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James White *still* Doesn’t Like One Of My Old Talks

Trent Horn

Audio only:

In this “live rebuttal” Trent is joined by Catholic apologist William Albrecht who has also been a recent subject of James White’s critiques. In this episode the duo discuss his views on the Marian dogmas.


 

Welcome to The Counsel of Trent Podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.

Trent Horn:

Hey everyone. In today’s rebuttal I’m joined by William Albrecht. He is a Catholic apologist. He does a lot of work with Michael Lofton at Reason and Theology, and he does a really good job. I have a lot of respect for him because he’s one of the few apologists who is willing to go out there and debate people from opposing viewpoints. He’s done a lot of debates. He’s debated a lot of people I’ve debated. He’s debated Dan Barker. He’s more than willing to debate James White, if White is willing to debate him. So, he’s done a lot of good research on different topics. So, the genesis of today’s episode is that William, he emailed me. He said, “Hey, did you check out The Dividing Line?” James White, he spent most of an episode critiquing William on a debate he did on purgatory. Then in the last 20 minutes or so of the episode he went back to a talk that I gave in 2019 or 2018 I think, I can’t remember, a talk on Protestant distortions of the Church Fathers. So, I’ve already done a previous video where I’ve engaged White on his criticisms of my talk, and so he’s continued to go through the talk.

 

I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, except William sent the email and said, “Hey, do you want to sit down with me and kind of do a live rebuttal of James White’s critique of your talk?” And I said, “Yeah, that would be a ton of fun.” So, we did that.

 

So this is, unlike my other rebuttals, this is more of a live rebuttal that we did for his YouTube channel, but it was a lot of fun to be able to sit down with him. He’s a very knowledgeable guy. Go and check out his YouTube channel. I’ll link to it in the description of the video below. Check out what he and other people at Reason and Theology are doing. They’re doing a lot of great work. So, without further ado, here is my joint rebuttal of James White, who still doesn’t like my old talk on the Protestant distortions of the Church Father, my joint rebuttal with William Albrecht. Check it out.

William Albrecht: 

Yep.

Trent Horn:

The part that he is critiquing here, and hopefully you guys can hear this, an ice cream truck is driving by my house.

William Albrecht: 

No, you’re clear. We can’t hear any truck at all.

Trent Horn:

Okay, very, very good. I was talking about early evidence for dogmas like the Immaculate Conception, and an indirect piece of evidence for that is that if Mary was preserved from original sin, since Genesis 3 talks about labor pains being a penalty associated with Eve’s disobedience and original sin, we have evidence Mary was spared from labor pains. That is evidence, not a full proof, but it’s evidence for the dogma that she was immaculately conceived. She was protected from original sin.

Trent Horn:

So what I pointed to were early sources that talk about Mary being free from labor pains. Then there’s also early sources that talk about the other children of Mary being children from Joseph’s previous marriage, and that Mary remained a virgin, that she was consecrated as a virgin in the temple, and that we find in what’s called the Protoevangelium of James, or the Infancy Gospel of James, a Syrian Antiochian Eastern document dated to probably mid second century, early to mid second century.

Trent Horn:

So, what White is going to do now is he’s going to say, “Although they’re using these noncanonical sources, and hey folks, there’s problems in these sources.” Well yeah, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t witnesses to what early Christians did believe. Now he’s going to talk about the problems he sees in that, or he thinks they’re there.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah, no doubt. I’m going to put.

James White:

Family members and things like that. But a couple years ago I remember, and then again, it was only a few months ago, I read through portions of the Ascension of Isaiah. We did story time with Uncle Jimmy and we looked at the Protoevangelium of James. In fact, I should’ve grabbed the Gnostic Gospels text, it’s in on a desk in the other studio, but we read through portions of these things to remind us once again of the nature of these sources, the nature of these materials. That they are clearly unorthodox, they are clearly not based upon a Christian worldview, that they are clearly influenced by forms of [crosstalk 00:04:53].

Trent Horn:

Well, I think let’s stop. Let’s stop right there.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

Okay, so those are dramatic claims that he’s saying.

William Albrecht: 

Very.

Trent Horn:

He says that they’re not Christian. I would say well, do these documents, does the Infancy Gospel of James deny Jesus’s divinity or his humanity? That to me would be to say something is not Christian it would … Now, I would say it’s not orthodox. I mean, it’s certainly it’s not, the church doesn’t recognize it as being canonical or inspired. I would say the Infancy Gospel of James, so when people read it you have to keep that in mind. It’s important. It’s just like when we read the Church Fathers, they’re not infallible. Some of them made some pretty bad mistakes, the ones that lost their saint titles certainly did.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

The ecclesial writers like Tertullian or Origen. With these apocryphal sources we have to keep that in mind, but the same time we also get important historical points. So, you take like … And what’s interesting, William, is that sometimes I get Catholics who give me a hard time on the Infancy Gospel of James because I am partial to the view the brothers and sisters of the Lord are children from Joseph’s previous marriage. That’s the Epiphanian Eastern view of this. You can hold the Western Jerome’s view, I think that’s fine, but I’m partial. I know some Catholics are very, very against that view.

William Albrecht: 

They are.

Trent Horn:

And they tell me, “Oh, Aquinas rejected the Infancy Gospel of James, and how could you rely on that?” And I tell them, “What are the names of Mary’s parents and how do you know that?”

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

I’m sure we have feast days for Saint Anne and Joachim. That historical detail-

William Albrecht: 

Directly from there.

Trent Horn:

… it comes from the Infancy Gospel of James, that’s how you know that.

William Albrecht: 

You’re correct.

Trent Horn:

So, these are details that we find there, and so within these documents, I would say the Infancy Gospel of James, it’s genre, it is not a Gnostic text. As he explains it more, I think you and I will be able to break down. There’s not Gnosticism here, but I would call it Christian midrash is what I would call it.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So, midrash is a Jewish genre of retelling stories in the Old Testament in a markedly different way to draw particular points out of them, and they’re clearly retold in even a fictional kind of way. So, I think that the Infancy Gospel of James, it does not perfectly align with the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke. There are many touchpoints, there are also differences. So, I would say those differences represent a midrashic retelling, but they’re underscoring the main points of the canonical narratives, which is that Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, that Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. Jesus only has one father, God, God is his father, and that this is a miracle that has happened for Mary to give birth, and that Jesus was born of a Virgin. That’s what’s being underscored here.

Trent Horn:

I would say, William, if you’re going to compare it, say, “Oh, it’s a Gnostic treatment.” Look at what the Gospel of Philip says about the Virgin Mary. Gospel of Philip it says that, “It is said that Mary conceived of the Holy Ghost. How does a woman conceive of a woman?” This is nonsense.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So, there it talks about the Holy Spirit being Sophia, it’s a woman. This is not what we find in the Infancy Gospel of James. So, when he says this, yeah, I agree. It’s not canonical, it’s not inspired, but it’s not just complete rubbish either. It provides a framework for understanding early Christian attitudes.

William Albrecht: 

Trent, what a great point you, a number of points you’ve brought up, really, really good ones. I agree completely, and I was about to get to that point. You look at what scholars have to say, they’re not going to argue. There’s a scholar by the name of Nutzman that has written on the prot of James, and you find more and more Jewish scholars, Christian scholars that do not label it as a Gnostic work. I’ve heard James White say, “Well, it’s proto-Gnostic.” There’s not Gnosticism within there, but I’d add even more, you’re definitely right there, Trent. Here’s the amazing thing. You know that Joachim and Anna are the names of Mary’s parents, so we know that there was truth, there was some truth, a good amount of truth preserved within this early Christian writing that comes from a very early period. I want to add another thing, Trent, and then we’ll continue watching this. You’ve heard James bring it up a number of times, he’s brought it up multiple times to me as well, and I don’t agree. He claims that the protoevangelium is what was the basis for this belief in the early church, but I don’t find that.

