that had developed today. To make Chris happy, I have (are you all sitting down?) actually updated the calendar page. I am sorry that page is so…humorous (it is normally more a historical run down of last year’s events than anything else), but I find it very time consuming to do both the blog and a calendar page. Anyway, I just added Chris’ announcement of the time, location, etc., of my upcoming intramural debate with my good brother in Christ, Pastor Bill Shishko of the Franklin Square Orthodox Presbyterian Church on Long Island (and a second about my yearly trek to visit the folks in St. Louis at Covenant of Grace Church).
Evidently, someone on one of the lists Chris posted the debate announcement to took exception. He responded,
Ugh. James White is by far one of the most dirty debaters I’ve ever seen.
Chris immediately asked him to back up what he had said, and he replied,
You sound like a fan. I’ve listened to recorded debates. When things aren’t going his way, he turns into a baby. He uses slight-of-hand techniques, buckshot apologetics, baiting, etc. All these things dirty debaters use.
At this point I wrote to the gentleman, named Brian Atwood, to ask him to please back up his statements. This was his response:
Wow. I’ve caught the attention of the notorious James White. I would be happy to, James. It’s not slander, by the way. It’s clearly an opinion. But I will gladly show an example of a sleight-of-hand technique that you used. It was a debate over the Greek word kecharitomene. I apologize that I can’t recall the name of the Catholic apologist you debated against, but you probably do.
The topic of the argument was that kecharitomene proved Mary’s sinlessness. It plain and simply does. The argument is irrefutable. However, in an article you wrote on your website, you switched words hoping no one would notice. Since you had no argument on the fact that kacharitomene means “sinlessness”, you substituted the root of the word which means “grace”. Without the prefix and suffix, charitoo does mean “grace”. However, the root of the word was not the topic of the debate. With the prefix ke and the suffix mene included, charitoo does mean “sinlessness”. That is what I mean by a sleight-of-hand technique. My opinion holds.
Of course, the very first thing we notice is that Mr. Atwood (evidently a Roman Catholic, but these days, that is by no means completely certain) thinks that disagreeing about a factual issue (the lexicographical meaning of kecaritwme,nh) is sufficient ground to attack a man personally (“dirty” “turns into a baby” “slight-of-hand” “buckshot apologetics”). This is the kind of bigoted thinking that people repeat endlessly, so that I often talk to people who say, “Well, I was told you are mean.” “Oh, who told you that, and why?” “Well, a friend of a friend of a second cousin read it on the Internet.” Mr. Atwood would probably object to being treated in this way himself, but evidently, the Golden Rule only goes one direction.
But what of his single complaint? Well, of course, he is not even offering a meaningful argument. He does not interact what what I have written on the subject, let alone what I have said in debate, and he does not substantiate his false assertions. Saying, “Well, it plainly does, and the argument is irrefutable” is the kind of rhetoric you find being used only by those who have no foundation for their arguments. I would imagine Mr. Atwood is referring to my debates with Gerry Matatics, since he is the only Roman Catholic we have been able to get to defend the Marian dogmas in debate. We have challenged others, including Tim Staples, now of Catholic Answers (he’s been cranking out Marian materials recently, including books and CD’s), but no one else will take up the topic. In any case, I would assume he is referring to the 1996 encounter, so, here is what I said, specifically, in that particular debate on the topic. In fact, here are my notes, verbatim, from that debate:
Immaculate Conception Notes
Ott, p. 200: “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture. According to many theologians it is contained implicitly in the following passages.” Later, on page 201, he writes, “Neither the Greek nor the Latin Fathers explicitly teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary.”
Ott then cites Genesis 3:15, admitting that the literal meaning of the passage is about Eve, not Mary. He admits that “the Mother of the Redeemer came to be seen in the woman.” I.e., it was a process of development over time. He admits that this identification is not to be found “in the writings of the majority of the Fathers, among them the greatest teachers of the East and West.”
Amazingly, Ott notes:
The Bull “Ineffabilis” approves of this messianic-marianic interpretation. . . . The Bull does not give any authentic explanation of the passage. It must also be observed that the infallibility of the Papal doctrinal decision extends only to the dogma as such and not to the reasons given as leading up to the dogma. (200)
One cannot help but point out the absurdity of such a position, for it amounts to saying that a person can be wrong about every fact upon which they are basing their argument, yet be infallibly correct in the conclusion they draw from the wrong facts!
