Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Sacrificial Priesthood, the Mass, and Catholicism
04/27/2007 - James White
This debate is available here (#583) and here in mp3 format (#453)
Checking Armstrong's Facts on the Reformers
04/26/2007 - James SwanI've been asking Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong a very simple question lately. It all has to do with one of Armstrong's books. Dave cites one of the Reformers, and I've simply been asking him if he's actually read the Reformer he's citing, in context. So far, I've gotten a massive amount of response from Dave, but a simple yes or no is yet to appear (probably never will).
Why is this a big deal? In a recent debate book by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson entitled, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, the Catholic contributor cites, you guessed it, one of Dave Armstrong's books as a source for information about the Reformers views on Mary.
I find this curious, because Dave Armstrong is neither a historian nor a theologian. As far as I know, he's a guy in Michigan sitting in his attic with a computer. But yet, this book cites him as if he were an authority on the Reformers. Now, if I were to cite someone on the Reformers, I would at least want to know they've actually read the Reformers, particularly the material being cited. Well, Dave won't answer, which leads me to believe there is a strong probability he has not read the primary source material.
I found this out a few years ago when I did a written exchange with Mr. Armstrong on Luther's view of Mary. I methodically cited Luther from the standard English set of Luther's Works. This makes it quite easy for anyone to go to a library, look up the citations, and check my work. Now in the electronic age, Luther's Works are available on CD. It becomes quite difficult to obscure facts when tracking down the context can be done with ease by anyone.
Dave on the other hand primarily cited Luther's German Works. He referenced the German Weimar edition 33 times. Some of the references didn't even make sense. Then he cited numerous secondary German sources. Now, one could stand in awe of Armstrong's seeming fluency in Luther studies, if of course Armstrong spoke and read German, and had access to scores of books that have been out of print for many years. But, as far as I know, Armstrong does not read or speak German, nor does he have access to the Luther goldmine of written material.
And then comes the kick. In checking Armstrong's citations, all is not as it appears. For instance, Dave is fond of saying Luther was "extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary." He loves to put forth historical data suggesting Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception. Back when I dialoged with him, his original source for this was a Luther quote put forth by Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar, nearly 100 years ago:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527)
So, I tracked down the Grisar book Armstrong was using. Sure, the quote was there, along with this commentary from Grisar:
"The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther's approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in later editions which appeared during Luther's lifetime they disappear."
The reason for their disappearance is that as Luther's Christocentric theology developed, aspects of Luther's Mariology were abandoned. Grisar recognizes this. In regards to the Luther quote in question, Grisar goes on to say,
"As Luther's intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works."
Even in material readily available, one wonders if Dave reads what he cites. For instance, Dave has said, "In fact, Martin Luther praised Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg." This is an easy one to track down. Armstrong is correct Luther mentions Mary in his last Wittenberg sermon. Luther did not say or imply though that Mary should be honored. Luther's tone is quite sarcastic, and his main point is that Christ alone should be worshiped. Luther mocks those who would call upon Mary or venerate her. Luther insists that those who seek Christ through Mary do so by the use of reason, and reason is by nature a harmful adulteress.
Dave accuses me of nitpicking over tedium like this. He wants to be taken seriously as a Catholic apologist. If it were my book going to print making historical claims, I would make sure that I actually read and understood the material presented. It has nothing to do with Dave's Catholicism. Recently on this blog I took a look at some historical assertions made by C. Gordon Olson, a Protestant.
As a layman, I do my best to read critically. If I'm going to respect someone as an authority on a particular subject, the facts should check out. With Mr. Armstrong's work, he still has yet to impress me as an authority on the Reformers. Catholic laymen should know that there are in fact Catholic historians and scholars that have put forth some excellent books on Luther. Don't settle for material that sounds good because it makes Rome look better. Check the facts; look for the truth, even if the facts come from your own camp. Simply because they do, does not mean they are correct.
Audience Questions from the Priesthood Debate
04/25/2007 - James White
This debate available in mp3 format (#453) here.
A Further Response to Gary Michuta and John Betts on 1 Esdras
04/23/2007 - James Swanby William Webster
In the articles I posted on the status of 1 Esdras and its relationship to the Councils of Trent and Hippo/Carthage, there have been 3 main responses to which I want to give a brief reply. The first response has to do with Gary Michuta's assertion that Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence, the second is the charge that I am misleading people about the preface to the Biblia complutensis and the third is a response that John Betts, a Roman Catholic apologist, wrote some time ago to what I have written on 1 Esdras and which is now being used by other Roman Catholics such as Art Sippo, who states, "My good friend and Catholic Apologist John Betts has written an essay that deals with this and literally puts the matter to rest DEFINITIVELY" (Found here).
1. Gary Michuta has stated categorically that Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence and therefore there is no contradiction between Trent and Hippo/Carthage. But such an assertion is clearly untrue. Trent has spoken quite clearly. 1 Esdras is not canonical. Nowhere in the official list of canonical books is 1 Esdras to be found. The only books that are canonical are those listed by Trent. This is just obvious. There is no silence here. For example The New Catholic Encyclopedia in referring to 1 Esdras states:
"The Council of Trent definitively removed it from the canon" (New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), Volume II, Bible, III, pp.396-397). This authoritative Roman Catholic source clearly states that Trent did not pass over 1 Esdras in silence. It definitively removed it from the canon.