Trent Horn:

No.

William Albrecht: 

I look at Origen or Ambrose, and they don’t tell you, “Oh, I believe it because of that document.”

Trent Horn:

No. The document, I would say, and this is something similar when you read Richard Bauckham is a protestant scholar. Oh by the way, good reference to Mary Nutzman. The article she did, Mary in the temple, is a very good treatment to talking about how these people will scoff at the Infancy Gospel of James saying that Mary was a consecrated Virgin in the temple, and Nutzman does a good job showing well no, there were many female attendants with special gifts and privileges within the Hebrew temple, and goes into detail about that. But yeah, when we get into the document itself, I would say well, look, when you’re saying that it’s Gnostic, actually read into the text, and especially when we get into the section when it talks about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. I think White really misrepresents what the document is saying here.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. I totally agree. Let me continue with the audio and we’ll continue, but I totally agree with you. Really, really good points there.

James White:

Early Gnosticism, all the way up to full blown Valentinian Gnosticism. If you’re not familiar with what Gnosticism was, it was the greatest enemy of the Christian Church beginning at the end of the 1st century, even into the 1st century if you’re looking at the earliest forms in being warned against in Colossians, and 1 John and things like that. But certainly the biggest enemy of the church in the 2nd century.

Trent Horn:

Let me, quick comment here. I would say actually the biggest enemies by the end of the 1st century and early 2nd were not the Gnostics so much as the Docetists.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

The Docetists were the ones who were saying, that’s what John is saying, you’re anti-Christ if you say Christ did not come into flesh.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah, that’s correct.

Trent Horn:

So, I would say when you read the Infancy Gospel of James, if there are any exaggerations or embellishments, it’s not to promote Gnosticism, it’s to counter Docetism. It’s to say no, Jesus, God became man, he really was born, he really dwelled not just in a woman but was born of a woman, because the Gnostics would say, “Oh yeah, maybe Jesus was in Mary but his flesh did not come from her body.” And the Infancy Gospel is saying, “No, no, no this is really.” And you read scholars on the Infancy Gospel of James, they’ll say, “This has very anti-Docetist narrative to underscore the reality of the incarnation.”

William Albrecht: 

That is a really, really good point you bring up there, and that is a point emphasized heavily by the great Saint Ignatius of Antioch who emphasizes the flesh, the flesh of the Eucharist.

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

So, it’s a really, really good point that you bring up there. I think James has really run with that as well, and I think what he’s trying to do for his audience, he’s trying to really emphasize how terrible Gnosticism is, and which we agree. Of course, we’re not arguing, but if you get that in your mind, okay, how bad, this is terrible Gnosticism, you get that in your mind and then by the time you finally realize that, you’ve already gotten entrenched in your mind, okay, well, does this really come from Gnosticism? The problem is that we’re going to see in a moment is that those early Fathers, the greatest defenders of Christology, of the Trinity, they believed Mary was a perpetual virgin, so that to me presents a major problem for James’s position, that we’ve got some of the greatest luminaries of the faith, but let’s play more and we’ll definitely get to that.

James White:

As such, the worldview of the creator God making all things, central to the Christian faith, Gnosticism denies that. So, you have a dualistic system within Gnosticism. This is plainly seen in these sources. You have this idea of Jesus basically beaming in to the world. He beams out of Mary, there’s a bright light and as the light fades, ah, there’s a baby. So, no birth. There couldn’t be, because in Gnostic thought that would make Jesus a part of the fallen physical order, and so-

Trent Horn:

Let’s stop. I have to stop here. Oh, let me continue a thought. I interrupted myself earlier. You’re right, I see a lot of scholars saying this, “Oh that the Infancy Gospel of James is the origin of the perpetual virginity of Mary.” But when you read people like Richard Bauckham, who is a Protestant scholar, who defends, he does not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, but he does believe the children, the brothers and sisters of the Lord are from Joseph’s previous marriage. As a Protestant, he believes that.

William Albrecht: 

Yep.

Trent Horn:

He believes that this belief about the brothers and sisters of the Lord actually it is the Infancy Gospel of James, the protoevangelium is a witness along with other Syriac and Eastern sources. When you read Origen, when you read these other Eastern writers, they don’t cite the Infancy Gospel of James, it’s just one of the witnesses. Even the Infancy Gospel of James takes it for granted that this is just a belief that people have.

Trent Horn:

Now, first, the argument he’s making, it doesn’t make sense to me. If this was a Gnostic text and it is saying that it’s defending the view that Jesus, he’s not a part of the created order. He’s from the Demiurge, the pleroma, the good God who is purely spiritual. Why would he be within the body of Mary in the first place?

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

Why wouldn’t you just rewrite the story and say that Mary was never really pregnant, she appeared to be so, and that God just materialized out of thin air or something like that. Why would you even bring that in? Number two, I would just encourage people to go and read section 19, at least that’s how New Advent numbers it, of the Infancy Gospel. The way that White describes it, he makes it sound like this is Stark Trek.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

That it’s like it describes Jesus just phasing into [inaudible 00:16:01], leaving his mother body, this beaming. Section 19 talks about how Joseph is bringing Mary, they seek a Hebrew midwife. The midwife went away with him, they go to a cave. This is where a little different from the infancy narratives, the house, cave. Maybe it was a house built into a cave. That was common at that time.

William Albrecht: 

Yep.

Trent Horn:

And it says, “Behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave.” The midwife said, “My soul has been magnified this day. My eyes have seen strange things.” Notice the midrash here. It’s taking Mary’s Magnificat and working it into what the midwife is saying. But a cloud is coming over. Well, what is this a reference to, Gnosticism? No, it’s a reference to the Ark of the Covenant. When the Ark of the Covenant was in the Old Testament, there was always a cloud that followed it. There was a cloud that would settle up on it. So, that’s what the author is trying to assert here with Mary. Immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave. A great light shown in the cave, so the eyes could not bear it. Once again, that’s not Gnostic. Having a great light be present is a common theophany in the Old Testament and Hebrew scriptures. There was a great light, a light that’s shown when Jesus was born in the canonical gospels.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

And then it says, “A great light shown in the cave, eyes could not hear it, and in a little that light gradually decreased until the infant appeared and went and took to the breast of his mother, Mary.” Some people read this and say, “Oh, he was a two-year-old that walked over to Mary and nursed.” Well, that could just mean he was born and he took to the breast. A lot of people would describe childbirth that way. It’s saying there was a light, this is a glorious doxa in Greek, a glorious thing happening, and then the child appeared, either through the birth canal or whatever happened, but it’s not saying anything weird, how White describes it.

Trent Horn:

So, I think people need to read it for yourself and see if it aligns with James’s summary of it.

William Albrecht: 

Really good point there, Trent. People can read it for free at New Advent. I agree with you. The way that we have the prot of James presented to us by Dr. White is really kind of as a shockingly heretical kind of document that has no value, but you’re not going to get that when you read the text. In fact, it has a lot of stuff that you can directly see is being taken directly from the Gospels. So you’re definitely right about that, but I think I know why, Trent. I know why he’s got to do that for the particular reason that any ancient document that would lend credence to the Catholic belief, he’s going to do his best to denigrate the value of it. It really is an unfortunate thing.

