A Tale of Two Debates
10/22/2011 - James White
You could not have a stronger contrast between the mindset and behavior of my two debate opponents this week, and, in particular, in their response to how I bent over backwards to try to make these debates as fair, even-handed, and useful as possible. I refer to my taking a tremendous amount of time on the Dividing Line going over their own presentations in recent debates so as to make sure that they would know exactly where I was coming from and exactly what I would be saying. Abdullah Kunde clearly listened, learned, incorporated my comments, accepted correction where necessary, and the result was a very excellent debate that while direct and forthright was likewise respectful and cordial, the very best kind. The issues were clearly presented and debated as a result of Abdullah Kunde's willingness to listen and learn without feigning offense at my refutation of some of his previous statements.
Alas, Roger Perkins chose the exact opposite path. Rather than listening, pondering, considering, learning, and growing, he chose to be deeply offended at what I did in responding to his own statements on the Dividing Line. All through the debate he kept referring to what I had said in the most negative fashion. He was clearly personally offended and chose to interpret my review in the most negative light. The result was to be expected: just as in the debates we reviewed, Mr. Perkins showed himself unwilling, or unable, to "hear" what was being said to him. You could tell he was sitting there, waiting for me to finish my question, just so he could launch into a prepared response, even if that response was not even relevant to the question I was asking. He came with sound clips, for example, from the Dividing Line, as I had predicted. However, he put them together so as to try to forge a contradiction or inconsistency on my part. But to do so he had to obviously violate the context of my statements. He took one statement where, in commenting on 1 John 2:23, I said that you cannot "separate" the Father and the Son. Obviously, to any semi-honest or reasonable person, my meaning was clear. I was saying you cannot have the Son without the Father, and you cannot have the Father without the Son. John's point is that confession of the Father demands confession of the Son, and vice versa, in light of the Father's testimony to the Son (a concept found in John 5, 8, etc. as well). Then he took that specific comment that had a specific context about what was being said in 1 John 2:23, and tried to create a contradiction with other statement I made regarding the distinction that is provided by the actions and attributes of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Hence, I had said that we can distinguish the Father from the Son, and he took this to be a contradiction to what I had said about 1 John 2:23. Does Mr. Perkins really lack the ability to grasp that basic level of human communication and language, or is he just being obtuse in defense of his tradition? I do not know.
One mistake I made in hindsight was to not press him to answer a question I had raised in my opening statement. I even ended my second portion of cross-examination almost three minutes early, mainly out of disgust at trying to reason with someone who clearly had no intention of engaging in rational thought. I should have taken that time to press him on the mediatorial role of Jesus today, since he did not make a single comment on the question, and I do not think he has ever considered the question at all. I likewise misspoke once and referred to Mr. Perkins "mistranslating" Rev. 21:22, when I should have said "misinterpreting" or "misreading." My point remained valid, however, as he had attempted to draw a parallel between this text and John 10:30 when there is no valid syntactical relationship whatsoever.
One of the limitations of doing debate like this at the speed we were going was illustrated last evening, but it is also a learning opportunity as well. I found Mr. Perkins is not interested in learning, but others will be, so here we go.
At least three times, maybe four, Mr. Perkins insisted that the term εἰκών was defined by Bauer as "a man" or, I think he may have said as well, the form of a man (I have the recording from my LiveScribe pen, and may track down the specifics before the next DL). He used this as his sole defense in trying to avoid the obvious teaching of the text that the Son, as the Son, pre-existed and was, in fact, involved in creation itself. Now, there was no way for me to look up the reference during cross-ex. I suspected that, as we have documented many times, Perkins was engaging in lexical abuse, but I could not speak and open up BDAG and check the small print at the same time. So, during Perkins' closing statement, I checked the reference, and confirmed my suspicions. After the debate I approached Mr. Perkins and asked if he had the reference to Bauer handy. He said he did. He opened his notebook to Colossians 1:15.
He had one line, which said Bauer, "of a man…Col. 1:15." No page number, nothing else. So I showed him the actual entry in Bauer on my iPad (in Accordance), and explained that he was mistaken. He refused correction. Let me explain it to those who have a willingness to learn.
