James White has periodically complained about certain Catholic apologists not wanting to interact with him, and this week I was reminded of why.
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
This makes it difficult to interact with his arguments because of the obnoxious way he presents them.
So here’s what I’m going to do.
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.
Since the manner in which White conducts himself toward other apologists is more of a matter between apologists, you may not be as interested in this subject.
Fair enough. If this isn’t your cup of
tea, I totally understand.
So I’ll place it below the fold in this post
so that it doesn’t take up further home page real estate.
First some background.
Recently I received an e-mail from a reader who said:
What is the Korban Rule, and why does James White make such a big deal about it when he speaks of sola scriptura?
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.
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.
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.
If you listen to me on the radio, you hear me do that kind of thing all the time.
Thus in MY POST ON THE SUBJECT, I explained "What is the Korban Rule?" and then said:
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
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.
White then responded with A POST titled:
Jimmy Akin More than a Decade Behind
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.
He then writes:
I was informed today that Jimmy
Akin had made some comments regarding sola scriptura, the Corban rule,
and my comments on the subject.
third point was a piece of misinformation: I did not comment on
White’s comments. I deliberately avoided doing so.
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:
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.
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") 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").
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."
White’s basis for the claims that I am "more than a decade behind"
and that I have "not done [my] homework" is apparently found in four
items that he raises in his post:
1) "Here is the basic presentation I made in The Roman Catholic Controversy a decade ago"
2) "Further, in responding to a Catholic Answers article in This Rock Magazine over a decade ago now, I wrote"
3) "I believe this topic has come up in the many debates on sola scriptura that I have done since the first in August of 1990"
4) "I remember pointing this out to Patrick Madrid and Mark Brumley at a seminar they did in Phoenix fifteen years ago" (italics his).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
I’m sorry, James, but you’re just not that big a fish in the overall scheme of things.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.