Trent Horn:

It’s an interesting strategy I see among Protestant apologists, that if it’s a later Church Father, let’s say after Nicaea, no sweat, because they’re already corrupted by the Roman system.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

They’ll say whatever. But as you get back earlier, you either have to poison the well for the source or you have to just radically reinterpret what they were saying, like with Ignatius of Antioch, or Justin, or things like that. Which also these Church Father sources, one source that’s interesting is Saint Jerome in his defense of Mary’s perpetual virginity, he says at Saint Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, also held to this view, we don’t find, at least especially maybe like Polycarp or Ignatius, we don’t find as explicit defenses of it, but it’s possible Jerome had access to their writings that have now been lost.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So, that one is, I wouldn’t put that as my strongest proof, but I find that to be interesting citation going back really early in the Fathers.

William Albrecht: 

That is a really, really good point there, Trent. To add to that, I would say that Jerome, there’s a very clear reason why Jerome was very upset there. For people that might not know the background of that, Helvidius was an Arian. We know he was an Arian monk. We’re told that through later history, we’re told that he was taught and trained by Bishop [Bonises 00:20:08]. So, the big problem that we’ve got here is Jerome is furious because he knows that with the proper Christology comes proper Mariology and vice versa, and he recognizes this is going against the grain of truth, what was taught to them from the very beginning. What does he then do? He then points out how well, the early church believed this from the very beginning, Helvidius is clearly wrong, and he then begins to cite sources. Look, we only have a few letters surviving from Ignatius of Antioch. What’s to say that Jerome, Saint Jerome did not know of this tradition-

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

… and something that [crosstalk 00:20:45].

Trent Horn:

We have hardly anything from Polycarp.

William Albrecht: 

One letter.

Trent Horn:

We have a fragment from Papias.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. That’s about it. Again, he also provides the defense when it comes to Victorinus, by saying, “Look, that is also being wrenched out of context.” The fact of the matter is we would’ve had this widespread in the early church if it was such a common belief, if people would’ve said, “Oh, well what on earth is Saint Jerome talking about?” Because we know very well, Trent, the Fathers had no problem voicing their disagreements with one another. Why don’t we have a wide array of them saying, “Look, Jerome is wrong in that. He’s terribly wrong. Mary had other children.” You don’t find that in the early church.

Trent Horn:

Right.

James White:

We’ve pointed out, if you believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, what Rome teaches is the perpetual virginity of Mary. That is that she remains a virgin physically in the giving of birth, which means the child does not leave her body in a normal process of birth. If you believe that, I don’t know how you maintain the idea of the necessity of Jesus being the God man to bring about redemption by a sacrificial death.

William Albrecht: 

Okay. Let me ask you this, Trent, because that, I’ve got to be quite honest with you, Trent, I have to be honest with you, brother, that’s a shocking statement from James White there.

Trent Horn:

I’m trying to wrap my head around it.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

That he seems to be saying, so the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. We talk about being a virgin before the birth of Christ and after, and there’s also the idea of during his birth, or in partu. So, I think what White is doing is he, and this is common among protestant apologists, is they mistake what some saints or other Catholic writers speculate upon the matter, and then what the church dogmatically teaches in regard to it be number one, and then number two, it’s weird this idea that if … What he sounds like, he sounds like a Muslim who would say, “Jesus cannot truly be the messiah if he does not have Joseph as his father, for he would not come from the seed of David.” And make a real nitpicky point out of it, say, “We’ll no, he’s God. He can be messiah however he wants with Joseph as his adoptive father.” Much the same way you’re telling me that if the God man, and this is from White, who is a Calvinist, who has a high view of the sovereignty of God, you’re telling me Christ cannot be truly God and truly man and have a miraculous birth? And we’re not even saying Christ humanity changed or ended.

Trent Horn:

Those who would take a more speculative view would just say when Christ was born he did not cause injury to his mother. How in the world would that mean I’m saying he’s not fully human? He’s fully God, so he can miraculously do things. If Christ can miraculously heal people in his earthly ministry, certainly he can miraculously prevent harm to his own mother during his birth. That doesn’t take away.

Trent Horn:

So, I think it’s a weird argument, but then number two, what I said, or the number one, I say, he is confused. This speculation like what happened, how is Christ born without breaking Mary’s hymen or this or that. The church doesn’t have a definitive teaching on that. Ludwig, if you’re German you go to say Ludwig.

William Albrecht: 

Ludwig, you got to.

Trent Horn:

Yeah. Ludwig Ott, Dr. Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. This is what he says about Mary’s virginity in partu or during the birth of Christ. “This merely asserts the fact of the continuance of Mary’s physical virginity without determining more closely how this is to be physiologically explained.” The church just says Mary was a virgin her whole life. That’s all that it teaches about Mary being a virgin during the birth of Christ. After that, there’s speculation about what happened, but we’re just saying she did not have sexual relations with anyone, that’s it. So, he’s reading more into this dogma than what the church actually presents.

William Albrecht: 

He really is reading much more into it. Trent, another thing that I want to kind of toss your way and get your thoughts, because we have so many incredible early Church Fathers that definitely said, “You know what? Mary had a pain-free childbirth.” When you hear James White asserting that this then damages a very key essential teaching within the realm of Christology, you’ve got some of the greatest defenders of Christology and the Trinity that believe that. As you know very well, Trent.

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

You find it in the Tome of Leo. The mark of orthodoxy in the early church at a very council. So, to me, it really seems very difficult for me to wrap my head around this for the claim James White is making, when you’ve got so many fathers that believed in that. Really, what are your thoughts on that? I mean, what I see, I see the early church swirling against James White here.

Trent Horn:

Right. You read Saint Ambrose of Milan, for example. So, Ambrose talks about how Ezekiel 44, Mary is typologically connected to the gate of the temple, through which the messiah will pass. So, he says, “Mary is the gate through which Christ entered the world, a manner of which his birth did not break the seals of virginity. There is a gate to the womb, although it is not always closed, indeed well only one was able to remain closed, that through which the one born of the virgin came forth without the loss of genital intactness.” So, there are Fathers who talk about bodily integrity, others that just talk about pain.

Trent Horn:

Now, if White were to say, I think he’s talking about bodily intactness or injury.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

But even there, what’s interesting to me about this claim here is that I think there are people who do give birth and they don’t experience really any injury at all. There are also people who do experience naturally pain-free childbirth. That does happen to people. So, this could be the case where if Christ’s birth is pain-free or leaves Mary intact, it may be a miracle. It could also be Providence. It could be god providentially ordering the world so Mary is like other women who experience this kind of birth, it could be either one, especially if it’s Providence. Does that mean, what about people, children who had been born through ways their mothers didn’t experience pain, are they not really human? It would just be it’s not argument.

William Albrecht: 

That is a really good point you bring up there, Trent. To me, I find that to be a very poor argument. I don’t think it is a good argument, but I think that James White is trying to put forth these arguments to really kind of make a caricature of what Catholics truly believe. Oh well, look, they believe in these things that are very odd, and if you follow the logical conclusion of what they believe, well, it leads to all sorts of heresies. The problem is, as you pointed out earlier, masterfully Trent, is we’ve got these heresy hunters in the early church and the early Protestant reformers that [crosstalk 00:28:17] to Mary remaining a perpetual virgin, her whole life remaining a virgin.