Below is the relevant entry from BDAG, just as I showed it to Mr. Perkins. I have put what he quoted in bold so you can see how far removed the two portions are:
2. that which has the same form as someth. else (not a crafted object as in 1 above), living image, fig. ext. of 1 εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ (ἄνθρωπος πλάσμα καὶ εἰκὼν αὐτοῦ [God] Theoph. Ant. 1, 4 [p. 64, 17]; w. ὁμοίωσις Did., Gen. 56, 28) of a man (cp. Mitt-Wilck. I/2, 109, 11 [III BC] Philopator as εἰκὼν τοῦ Διός; Rosetta Stone=OGI 90, 3 [196 BC] Ptolemy V as εἰκὼν ζῶσα τοῦ Διός, cp. APF 1, 1901, 483, 11; Plut., Themist. 125 [27, 4]; Lucian, Pro Imag. 28 εἰκόνα θεοῦ τ. ἄνθρωπον εἶναι; Diog. L. 6, 51 τ. ἀγαθοὺς ἄνδρας θεῶν εἰκόνας εἶναι; Sextus 190; Herm. Wr. 1, 12 al.; Apuleius as image of God, Rtzst., Mysterienrel.3 43; JHehn, Zum Terminus ‘Bild Gottes’: ESachau Festschr. 1915, 36–52) 1 Cor 11:7 (on the gradation here cp. Herm. Wr. 11, 15a); of Christ (Helios as εἰκών of deity: Pla., Rep. 509; Proclus, Hymni 1, 33f [Orphica p. 277 Abel]; Herm. Wr. 11, 15; Stob. I 293, 21=454, 1ff Sc.; Hierocles 1, 418: the rest of the gods are εἰκόνες of the primeval god.—The Logos: Philo, Conf. Ling. 97; 147. Wisdom: Wsd 7:26) 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15 (εἰ. τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ μονογενής Did., Gen. 58, 3; cp. εἰκὼν γὰρ τοῦ . . . θεοῦ ὁ λόγος ἐστὶ αὐτοῦ Orig., C. Cels. 4, 85, 24.—EPreuschen, ZNW 18, 1918, 243).—εἰ. τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, τοῦ ἐπουρανίου image of the earthly, heavenly (human being) 1 Cor 15:49. (See SMcCasland, The Image of God Acc. to Paul: JBL 69, ’50, 85–100). The image corresponds to its original (cp. ὁμοίωμα 2ab; Doxopatres [XI AD]: Rhet. Gr. II 160, 1 εἰ. καὶ ὁμοίωμα διαφέρει; Mel., P. 36, 245 διὰ τῆς τυπικῆς εἰκόνος; 38, 262 τοῦ μέλλοντος ἐν αὐτῷ τὴν εἰκόνα βλέπεις and oft. in typological exegesis of the OT).
Now, Mr. Perkins does not read Greek. I do not believe he would even know the Greek alphabet, let alone could he make his way through the text. So portions of this kind of material are simply beyond his comprehension. But you do not have to actually be able to read koine to accurately use a Greek lexicon. The second portion of the entry for εἰκών gives a major semantic domain delimitation; the subcategories are marked various forms of punctuation.
Hence, the portion Perkins cited, "of a man," is in the first sub-category, and is followed by examples such as "Philopator as εἰκὼν τοῦ Διός." Another sub category is introduced with "of Christ," and this is in contrast to the preceding category "of a man." The reference to Colossians 1:15 is under the listing of "of Christ" (along with 2 Cor. 4:4) it is not under the listing of "of a man." Mr. Perkins is simply wrong, without question, to have read the entry as he did, yet, when I pointed out his error, he rejected my correction. So I told him to go ask a secular Greek scholar, since clearly he will not believe anything I say. Any scholar of the language will correct him on the matter. To insist, as he did in the debate, that "Bauer says this term refers to a man" and then to build his interpretation of the entire text upon that, is to demonstrate yet once again a clear example of "lexical abuse."
I was also disappointed that Mr. Perkins decided to accuse me of errors in citation of source, such as Moulton-Milligan, without giving a single example. In fact, at one point, when I challenged him on why he had not offered meaningful exegesis of the key texts (Phil. 2:5-11, John 17:5, John 1:1), his response was that he had pages of exegesis on those texts right there in his notes! Well, that's not much of an argument when you don't present it, is it? Evidently he just wanted us to trust him.
In any case, the contrast between the two debates is very instructional. In one, my opponent listened to my comments and incorporated them into his preparation and comments, resulting in a clear, cogent, meaningful, and cordial debate. In the other, as the saying goes, "not so much." 05:22:54 - Category: General Apologetics - Link to this article -