J.N.D. Kelly notes that Ireneaus, Tertullian, and Origen all felt Mary had sinned and doubted Christ (p. 493).
Luke 1:28 and kecaritwme,nh
Karl Keating alleged:
The newer translations leave out something the Greek conveys, something the older translation conveys, which is that this grace (and the core of the word kecharitomene is charis, after all) is at once permanent and of a singular kind. The Greek indicates a perfection of grace. A perfection must be perfect not only intensively, but extensively. The grace Mary enjoyed must not only have been as “full” or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it must have extended over the whole of her life, from conception. That is, she must have been in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called “full of grace” or to have been filled with divine favor in a singular way. This is just what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds. . . . (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 269.)
The above quotation goes far beyond anything a serious exegete of the passage in Greek could possibly say. This can be seen by examining the term in question, the perfect passive participle “kecharitomene.”
First, let’s look at the lexical meaning of the root of the term, that being the Greek word “caritoo”(carito,w) Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (edited by Gingrich and Danker) defines the usage of “caritoo” at Luke 1:28, “favored one (in the sight of God).” No lexical source that we have found gives as a meaning of “caritoo” “sinlessness.” The term refers to favor, in the case of Luke 1:28, divine favor, that is, God’s grace. The only other occurrence of “caritoo” is at Ephesians 1:6, “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” If the bare term “caritoo” means “sinlessness,” then it follows that the elect of God, throughout their lives, have been sinless as well.
However, if we look at Mr. Keating’s presentation, it seems clear that he is basing his interpretation not primarily upon the lexical meaning of the word “caritoo”, but upon the form it takes in Luke 1:28, that being the perfect passive participle, “kecharitomene”. Note that Keating alleges that the “Greek indicates a perfection of grace.” He seems to be playing on the perfect tense of the participle. But, as anyone trained in Greek is aware, there is no way to jump from the perfect tense of a participle to the idea that the Greek “indicates a perfection of grace.” First, participles derive their time element from the main verb of the sentence. In this case, however, we have a vocative participle, and no main verb in what is in actuality simply a greeting. (The fact that the Roman Catholic Church has to attempt to build such a complex theology on the form of a participle in a greeting should say a great deal in and of itself.) The main emphasis of a participle is found in its aspect, a present participle providing the idea of continuing action, the aorist undefined action, and the perfect completed action with abiding results to the present. What are we to do with the perfect tense of the participle, then? We might take it as an intensive perfect, one that emphatically states that something is, but most likely it is simply emphasizing the certainty of the favor given, just as the perfect passive participle in Matthew 25:34 (“Come, you who are blessed by my Father . . .”), 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (“knowing, brethren beloved by God . . .”), and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord . . .”) emphasizes the completedness of the action as well. No one would argue that in Matthew 25:34, Jesus means to tell us that the righteous have a “perfection of blessedness that indicates that they had this perfection throughout their life, for a perfection must be perfect not only intensively, but extensively” (to borrow from Mr. Keating’s presentation). The application of Keating’s thoughts to any of the above passages results in foolishness. Hence, it is obvious that when Keating says that the Greek indicates that Mary “must have been in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called `full of grace’ or to have been filled with divine favor in a singular way,” he is, in point of fact, not deriving this from the Greek at all, but from his own theology, which he then reads back into the text. There is simply nothing in the Greek to support the pretentious interpretation put forward by Keating and Madrid. Therefore, Madrid’s statement, “This is a recognition of her sinless state,” falls for lack of support. The angel addressed Mary as “highly favored,” for, as he himself said, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).
Now, evidently, we have lexical sources, history, exegesis, and simple reason, versus Mr. Atwood’s “plain” and “irrefutable” claims. Please note that despite Atwood’s misrepresentation, I specifically addressed the form of the term in the text (the perfect passive participle). And I guess, by pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes, I’m a “dirty” debater. An excellent example of how rumors get started. I would invite Mr. Atwood to give me a call on the Dividing Line next week if he thinks he can provide a refutation of these facts. I would love to hear him provide something more than his bare ipse dixit.