William Albrecht: 

So, to me that is a major barrier that James has never been able to overcome, and there’s no amount, because I’ve heard him say this in debate before, Trent, there’s no amount of Logos Bible Software that can help you when the overwhelming consensus is that Mary remained a virgin her whole life, and even have fathers, Augustine, Ambrose, Maximus the Confessor, Ephraim and others that believed Mary had taken that perpetual vow. That vow was found in the prot of James. So, there’s clearly a problem when the most ancient view of Mary does not jibe with what James believes, and in order to do damage control, and James is trying to really kind of denigrate the importance of what the church teaches on this topic.

Trent Horn:

As you can tell, I could’ve done of course an entire talk on Mary the new Eve. These are examples I have picked to talk about the early trajectory of beliefs in the Fathers. You see that when he’s just at this point he just critiques, he’ll bring up my PowerPoint and just critique something I said about Mary, the new Eve and sin that is completely beside the point I was making.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. Yeah, no doubt. You’re going to hear, and we’ll hear the arguments he puts forth and then we’ll touch upon them, but I think the one thing that really to me comes across as I guess a little bit bothersome is that you’re giving a talk to a general audience of individuals. You’re not attempting to go in depth, exegete Greek, or deal with Latin, or deal with the Syriac Fathers in depth. You’re showing the general teaching here. He’s then trying to show well, you know what? Not the full context is being shown or what have you, but I really have to be quite honest with you, Trent, thus far of what I’ve seen, I don’t really see a real refutation of anything from James.

Trent Horn:

Right. No, yeah. At best, he can say is that I haven’t made a convincing case.

William Albrecht: 

Sure.

Trent Horn:

Yeah, if I was giving a talk in any one of these subjects I would’ve given it differently to focus just on one teaching and backlog all the evidence as much as I can. Here I’m just giving people a sampler platter of how understanding the Fathers, how their writings are distorted, either their writings or what they don’t write about gets distorted as if it’s evidence.

Trent Horn:

This is another one, William, I find with protestants, is they’ll try to say, “Well, look, Church Father X could have or should have written on this dogma or this Catholic doctrine, but they didn’t, so that means they didn’t believe it.” That sounds exactly like the mythicists, people like Richard Carrier, people like Dan Barker, and others who claim oh, well look, Paul doesn’t mention about Jesus’s miracles, and look at this teaching in Paul, he doesn’t cite when Jesus said X, which would’ve been really helpful for him, so clearly Jesus never said or did any of these things. No, he may have had his reasons or he chose not to cite it.

Trent Horn:

So, I thought about doing, I almost want to do like a whole book on it, at least a talk on when Protestants act like atheists and they do do this from time to time.

William Albrecht: 

They do it unfortunately quite often, Trent. I think the one thing that James White brings it up very often, but I don’t see him doing it when dealing with the videos that he’s looked at that I’ve done and you’ve done. He’ll claim, “Well, we can allow the early Church Fathers to be the early Church Fathers.” I don’t see that in James, Trent, I really don’t. In fact, I see quite the opposite. I get the idea that if you don’t have a particular Father teaching every Marian dogma, well, we shouldn’t be utilizing them. Like you’ll hear him bring up in a little bit, make a point about Ephraim, which by the way, we’re going to completely refute that.

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

But I find that to be quite problematic when you are … You need to realize some of these Fathers were literally on the run, like Ignatius of Antioch. We hear well, why does Ignatius teach this or that? He’s literally on the run, he’s going towards his martyrdom, he knows he’s going to die, and you want him to write 20 volumes on theology. I find that to be irrational.

James White:

I really, really, really, really wonder, do Catholic apologists … I’ve got the echo coming back again. Do Catholic apologists really want to go here? Do they really … I mean, if they know the nature of these sources, if they know what they say, if they know their background, if they know out of what they’re coming, do you really want to stand there in front of your audience and say to them, “Go look at this stuff. Go look at this material.” Because there’s going to be a lot of them there who go, “Wait a minute, this material is plainly ahistorical.” Well, but it’s an indication. Okay, but it’s an indication that comes from what? Why [crosstalk 00:33:42].

Trent Horn:

All right, let’s pause right here though.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So once again, this is a double standard, because protestant apologists, when they’re defending Christianity and trying to muster facts about the historical Jesus will say, “It’s not just Christian documents that attest to Jesus being a miracle worker, or being born of a virgin or existing.” They’ll say, “Look, the Talmud says Jesus was a sorcerer who led people astray.” And what if I said, “Well, James, you really want to go to the Talmud? Look at all the weird things in the Talmud.” And he would say, “That’s not my point. My point is in spite of that, it is a witness of these beliefs that are ancient about Jesus.” The same with Greek critics of Christianity, like Lucian of Samosata, for example.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So, I think that that’s an interesting double standard in his argument. Then number two, I would say the argument is saying of course these works are going to have ahistorical, like anything noncanonical. It’s the same we said with the Infancy Gospel of James. There’ll be ahistorical elements. There will be themes from other kinds of variant Christianities, but I think the scope of the problem is greatly exaggerated. If White were to say the Ascension of Isaiah and the Odes of Solomon are just Gnostic works, for example. If he were to argue that, that’s just not true.

Trent Horn:

These are works that I would classify as … Well, it’s hard. They’re kind of composite works.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

And the composite work is usually that they are Jewish in origin and they’re Jewish wisdom literature or they’re Jewish mysticism, and in many cases they’ve had Christian redactors adding to them to bring out hey, this has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and they see the value in this, and they want to say, “By the way, this was fulfilled in Jesus.” And so you have the Odes of Solomon. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, it says in its entry on the Odes of Solomon that scholars of the apocryphal works, including I think R. H. Charlesworth. He’s an editor of the entire pseudepigrapha, all of these apocryphal works. He says they’re convinced that the odes should not be labeled Gnostic. So, you can’t date it to the late 2nd or early 3rd century. It’s more of a early 2nd century work. The Ascension of Isaiah, there is an anthology on the Ascension of Isaiah by Bremmer, Karmann and Nicklas are the editors, and there’s an essay in there that talks about how the cosmology in the Ascension of Isaiah of Jesus passing through the heavens, and of course multiple heavens, that’s not Gnostic necessarily. Paul talks about the Third Heaven, his letter to the Corinthians.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

He says that it more speaks about this as a kind of Jewish mysticism or an anti Marcion element to it. I find this with White, frankly. In my book The Case for Catholicism what White does is that he’ll pick out something in a text he find to be problematic and harp on it. For example, his treatment of the deuterocanonical Book of Judith. In his book scripture alone he says that Judith is clearly it’s inhistorical error. What scholar is going to believe this is just an allegory? To which in my book, The Case for Catholicism, I cite numerous Protestant scholars who say it is an allegory, or it’s didactic fiction. That what Judith just means lady, it’s lady Jew. It’d be like if I had a story about how Miss America beat up Hitler. It’s an allegorical piece of work, but he’ll do this. He’ll pick these documents and just argue from common sense and his understanding of the text, but not bring in what other scholars have to say because many times they won’t agree with him.

William Albrecht: 

You’re completely right with that, Trent. It really is a massive double standard because he has no problem at times harkening even to Josephus, which I don’t agree with, but to support his truncated Protestant canon. The problem is there’s a massive double standard when it comes to bringing in works that are not biblical, he will nitpick, he will try to really denigrate their value, but at the end of the day, the big problem that I notice through everything here, Trent, is the issue that, again, as you brought up, Origen, Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, any of these other Fathers, and I recognize Origen as an ecclesiastical writer, not a Father, but these figures that clearly taught the perpetual virginity of Mary are not telling the audience or their people that are reading, they’re not telling them, “We’re taking this teaching from the Odes of Solomon, the Ascension of Isaiah, or the prot of James.” No, they’re clearly telling you this was taught by the apostles, this has been taught, handed down. The massive majority of them, Trent, they believed it came directly from scripture, didn’t they?

