Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
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.
AS ILLUSTRATED BY THIS POST, he just can't resist ad hominems, insults, and little jabs, and he has a constant assumption that he is of such unique importance that people in the field must be intimately familiar with whatever he writes or says or they reveal their own inadequacy.We will note that Jimmy Akin has a rather convoluted, inconsistent definition of "ad-hominem" a little later. For now, I point out that any Roman Catholic apologist who is capable in church history, the original languages, and is published, would be of "unique importance" to me so that I would at the very least desire to be familiar with their argumentation. Please note that I am not saying I am always successful at keeping up with such folks. I deal with many areas, and especially when I am focusing upon a particular area of study, other areas may well slip due to that. But that is why I do not pretend to respond to any and all questions with expertise, as Akin did in his response that began this thread, misrepresenting me and dismissing my arguments as basic anti-Catholic rhetoric when he was simply ignorant of the facts. Please note the irony: Akin pretends to respond to a question about MY views, and when he is proven wrong, it is MY fault. Amazing, isn't it? How dare I think the head of apologetics for Catholic Answers would be familiar with published authors who have specifically addressed the claims of his own organization!
This makes it difficult to interact with his arguments because of the obnoxious way he presents them.I.e., it is "obnoxious" to think Akin, as an apologist, would check his facts before answering a question and calling someone an "anti-Catholic." Keep this in mind.
So here's what I'm going to do.Ironically, I only replied to the second article, not having seen the first. I will leave it to the reader to determine who is being obnoxious and snotty.
First--in this post--I'm simply going to document how the way that James conducts himself makes it hard for others to interact with him and then--in a second post--I'll lift the arguments he makes out of the matrix of snottiness in which he embeds them and interact with them directly.
The reason I'm taking this two-post approach is that James's ungentlemanly style has nothing to do with the merits of the arguments he makes, and I don't want the two subjects to be entangled.
Please keep track of the use of personal attacks here, and how Akin confuses my demonstration that he, as an apologist, shows no interest in knowing what his opponents are arguing with some sort of misbehavior. I personally find his attitude to be tremendously arrogant and unhelpful, but hey, if that's how people want to approach the task, all the better for me. Look at what happened to Peter Stravinskas and Barry Lynn when they did not bother to prepare for our debates because they did not think anyone coming from my background could possibly have anything worthwhile to say. Makes my job a lot easier! Of course, we have been trying to get Jimmy Akin to step out from behind the nice, safe walls of Catholic Answers for years to do a full-on, moderated debate, even there in San Diego, and have so far been unsuccessful in so doing. In any case, I leave it to the reader to read the articles in the order they have appeared to see if there is anything more here than damage control on Mr. Akin's part.
That's all I had to go on, so I didn't know what material by James White the reader may have had in mind. He might be thinking of a book or tape that White put out years and years ago, or he might be thinking of something much more recent. Since I don't hang on every word that issues from the mouth of James White, I don't read his blog, I don't listen to his webcast, and so I don't know what his most recent arguments regarding korban and sola scriptura might be.And it is just here that my complaint finds its clearest foundation. At this point the wise thing to do would have been to ask the questioner for details. "To what do you refer? Do you have a URL?" Of course, this would require Akin to admit that not only is he not current on what I am saying about the entire doctrine of sola scriptura (a rather important topic for the head of apologetics for Catholics Answers, don't you think?), but he is a full decade or more behind. In fact, he has not even taken interest in published rebuttals of This Rock magazine, nor does he follow what is being said in debates taking place in his expressed field of expertise. I note that I listen to debates done by others all the time. I have taken note of Akin's debate on the priesthood and, though I have yet to find time to do so, have repeatedly noted my desire to do a blog series refuting his presentation on the topic (and would, of course, be glad to do so in live, open, moderated debate at a location of Akin's choosing in San Diego). I loved listening to Eric Svendsen take Gerry Matatics apart on the Marian dogmas. It is part of my work as an apologist to do everything I can to know what my opponent is going to argue before I debate him. Ask Shabir Ally if that is not a wise approach. So do forgive me for being so "snotty" and "obnoxious" to think that Jimmy Akin might have an equally high view of his responsibilities as an apologist.
Now, Momma Akin didn't raise any children dumb enough to critique a position based on old memories of what someone said years ago, when they may have said something different in recent days.Amazing. Let's remember what he ended up doing: "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." What is a staple of anti-Cathlic apologetics, whatever on earth that is? Surely he is purposefully leading his reader to this his comments have some relevance to the question asked, and hence to my views. It is very convenient to now be attempting to insinuate that he wasn't really responding to me at all. This may be as close as Akin is going to come to admitting, "I shouldn't have started a blog article with a question that names someone who I disrespect so much I only refer to him as an anti-Catholic (even though he debates Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, and Muslims and the likes of John Dominic Crossan) when I haven't a clue what the question is actually about, even though if I had been doing almost any homework at all over the past decade in my area of self-proclaimed expertise, I would have known what was up."
In fact, Momma Akin didn't raise any children dumb enough to critique another person's position without having locked-down, verified, verbatim quotations of recent origin.
So I didn't.
Instead, I did what I always do when someone asks about something a person has said and I don't have the quotation in front of me and so can't comment on it: I indicated that I haven't seen the quotation and then I talk about the issue in general terms rather than what the person in question may have said about it.I guess that means "staple of Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics" is just a general thing. Translation: "I had no idea what White has said, but instead of finding out, I wanted to impress my reader with an answer that actually had nothing to do with his actual question."
Akin then reproduces the quote up above, and says,
The blue part is the only thing I said about James White in the entire post. I didn't focus on him as an individual or what he may have said. I just mentioned him to set him aside and get at the issue as it is commonly handled in Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics.Once again, I point out that the question he is ostensibly answering was specifically about my discussion of the Corban rule. I did not force Akin to answer this question. I did not force the questioner to ask it. If Akin can't answer the question meaningfully, he should say so. But please note, it would have been pretty easy for a serious apologist or researcher to find out what the questioner was asking. Akin did not show enough interest to find out, despite the fact that the documentation was readily available and actually appears in materials specifically responding to the organization in which he holds a leadership position.
Let me provide a contrast to Akin's attitude. For years folks sent us links to Akin's errant comments on the Greek grammar and syntax of the Gospel of John and the issue of the nature of God's "drawing" of the elect. And for years I pointed out his errors, in writing, on our webcast, etc. I even played a caller to his radio program who challenged him on the topic, and his evasive, erroneous response. I had corrected him for many years before finally Akin was forced to examine a blog entry where I took his claims apart, and he finally admitted that he was, in fact, wrong in what he had said. But it took years and years of repeatedly correcting folks based upon their acceptance of his "expertise" before this took place.
I have some traveling to do over the next few days, and since I am really, really hoping to enjoy this brief time away, I am not going to make any promises that I will be investing any time in continuing this response until I get back. But once I get back, I will surely wade back into the shark infested waters and finish demonstrating that as I see it, Jimmy Akin has gone to great lengths to vilify me simply for pointing out that he did not do his homework before hitting the "save and publish" button, nothing more. But I do hope the reader is seeing a fundamental difference in viewpoint as to how to do apologetics as well. This is not a new attitude on the part of Catholic Answers, as the articles I've linked to demonstrate.