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More Love Letters from Rome

James, you state that the vast majority of Catholics don’t believe a document you provide a link to. I am appalled. How can you make a claim that over 700 million Catholics don’t believe this? Did you interview every single one of them? How dare you write these words to justify your twisted view of the Catholic Church. How dare you use your own prejudice to make these claims? I demand you retract this statement immediately. You have crossed the line again in your attempt to bash the Church. You and your ministry are a mere shadow to those who seek the truth. How could any respectable Christian make such a claim and not understand that you will be held accountable for that claim. How disappointing this should be to all Christian everywhere. Do you not understand the hard realities of life? You cannot make false claims about the Church without retribution. You have made a mockery of what Christ has taught us about the way we should conduct our lives. Your ministry is really just a carnival and you are the barker calling to people with false statements designed to infuriate them. You and Jack Chic have more in common than I thought. You should be ashamed of yourself.

   The irony is, not only would someone like Gerry Matatics agree wholeheartedly with what I said (in the context of my post from last evening I was referring to the fact that the majority of modern Roman Catholics, especially in Western nations, have adopted a form of inclusivism, or worse, universalism), but when John Paul II came to LA back in the 80s, he likewise preached against “cafeteria style Catholicism.” If my correspondent wants to live in a fantasy world that denies the current state of Catholicism, I can’t stop him, but it is hardly my problem that I choose to see the reality when he chooses not to.

Just Got This From Catholic Answers

   Believe it or not, I just got this, honestly, in e-mail, from Catholic Answers. Since I do have a Catholic Answers Forums ID (nope, I’ve never posted–can you imagine the result if I did?) I get all their e-mails (fund raising requests, too!). Anyway, Karl Keating’s e-mail started out:

Dear Friend of Catholic Answers:

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Assumption, best known to Evangelicals and Fundamentalists as “the Marian dogma that isn’t mentioned in Scripture.” We can concede that point–it is true that Scripture nowhere mentions the Assumption–while noting the antiquity of the belief plus the fact that nothing in Scripture contradicts the Assumption.

   There’s the essence of Rome’s apologetic. It doesn’t have to be in Scripture. In fact, it doesn’t have to be in any meaningful definition of “tradition” either. As long as some gnostics mentioned it around the same time others were writing fiction like The Acts of Philip (remember the Talpiot Tomb story?) then it’s OK, and besides that, Scripture doesn’t contradict it! There’s a compelling argument, since, of course, the number of things that you could allege Scripture does not “contradict” is almost limitless, isn’t it? Scripture doesn’t contradict 4-gig jump drives, either! But that doesn’t excuse adding things to the gospel as de fide doctrines! Rome isn’t saying, “Oh, isn’t it interesting to speculate about such things as this?” If that is all she was doing, then you might find such argumentation useful, but when you realize that this is the best she can come up with in defense of something she claims is a constituent and undeniable part of the gospel itself, you realize just how far from the truth Rome truly is.

Luther Myths: Q and A

I’ve gotten a few responses via the Aomin mailbag from my recent Luther Myths material.
First, Shelly asks: “Someone told me that Martin Luther hated Jews and even wrote about this hatred towards the Jewish people. Is this true?” This came up on the ISI broadcast as well. I refer Shelly to the broadcast, as well as the detailed article I wrote on this. Luther’s later anti-Jewish tracts were written from a position different than modern day anti-Semitism. He had nothing against Jews as Jews. He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ. In other words, his opinion on the Jews was not biological, but rather theological. This defense though does not excuse his harsh comments.
Next, Chris comments:

“Luther was a drunk- the defense is One needs only to survey the massive output of work that Luther produced to settle the matter that he was not an alcoholic, nor did he have a drinking problem. Really? Do names like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickens, and Carroll mean anything? What a lame defense.”

As to Luther’s degree of alcohol consumption, I have no evidence one way or the other, nor do you. My only point is the defense offered by the A&O website, the idea that if Luther were a drunk he could not have produced what he did, is completely lame.