Trent Horn:

Right, and that’s the same we have with the Reformers. They read Luke 1, Matthew 1, and to be frank, I think one reason the change in protestant belief about the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary, I don’t know, I’d love to do an in depth research on this to back it up with sources, to see where the change occurs. I think when society changes its views of sexual morse, to make it seem like a married couple abstaining from sexual relations would be an impossibility, or it’s something that society started to elevate sexuality into an idol, even Christians doing it unknowingly, away from the 16th century, and you get more in the 18th or 19th century. Then I think you start to see people saying, “Well, they already start with that it’s incredulous to them that a married couple would refrain from sexuality.” Whereas the Fathers, all the way up to the Reformers would start from the presumption, how would you have sexual relations with the Ark of the new Covenant?

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. Yeah, no doubt about that. That is a really good point that you bring up, because that is an area where if you do do that research, you’ve definitely got to put an article out or a video out, because as far as the early church goes, if you look in the early church, again as I pointed out, when you look at Helvidius, Bishop Bonises, you find those loudest voices against the perpetual virginity coming from Arianism. You don’t find it coming from the church, from the ancient church.

William Albrecht: 

Then you bring up a really good point. As time goes by, we get to the medieval era, then we get to the Reformers, they all hold to this, and you bring up, in my opinion, a fascinating question. Where is the disconnect? And I have to admit to you, every time I’ve debated the topic of the perpetual virginity, the one thing that is literally thrown in my face is well, how on earth could a couple ever abstain from having these kinds of relations? As if it is the most incredulous impossible thing, it has definitely.

Trent Horn:

Right, and it ignores the patristic and early church evidence, especially in the Eastern church, of married clerics who were expected to practice continence with their wives. I mean, even today married priests in the Eastern church abstain from sexual relations before they offer, the night before they offer the sacrifice and the divine liturgy.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So, if you read the early church, this idea of those who have been called to God for the vocation of serving the sacramental holy orders and the priest, the presbyterate, being a bishop, there were married clerics, but they were expected to practice continence, and that was not as controversial. Not everyone lived up to it perfectly, but it was still something that was normally accepted.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah, no doubt. In fact, you never find any of the Fathers shocked at this truth. In fact, again, in that letter that we brought up earlier, the Tome of Leo, Pope Leo, Pope Saint Leo the Great, his Tome of Leo to Flavian, remember such a monumental writing in church history. When we talk about Christology, when we talk about our ancient Christian faith. Pope Leo, part of what you find in that tome is believed that Mary remained a perpetual virgin and had a pain-free childbirth. This was, really Trent, here’s the one thing that’s amazing, this was part and parcel with the orthodox, tiny O faith. It was really embedded in the early church, they believed it. They believed it to be biblical and they believed it to be ancient.

Trent Horn:

Right.

James White:

Conception and all the rest of this kind of stuff. The whole complex and eventually bodily assumption stuff, bodily assumption unknown in the early church, just plain unknown, and the first times that it shows up it’s in stuff that the Pope says is heretical. He didn’t say that that was heretical, he said that the work itself was heretical, which is hardly a high endorsement of something. But the point is, this is plainly not the faith of the early church.

Trent Horn:

All right, let’s pause here a few.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

All right. So, a few points. First, I find it almost to be a fruitless exercise to talk about the Fathers with someone who would hold a view like White does, because for him the Fathers can only be an asset, and for me they can only be a liability. For him it doesn’t matter that even someone like William Webster will say the Fathers universally accept baptismal regeneration. That you have Protestant historians will admit yes, they all believe in baptismal regeneration. That doesn’t faze White one bit. He’ll say, “Don’t matter, it’s not biblical, I don’t care.”

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

It doesn’t matter that none of the Fathers believed in the impossibility of losing salvation, that that view was not known until Calvin. It doesn’t matter to him because it’s what the Bible teaches. So, for him it doesn’t matter what the Fathers say, but suddenly I am blame worthy. What White will say is, “Well, I believe in sola scriptura, so it doesn’t matter, if a dogma is not found early enough.” But my retort would be well, White, if your argument is if the apostles taught X, we would expect the fathers to teach X, then it will also apply to your missing reformed doctrines among them. So, worst came to worst, what’s worse? To have an … The central dogmas of our faith are the Trinity, and especially in Catholicism let’s say the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrament of holy orders, the Theotokos, Mary the mother of God. The bodily assumption is a dogma, it is a secondary, it’s not a primary. Among Marian dogmas, the primary dogma is Theotokos.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

That’s where all the other dogmas flow from. So, what’s the worst position to be in? I’m worried about the historical evidence for a secondary dogma like the assumption or I don’t have historical evidence for sola scriptura and sola fide, or for limited atonement, or for the core things of what I believe. That’s a boat I would wave at and not be in.

Trent Horn:

Number two, I would say he’s incorrect about this, that he claims the first written source was … Well, I forget the name of the source that is condemned in the Decretum Gelasianum, he says that Pope Gelasius I condemned this source. First, Stephen Shoemaker, probably he’s written the best scholarly treatment of the assumption, in my mind. He says, “No, we can find ancillary views of this in noncanonical works. One is the Book of Mary’s Repose.” And he [inaudible 00:45:59] Ethiopic versions of it or Coptic versions of it you could date to the 3rd or the 2nd century. So, you find this, but also by the time of Pope Gelasius, by the time in this time period you have established feast days, you have this has been entrenched in the Christian community, but the argument he’s making is oh yes, but the first let’s say in papal work, the Decretum Gelasianum, which by the way, is probably a forgery.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah, no doubt.

Trent Horn:

Yeah, it’s probably a forgery anyways, but even if it were legitimate from Pope Gelasius, you’re right, he condemns the work, not the doctrine in it. He just says the work is apocryphal, but another apocryphal work in that same list he condemns is the book of the nativity of the savior and of Mary. So, it’s like is he condemning the virgin birth? No, he says, “Look, these are apocryphal works.” But it doesn’t mean apocryphal works don’t have value. What’s funny, William, is if you’re saying, “Oh, you’re going to cite from the Infancy Gospel of James, the Book of Mary’s Repose, why would you do something like that?” Well, Jude cites from the Book of Enoch.

William Albrecht: 

Yep.

Trent Horn:

Jude cites, Paul cites from Greek poets. We even have the Bible itself citing the reliable elements in apocryphal works. So, if they can do that, why can’t we?

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. No, what a great point you make there, Trent. You’re directly right about that. When it comes to the Transitus literature, there is nowhere, nowhere, no any indication in the early church era that the Fathers that are then talking about the bodily assumption of Mary are borrowing from the Transitus literature. There is no indication, and that as well, you’re right. Shoemaker has done a ton of work in that field, argues that it’s very early. He also points out that Epiphanius, Saint Epiphanius or Epiphanius, however you want to pronounce it, believed in the bodily assumption of Mary as well. So, he’s got those early documents and we also have if we think of Jacob of Serugh, Syriac Church Father, incredible evidence where he talks about an early church council where he goes and he presents a hymn to Mary and in that hymn that is presented is the belief in the bodily assumption of Mary. Now again, where can you find this kind of scholarship? You can look to the great scholar, Sebastian Brock. He’s not a Catholic. He’s not a Catholic scholar.

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

He’s written about this. I’ve done shows with him about this, he clearly shows it, or look to the writings of the great Father Brian Daley. Great priest, has done incredible work in this field. This is what I wonder, Trent, why … And I want to be fair here, I don’t want to be mean or crude, but why is James not doing research in the scholarly field on this topics? I don’t hear him quoting the Father Brian Daley, Dr. Sebastian Brock, or Shoemaker. Why am I bringing those names up? Because they’ve done a lot of work in this particular field when it comes to the Dormition and the bodily assumption of Mary. I don’t see James dealing with scholarly sources.

Trent Horn:

I think these kinds of arguments, like when I’ve read Roman Catholic Controversy and these other arguments against Catholicism, they’re not new. A lot of them are rehearsing stuff from the 19th century Anglican controversies, Whitaker, George Salmon. That’s where I see this stuff, and then it’s not able to address newer scholars, which I do in my book. Let me see, I might as well do a quick plug for it. Let me reach over here and grab it. Here we go. Well, that’s what I try very hard to do in Case for Catholicism, is to engage arguments from these critics but show modern Protestant scholarship that is not polemical. So, when you have Protestant scholars who are not interested in the Catholic Protestant debate but are just doing the research, much of their research actually builds up the Catholic position. You see this with the Marian doctrine, you see it in justification with the new perspective on Paul, I should say the new perspectives on Paul, of people like E. P. Sanders, James Dunn. One of them says, “Hey, the new perspective on Paul, theory of justification is really close to Catholicism.” And he’s a Protestant, and he says that.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. By the way, for people that may be wondering, Trent, where can they find that book of yours? Where can they find that and get a copy of it?

Trent Horn:

Yes. I would recommend Case for Catholicism, published by Ignatius Press. I wrote it because I wanted it to come out on the anniversary of the reformation, so it’s from back in 2017. But yeah, you can get it from Ignatius directly or from anywhere they sell books.

William Albrecht: 

Awesome. Awesome, great. Okay, let me continue. He’s going to continue talking about those documents, so I’m going to fast forward it right around here.

James White:

He was unaware of this fact, and this fact, and this fact from New Testament, studies and things like that that hadn’t been done in his day or whatever else, but you have to be able to take the good and the bad. For a lot of people no, if you find someone who’s orthodox on this subject, then everything. The problem is that creates massive contradiction, massive contradiction. You’re going to find almost no two early Church Father that agreed at every single thing.

William Albrecht: 

Okay, let’s touch upon that, Trent. I want to maybe ask you this, because that’s a really powerful statement by James. So, let’s roll it back a little bit. Let’s talk about things that we would consider essentials to the faith, baptismal regeneration, the holy Mass, salvation. Things like that, are we able to find a massive consensus the Fathers agreed?

Trent Horn:

Yeah, it depends how you define the term. So, first, if by consensus James means every Father testifies to this.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

And affirms it, then no, but that’s only because some fathers don’t write about it, either because they chose not to or maybe they held a variant view on some things and didn’t express it, but yeah. If you say, “Well, you can’t get the universal view of the propitiatory nature of the Mass, because you can’t get that language in this early document here.” Or something like that, or you have the Fathers didn’t all write on everything. So, in order to show there’s a disagreement you’d have to say, “All right, you can find a Father who directly contradicts this belief versus another.” And that is a much harder one to do.

Trent Horn:

Now, I will say, because of the nature of how doctrine develops, you will have some doctrines that belong to the deposit of faith but people are growing in their understanding of it over time. So, you have disagreement about understanding the nature of Mary’s personal virtue, for example. So, you will have, so on some doctrines you will have disagreement, and the disagreement is allowed because the church has not ushered in a definition. What happens a lot for a dogma that you define is that the church lives out the faith and the faith is taught, it is lived out in the liturgy. The Fathers are a witness to sacred tradition, and gradually there’s a coalescing and understanding of how the sacred tradition is lived out and articulated in these dogmas, and then you might get a point where the church will then officially define it, whether it’s at an ecumenical council, or when the Pope exercises his Extraordinary Magisterium, making an ex cathedra definition, like with the Immaculate Conception, the bodily assumption.

Trent Horn:

So, yeah, James is right on some doctrines you’ll have Fathers that are at variance, as the doctrine is being understood in the church, until it is defined. Then after it’s defined, no, don’t. You could even argue with the Eucharist of the real presence. You could say some of the Fathers, the way they talk about it, you could interpret it as consubstantiation, others more … Well, I love the Eastern church, they use metastoicheiosis.

William Albrecht: 

Oh yeah.

Trent Horn:

They call it transelementation to get the point across. But you see the dispute end after transubstantiation is defined at Fourth Lateran in 1215, same with understanding the nature of the Trinity, understanding how do we understand the nature of the Godhead, the relationship of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Nicea-Constantinople, boom. It’s over you disagree, you’re a heretic. Heretics are around, but now we know they’re on the outs. But then, so I would say yeah. There’s going to be some disagreement as there’s this trajectory of understanding within the church, and then the magisterium makes definitions, and that closes the door. But then also know you do have doctrines though that are understood early on and are universal, and even Protestants will recognize it. We’ve already mentioned several, baptismal regeneration being one of them. I would say infant baptism. Even the people you have that deny it, only deny it, like Tertullian, only deny it out of practicality, because they say, “Well, if you’re going to be sinning a bunch, wait till baptism right before you die.”

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

But they don’t hold that it’s not efficacious for infants. So, I would say that that’s not correct, that some core beliefs, but even look at the beliefs Protestants would hold to, like Christology. You have very core beliefs early on, like the deity of Christ. But then other beliefs, let’s take monothelatism, the view that Christ has a distinct human and divine will. That’s not very clear in the Fathers until several centuries later.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So, I would say that if he says, “Okay, why aren’t all your Catholic beliefs clear?” I would say, “Well James, why aren’t all your Christological beliefs clear or your soteriological beliefs clear?” Some are clear and unanimous early on, others the church understands the deposit of faith until they get a clear understanding of it.

William Albrecht: 

Really good points to bring up there, Trent. In fact, when dealing monotheletism and other heresies that would come later on down the line, you don’t find a lot of early Fathers dealing with that because that’s not the heresy of their day. They’re not encountering that problem at the particular time that they’re writing. So, that is a major problem that James does have, but you brought up a really good point when it comes to infant baptism, baptismal regeneration. Of course there are many others, but let me be honest with you, Trent, let me give you an example. Let’s say-

Trent Horn:

Oh, another one would be the authority of the bishopric.

William Albrecht: 

Oh yeah.

Trent Horn:

Apostolic succession and the authority of the bishop. I would say that’s universal.

William Albrecht: 

No doubt it is. But Trent, let’s say we can find 30 Fathers, or 40 or 50 that taught that. We could find 100 or 200. James is not going to change his belief, even if they’re unanimous on multiple things. That he’s not going to change his belief because his tradition, his Calvinist tradition tells him he’s not allowed to believe certain things, so he already comes with these preconceived notions.

Trent Horn:

That’s why if he and I were to do a debate, I am not going to debate him on the perpetual virginity of Mary, for example, because we come at the question with very different views about authority. So, that’s why my offer for James White, my offer for him would be, because he said, “Oh, I’m not going to debate this, I’m not going to debate that.” My offer for him is simple. I’ll do two debates with him. We’ll do a debate where he affirms his source of authority, which is sola scriptura, and he can define that however he wants, and then a debate where I affirm my source of authority, scripture, tradition, magisterium, and I can define that how I want to because it’s my authority, and then we both have affirmative cases to make in two separate debates, and then we do that. I think that would be the most fair and essential thing we have to address.