   There is no record of Luther ever being drunk (whereas, documentation does exist with those others you mention). At least, we can agree, I think, that if there were such historical documentation that Luther was drunk or often drunk, we could grant the possibly he was a high-functioning alcoholic. But such documentation does not exist. Coupled with the fact that he led a highly productive life, we can at least rule out that he was a low-functioning alcoholic. The burden of proof though really rests on those who claim Luther was a high-functioning alcoholic. Without any evidence to the contrary, one can only make judgments based on the information available, and in terms of information available, Luther and those around Luther wrote a lot about Luther. It is not as if we can’t come up with a historical picture of the man due to lack of information. Luther led a highly productive life, and was not an alcoholic.
And finally, Rob wrote in and said,

“Your attempt to dispel what you believed to be the more popular Luther myths fell short at best. I especially loved the last myth which Mr. Arnzen set up as, ‘Here’s one that is very important. Did ML on his death bed convert back, to Roman Catholicism or reconvert as you will.’ And you responded with something to the effect of this topic comes up on Catholic discussions boards all the time. Oh really, which boards are those. I’ve never read anything of the sort on any RC board. All the RC’s I know all agree that once ML fell from grace and left Mother Church, he never reconverted back. Mr. Swanson, can you point me to one RC board where a RC wrote that ML before he died reconverted back to Mother Church?”

   Let’s dispel the myth about my last name being Swanson. It is not. I’ve spent about ten years reading Catholic materials (including Catholic discussion boards) about Luther. I have yet to read a published Catholic apologist claim Luther recanted on his deathbed. On the other hand, I have read Catholics asking about this. Here are links to two blog entries I did reviewing this myth, brought about by Catholic discussion boards:
Luther’s Deathbed Re-Conversion to the Roman Catholic Church
Did Luther Recant on His Deathbed?
In both entries links are provided to Catholic discussion threads on this topic. Particularly humorous was a Catholic participant who argued “the friends of Luther who recorded his last hours took liberties in describing the details of Luther’s death for posterity” and they had “…interest in presenting a tidy record of Luther’s death.” In other words, conspiracy!

A Response Going Back to the Beckwith Reversion

   This e-mail just came in, going back to the discussion of Beckwith’s conversion a few months ago. It is illustrative again of how converts tend to be folks who only listen to Rome’s side, and it is rare, very rare indeed, to find one who actually asked themselves the question, “I wonder if anyone has responded to this stuff?”

Reading your article regarding Beckwith (the head of the ETS) from May 3rd brings me to respond. I agree with your statement that “it is far beyond my comprehension and understanding.” This is apparent by your remarks. I know that most Catholic as well as Protestants cannot stand up and explain their faith and these may be the ones that will sway with the direction of the wind, but those who do comprehend and understand will not. Your argument implies that a Catholic does not have a biblical background of understanding and thus lies their problem. You apparently have not studied enough.

   Such is possible, but, if that were the case, Brenda, after nearly three dozen debates with the leading apologists of Roman Catholicism, wouldn’t that be rather obvious?

Alot of what you read gives you the impression that the “come home to Rome” articles are based on everything but the scriptures. Not so.

   There is, of course, a vast difference between citing Scriptures (which every religion that expresses any fealty to them does) and handling them consistently and accurately. Here’s an excellent example for you:

I would have not coverted if not for the study of scriptures along with historical fact. One of the many examples would be linking Christ having the authority and passing the authority to Peter with the Keys while linking this to Isaiah 22 -keys given to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom as well as linking it to the two times in the Old Testament (forshadowing the new) where Joseph and Daniel were given information by God, after which they speak it and then are given a position of second in command in the kingdom… certainly is one of the many numerous reasons I see and that I converted and will remain with the Church that Christ established and promised that he would guide into all Truth.

   I would have to ask, then, if you find reason to reject this use of Isaiah 22, would you then leave the Roman communion? Did you, before you converted, consider replies to Rome’s claims? Here is a brief commentary that I wrote on the text in my book, The Roman Catholic Controversy eleven years ago:

I comment briefly on the novel attempt by Roman Catholic apologists to apply Isaiah chapter 22, and the key to the house of David, to Peter himself in Matthew chapter 16. Such an attempted connection is logically necessary for the Roman position, for there must be some effort made to establish succession in this passage, for Matthew’s words make no mention of it. Yet, upon what basis do we identify the keys (plural, Greek: klei/daj) of the kingdom of heaven, which are associated plainly with the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the key (singular, Greek: klei/n as cited in Rev. 3:7; some LXX manuscripts have “glory” instead of “key,” while other manuscripts have the singular form of the term “key” klei,dan. The Hebrew of Isaiah 22:22, x;Tep.m; is singular as well) of the house of David, which is Messianic in nature? And should we not instead accept the interpretation given by the Lord Jesus himself, when he cites Isaiah 22:22 of Himself in Revelation 3:7, “And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.” Jesus has, present tense (Greek: o` e;cwn), the key of David. He does not say that He gives this key to anyone else. Indeed, when we look at how the Lord introduces Himself in each of these letters, the descriptions set Him apart from all creatures. Should we not then reject such an obvious attempt at eisegesis, and instead stay with the plain meaning of Scripture? I pause only briefly to note that I am unaware of a single Father of the Christian faith in the first 700 years of the Christian era who ever connected Isaiah 22:22 with Matthew 16, and then applied this to Peter’s supposed successors. Few interpretational stretches are as devoid of patristic support as this one.