William Albrecht: 

That would be the fairest, no doubt about that. The challenge is out there, James. Trent is willing to debate, and James knows very well I’ve contacted him. I’m willing to debate as well. You have people out there, James, that are willing to debate you. The ball is in your court.

James White:

So, anyone who deals with the church Fathers in any meaningful fashion has to allow that level of freedom and analysis of what they’re saying. So, notice this statement here as well. Church fathers compare Mary to Eve, who was also without sin. Now, think about that for a second. Church fathers compare Mary to Eve, who was also without sin. Well, she wasn’t without sin her whole life, was she? Eve fell, didn’t she? Eve was deceived, wasn’t she? Soon as you start doing the parallel equals identity stuff.

Trent Horn:

All righty. Yeah. I have to-

William Albrecht: 

I don’t think he gets it, Trent, I really don’t. I got to be honest with you.

Trent Horn:

I’m going to hope he’s being ignorant about this rather than disingenuous. I’m going to hope he was just ignorant of what I was doing.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

Obviously that is a PowerPoint and you have a bullet point. My point is not that Eve was sinless, but it’s that Eve was created in a state without sin. Eve came into existence without actual or original sin. So, if Mary is the new Eve, her obedience undoes what Eve does with her disobedience, then we have a parallel there to say that Mary is also created like Eve, but unlike Eve, she does the right thing. So, she does not lose, while Eve lost the grace that God gave her, Mary did not lose it. So, that would be the typological connection.

Trent Horn:

Now, of course the typology it’s always not as direct a proof as John 6:53 through 57 on the Eucharist, or Matthew 16:18 on the papacy, but when you see also how the fathers understood this, and went with this, and understood that … And the point I made both in my book and in the talk is that when you take about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and we say yeah, there’s a variance about is Mary engaging in sin here or not. There is always an understanding there is something very, very special about the Virgin Mary, something very special here in her holiness and the trajectory when you go through the Fathers, trajectory goes towards the view of being free from sin. What does that mean? We’re trying to understand it, but that’s where the trajectory goes. So, it wouldn’t make sense to say the trajectory ends with oh, a sinner just like the rest of us.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah. What a really good point that you bring up there. You’re definitely correct there, and as you know very well, Trent, because you’ve done a lot of research in that particular field, you find it early on. We talked about it earlier, very early on you have Fathers in the apostolic era ante-Nicene, and Nicene and on that are calling Mary the new Eve, connecting Mary with that identity of the complete opposite of Eve, which is why I’m wondering if James really just didn’t get the point you were trying to make at all, because the point you made was very clear for me.

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

You’re not making the parallelism that Mary is going to go down that same path as Eve, rather she is the complete opposite of Eve. She gave birth to life. Eve may have given birth to death. Mary, as the Fathers say, gave birth to life. So, they’re really … I think James, I’m not sure, I want to be fair to him, Trent. I’m not sure if he didn’t get your point or if he’s trying to really just be difficult.

Trent Horn:

I don’t know, but I will say that yeah, when you look at it, and this is something non-Christians, sorry, non-Catholic scholars recognize. You look at the Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly. This is what he says about Augustine, and Augustine’s view of Mary’s sinlessness. He says that Augustine, “Denied the possibility for all other men, but agreed that Mary was the unique exception. She had been kept sinlessness, however not by the effort of her own will, but as a result of grace given her in view of the incarnation.” So, this is something that there’s a lot of other work, of course, that has been done on this amongst the Patristics and the Fathers, but as I said, we see the trajectory of understanding, just like you can argue the same thing in the first 300 years of Christianity, you have Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who will take very early descriptions of the Trinity from Justin and from others that should not be read rigidly, because they did not have the theological vocabulary to articulate and say, “Oh, the Trinity just pops up later out of nowhere.” No, there is a trajectory of understanding it, maybe in blunt ways early on, but then more refined ways later. I would say it’s the same in the Marian dogmas.

William Albrecht: 

That is a great point that you bring up there, Trent, because you’re right. You have Justin the Martyr, you’ve got other figures in early church history, where if you think you’re going to open up his dialogue to Trypho and find that exposition on the Trinity, as you would then later find it post-Nicea. I mean, you’ve got a clear problem there. Again, you bring up a really good point. When it comes to Mary, you’ve got a lot of early Fathers indicating that they believe Mary was created completely pure, but they don’t go into the technical language, which fine, later Fathers go into, but you have that kernel of truth right there at a very early church and very early period in church history, and I think that is a big problem with what James is putting forth. Right now we’re eventually going to get to I believe his final quote, where I think it really highlights a major problem, because we’re about to hear him briefly touch upon Saint Ephrem, which by the way, masterful you bringing that quote up.

Trent Horn:

Yes.

William Albrecht: 

And I have to be quite honest, Trent. If you have had a different experience with James you can let me know, but I get the idea that James has not really done a lot of research in this particular field, in particular with the Syriac Church Fathers, because he seems totally confused by it and doesn’t get the point you were trying to make with your quote from Ephrem.

Trent Horn:

Yeah, well I say why don’t we just play it and then you can see what conclusion he draws from it.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

James White:

Problems or something that was missed that creates a new parallel that would demonstrate something about Mary you don’t want to prove about Mary, whatever. What they’re trying to do with something like that is oh, see, there is no stain in my mother, therefore she was immaculately conceived and she was sinless in her life. Well, maybe someone by then dreamt up something like that, but maybe not. I mean, utilizing flowery language of people. I mean, today someone says of, well the NBA finals I guess are going on right now, I wish I could be excited about them. I live in Phoenix, and I was here in ’93 and it was exciting in ’93 because … Anyway, that’d be like saying, “Chris Paul had a perfect game.” Well, wait a minute. Actually, he had a turnover, he missed 35% of his shots, he missed two free throws. It wasn’t actually perfect, and the person will go, “Duh, I know that, that’s not what a perfect game means. I was saying is he was dominant, he came through in the clutch.” But as long as you have a context that you’re willing to import into the words, then ah, here was someone who was claiming-

Trent Horn:

Well, let’s jump in, and that is the key. What is the context? What are these Fathers talking about? Because James’s own analogy works against him actually. For example, if I say that a bowler, B-O-W-L-E-R, someone who goes bowling, if I say that a bowler had a perfect game, what that means is that not a single pin was left standing, it was like 300 I think-

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

… when you’re bowling, 300. Or a pitcher had a perfect game. A pitcher has a perfect game when none of the balls are hit, it’s a shutout. When not a single ball is hit, it’s a perfect game. So, actually you’re right. We can use it in a more elastic sense, but we can also use it in a strict sense. So, I would say well, what are the Fathers when they’re talking about Mary that she’s perfect, that she’s incorrupt. They compare her to the Ark of the Covenant. I think we might have missed this part, but he talks about typology. Oh, we are comparing to the Ark of the Covenant, and you can’t do that. To me, and I will give you this, William, I myself I’m kind of a skeptical person in general, which I think is good as an apologist, because you got to have really strong evidence.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

Sometimes I’ll hear a typologic, an argument from typology and I’ll say, “Maybe. Kind of a loose connection there.” So, I already some typological arguments I’m kind of like, “All right. It’s not the strongest I would prefer to have.” So, I’m already predisposed, I’m a little skeptical, but when you read about the Ark of the Covenant and the parallels to Mary, for example, when you’re looking at … David says, “How is it that the ark of the Lord should come to me?” He says that.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

And then Elizabeth says of Mary, “How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” The Old Testament talks about how David leapt before the Ark of the Covenant, John the Baptist leaps before Mary. The Ark of the Covenant dwells for three months in a particular individual’s house. Mary dwells for three months in the house of Elizabeth. To me, I’m like, “Wow, this is more than coincidence just for me to see.” And of course it makes sense the ark contained the word of God. John is very clear Jesus is the word. The ark was something that was pristine. If you were not a high priest and you touched it, as Uzzah learned in the Old Testament when the ark was being steadied on an ox cart.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

He was struck down.

William Albrecht: 

Struck down.

Trent Horn:

Point for point, it all adds up to me. And he just say, “Oh, that’s not there.” I’m like well, I think that’s a willingness, a willful blindness to what the parallels we are seeing in salvation history.

William Albrecht: 

I totally agree with you, Trent. I think that is a very good point there. The incredible parallelism that we find when we read about Mary as the new ark, it’s not a mere coincidence. All those Greek words utilized there, the terminology utilized for Mary and the fact that you find so many early Fathers making that connection, it can’t be a mere coincidence. I think another flip side, to me a big problem that does work against James is as you pointed out, Trent, the context, because I would bet you anything James White is doing these review videos to myself, to you, and I don’t think he’s doing any homework, because had he read the Nisibene Hymn 27, which I admit to you is a very hard one to find the full thing in English.

Trent Horn:

Right.

William Albrecht: 

I’ve got a very good brother of mine, my friend Elijah, who provided me that translated from a Syriac Christian to English, the whole thing, and if you read the context, right there, Trent. What does it mean? It says Mary has no stain or no spot. It’s talking about any spot of sin. It’s making that clear connection, but before that, Trent, Ephram is talking about the fall. If Mary is clearly not part of fallen humanity, what logical conclusion can we make? I mean, to me that is the biggest problem, that James says, “Well, it’s just flowery language.” No, the context is very clear that Ephram is making.

Trent Horn:

And I could see how this would happen to him, and I agree with you. It can be hard to … For some of the Fathers, for example, when I’m doing my research, a lot of them had been translated and put on a site like New Advent or the Schaff Collection or there are other collections of the Fathers. There are some writings of the Fathers though. Some of the writings of Origen, for example, that were just recently translated. I’ve had to get special monographs from Catholic University of America to find.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

I cite the Nisibene Hymns 27:8, but even that in my own book, that’s a citation from O’Carroll’s Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

Which is a great book, and it’s a very trustworthy secondary source, but the more you can get back to the primary sources. I know you’ve done this with documents related to the canon of scripture in the 4th century. You’ve done that masterfully. I want to get ahold of the primary sources you have on that.

William Albrecht: 

I will share it with you.

Trent Horn:

When you [crosstalk 01:12:10]. Yeah, I’m happy to. This is what’s great to be comrades in all of this. But that’s what’s important, that you have people who are making these arguments and a lot of times they’re taking a secondary anti Catholic source that’s citing a secondary Catholic source, that’s citing a long, more obscure primary source. Whenever you’re doing research, go to the primary source, if you can.

William Albrecht: 

You have to. You have to. Which is a really good point that you bring up there, and if then people are wondering, “Well, William, how much Syriac do you know?” Nothing, I don’t know any, but I’ve got a very good friend of mine, he is a Chaldean Catholic, and I’m very good friends with Dr. Brock. Dr. Brock, every time before, in fact, I’m very proud to say he gave a formal endorsement of the book that I co-authored with my friend Father Kappes, and he’s not even a Catholic, the book on Mary, and he’s not even a Catholic. We would reach out to him to verify certain quotes. I want to point out one thing. Dr. Brock, who is not Catholic, plain and simple told us, “Look, Ephram does not use the kind of dogmatic language you find today, but Ephram would’ve never ever taught that Mary had a fallen nature or that Mary was sinful. That was the furthest thing from his mind.” And that, Trent, I think that is where we’re at when we look at the kind of language being utilized by the Fathers, we eventually get to a time period where the church is using language that has developed more and they’re providing us with better and clearer definitions.

William Albrecht: 

I think that really something that James, well, James not only doesn’t have that, James doesn’t have any kernel of truth to the core beliefs that says sola scriptura, sola fide in the early church. You don’t find even a kernel of that there.

Trent Horn:

Right. You find things that can be read in that way.

William Albrecht: 

Right.

Trent Horn:

You find the Fathers talking about the importance of faith, find the Fathers talking about how scripture can be used to settle controversies.

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

And White has done this before, where he’ll say, “Oh, well you can find at the very least you can find the bedrock of sola scriptura, even if you can’t find the full doctrine in the Fathers.” Because look, the Fathers use scripture, they say, “Let scripture decide this dispute between us.”

William Albrecht: 

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

They say, “Why don’t they rely on tradition?” Well, they’re arguing with heretics, just like when I argue with a protestant, dialogue or debate with a protestant today, or with a Mormon, or a Muslim, whoever may be, I’m not going to say, “Well, the church teaches X.” Because they don’t [inaudible 01:14:51] that authority. I’ll go to common grounds. So if it’s with a Protestant I’ll say, “All right, well, what does scripture say?” And we’ll go there, and the Fathers do the same thing, but you can read from they’re talking about hey look, even from scripture you can see the truths of our faith. They would not have taken from that the 16th century doctrine of sola scriptura.

William Albrecht: 

No, they really would not have. But look, I hate to underwhelm people that are watching. There really wasn’t a whole lot of substance to the video. There really was not a whole lot of it, and that is what we find very often.

Trent Horn:

There is stuff though I will say that a person who is not familiar with these things.

William Albrecht: 

Oh yeah.

Trent Horn:

Would maybe be jostled to say, “Oh, I hadn’t heard about this problem.” Or, “Yeah, what about that?” And that’s why people like you, William, or like myself, we just try very hard. Hey, here are the facts, here’s the research, and we want to present it in a charitable way and we’re happy to engage critics and the arguments they have.

William Albrecht: 

No doubt. More than one time we’ve even told them, we are more than happy to debate.

Trent Horn:

Yeah.

William Albrecht: 

More than happy.

Trent Horn:

Absolutely.

William Albrecht: 

We’re here to debate. The challenge is out there. Trent, you’ve been incredible this evening. Do you have any … Look, before we leave, plug anything you’re working on, brother. What are you working in? You’re working on a book, any talks. Where can people find you?

Trent Horn:

Yeah, well, I’m wrapping up one manuscript. I’m eager to start another one, but I’m wrapping up one. It’s my first dialogue book, like a Peter Kreeft dialogue book, but it’s a dialogue with my inner skeptic, and he doesn’t always play nice.

William Albrecht: 

Uh-oh.

Trent Horn:

So, I think that’ll be a fun try at a dialogue book. Otherwise, I’d recommend your listeners definitely check me out at The Counsel of Trent. You can find the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and also my YouTube channel. You can go there, and if you like what William and I have done tonight, I have other rebuttals that I have done on there with John McArthur, Mike Winger, lots of other people you might really enjoy. Check that out. Just go look Counsel of Trent on YouTube and subscribe there.

William Albrecht: 

Incredible, brother. Brother, I’ve had a great time talking with you. I look forward to dialoguing with you again and having you back on. Had a great time talking to you, brother.

Trent Horn:

Thank you much. You too, William, and keep up all your good work as well. It’s nice to see someone else doing the rebuttals, doing the debates. We’ll have to do this again some time.

William Albrecht: 

We sure will, brother. You have a great evening.

Trent Horn:

You too.

 

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