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Why Divide?

Good afternoon Alpha and Omega Ministries, I wolud like to start out by saying that I thank God for your ministry. I have a lot of you dabates on dvd and several of you books and have used these materials in refuting Catholics, JW’s, and Mormons. I do however have one doctrinal disagreement with your theological views. I do not agree with the five points of Calvinism in there entireity. I have read many arguments on both sides and now hold a “moderate” view. I believe that both extremes have some aspect that are and others that are incorrect. My point in writing this is to ask if you think that this is an issue that the church should be so divided over. We spend so much time debating fellow believers on these issues when we could spend that time refuting cultist. I do agree that this is a doctrine that we should have a position on and be able to prove in light of scripture, but I hate the fact the those who love Jesus are spending so muct time arguing over differences when we should cling to our common love for Christ and the lost. Please tell me if and why you find this to be a topic that the church should be divided over. R.W.

Greetings RW:
   Thanks for writing. When you say that you appreciate the debates we have done, I wonder, have you noted how central to my argumentation is the idea of consistency? Having benefited from the ministry of the late Greg Bahnsen, I am surely committed to the need of consistency. I must be consistent first and foremost in my own positive presentation of God’s truth, and secondly, by demonstrating the inconsistencies of those who oppose that truth, I seek their salvation as well as that of those who would be misled by them. And the reason I am fully committed to the defense of, and the centrality of, the gospel of grace finds its origin and source in the very same commitment to consistency that drives my apologetics.
   I do not believe there is a “middle ground” between the idea that God saves, perfectly, in Jesus Christ alone, to His glory alone, and the idea that man is the final determiner of whether God will succeed in the matter of His own self-glorification. I have surely seen many attempts at creating a “middle ground,” but every single one I have ever seen bears the unmistakable mark of inconsistency.
   I have addressed this question many times on The Dividing Line, but for now let me just be brief. I am Reformed, a Calvinist, or whatever else you wish to call me, because I apply the same rigorous standards of consistency to my own faith that I apply to those of others. I cannot point my finger at others and say, “See, you are inconsistent!” while cobbling together a man-made theological system of my own. If I demand that God’s Word be held as the highest standard, and that stringent rules of consistent exegesis be applied in responding to the claims of others, I cannot “give a pass” to my brethren who refuse to apply such stringent standards to themselves, and I must apply them to my own teaching and preaching as well.
   Now, you say this is “dividing” the church. If by the “church” you mean the broad, professing body of believers, that’s true. Human traditions are to blame for this, not those who consistently seek to call themselves and others to a firm and unwavering biblical standard. When it comes to the matter of the grace of God in the gospel, one thing is for certain: over the past decades I have become utterly convinced that those who oppose the doctrines of grace simply cannot mount of consistent exegetical defense of their position. Look at Hunt, at Geisler, at Page—it matters not who it is, we have torn holes in their presentations using the very same standards we use in defending the deity of Christ or the resurrection, and we have done this over and over again. How many of those who yell the loudest in condemning God’s sovereign grace are actually willing to stand up and defend their claims in formal debate? And when a few do enter the arena, what has been the consistent result when they have sought to answer direct questions in cross-examination? Let me remind the readers of what does, in fact, take place when you ask folks to deal directly with the text:

   So in answer to your question, RW, when you say “Wouldn’t it be better to be refuting a cultist?” well, surely, it would be wonderful if we only had to worry about those outside the church. But in what generation has that ever been the case? Even the apostles did not get to have that luxury, so why should we? If they had to deal with false teachers, and if they had to exhort us to stand for sound doctrine, knowing that the tendency is to compromise, to allow traditions to over-throw the testimony of Scripture, why should we think we will not have to engage in the same activity today?