Gary Michuta suggests that it is possible that the canon is not closed for the Roman Catholic Church, but such is not the case. The term canon means that a definitive list of inspired books has been promulgated and it is a closed list. The Catholic Encyclopedia says this about the canon from a Roman Catholic perspective:
"The word canon as applied to the Scriptures has long had a special and consecrated meaning. In its fullest comprehension it signifies the authoritative list or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined for the well-being of the Church, using the latter word in the wide sense of the theocratic society which began with God's revelation of Himself to the people of Israel, and which finds its ripe development and completion in the Catholic organism. The whole Biblical Canon therefore consists of the canons of the Old and New Testaments" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the Old Testament).
Note here the Catholic Encyclopedia states that the term 'canon' signifies a closed number of writings. The council of Trent spoke clearly and definitively on the issue of the canon and that is precisely what authoritative Roman Catholic sources say as well:
"According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church at the Council of Trent...The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon.That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent" (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. II, Bible, III (Canon), p. 390; Canon, Biblical, p. 29; Bible, III (Canon), p.390).
This is also confirmed by Yves Congar: "...an official, definitive list of inspired writings did not exist in the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent" (Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions (New York: Macmillan, 1966),p. 38).
According to Congar and the New Catholic Encyclopedia the first infallible decision on the authoritative declaration of the canon, from a Roman Catholic perspective, was the Council of Trent, not Hippo and Carthage. The English translator of the Council of Trent, H.J. Schroeder, O.P., wrote:
"The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures" (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford: Tan, 1978), Fourth Session, Footnote #4, p. 17).
These Roman Catholic sources state categorically that the list of canonical books promulgated by Trent was infallible, official and definitive and that Trent definitively removed 1 Esdras from the canon. This does not constitute silence. 1 Esdras (from a Roman Catholic perspective) was infallibly, officially and definitively excluded from the canon. The argument from silence has been shouted down by the Tridentine decree itself.
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Closing Statement, Sola Scriptura Debate, 1999, San Diego
04/23/2007 - James White
This debate is available here in mp3 format (#436)
Checking In With The Other Side Of The Tiber
04/19/2007 - James SwanI regularly visit Roman Catholic blogs and websites to see what the apologists are up to. Here are a few highlights.
Gerry Matatics says he's continuing his 300-city mega tour "contrary to the hopes of my many enemies, critics, and detractors." Gerry says:
"I pull no punches and make no apologies for opposing, and exposing, the novelties, oddities, heresies, and blasphemies promoted by what purports to be the "official" Catholic establishment, but in fact is nothing but a band of unauthorized apostates and usurpers who have been permitted by God's providence to commandeer the infrastructure of the previously Catholic institutions of our world since the death of Pius XII precisely in order to bring about the universal apostasy God has patiently and persistently repeatedly warned us, over the last 6000 years, must precede the return of His Son."
Now that's quite a sentence! I actually caught one of Gerry's mega-lectures last summer. Gerry's new position is eschatological. He emphasizes the church is in a "last days crisis." Thus, the entire undercurrent of his talk had a sense of urgency, reminiscent of those dispensational evangelical church services I grew up in where the rapture was going to happen at any moment. The signs of the times prove this to be the case. Gerry holds the majority of Catholics have been swept away by great deceptions in last 40 years, particularly ecumenism. Not only the Bible predicts this, but also various approved sightings of Mary throughout history have similarly confirmed the great falling away of the Roman Catholic Church in the last days.
Over on Patrick Madrid's Envoy discussion boards, a question was asked about Madrid's unspoken policy to not allow any links to aomin.org. The questioner also commented, "I just read an article on envoy where Pat Madrid thanked White & Co. for advertising envoy and the forums. Is this ban because envoy doesn't want to advertise for protestant pages?" Well, what's the deal Patrick? No response from Mr. Madrid, but Catholic apologist Art Sippo took the helm of the good ship Envoy:
"This message will likely get bleeped, but HEY! You can't blame a guy for trying! Envoy linking to Mr. White's material is like B'nai B'rith linking to the Aryan Nation website for an opposing view on the Holocaust and Nazi genocide. It is very obvious to us that Herr Weiss... I mean MR. White follows the doings on this board very closely and often überreagiert... uh, overrects to what we say here. But this does not mean that we have to provide a tyrannkanzel.... sounding board for all the sturm und drang ... controversial comments he makes."
Nothing like the poetic Dr. Sippo! Indeed, Dr. Sippo was correct, this discussion was deleted off the Envoy boards. Anyone visiting Planet Envoy immediately realizes the contributors spend a lot of time reading aomin.org. Madrid should at least explain why his fellow apologists are not allowed to link the web site which so consumes their discussions.
Finally, another "doctor" of sorts has put together an interesting blog entry. Dr. Dave Armstrong has finally put together a link which is beyond refutation. Protestants beware, the argumentation and information will not be easy to refute.
Having A Laugh With Catholic Apologist Mark Shea
04/16/2007 - James SwanA recent blog entry from Catholic apologist Mark Shea demonstrates the difference in purpose between Catholics and Protestants. Mark took some shots at Dr. White's work on the recent Jesus Tomb controversy. Shea writes,
"James is now stuck with thousands of copies of his laborious prose sitting in boxes in his garage. So he naturally tries to make lemonade from lemons by turning his blunder into yet another proof of the heartlessness of the Romanist Deception. In his earnest, anything-for-a-rhetorical-point way, he asks (in a piece called "Apologetics Roman Style"): 'Let's say the scholarship in The Lost Tomb of Jesus is laughable. So what? Do you respond to laughable scholarship with...laughter?' Um, yes. You do.Or, at any rate, normal people do. See, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the Nine Day Wonderhood of this story was a given when the story broke, when I saw the lame nature of the "evidence" adduced, so I laughed it off as I generally laugh off news ofthe absurd. Life's too short."
For Reformed Christians with a love of the Scriptures, the Gospel, and a heart for the lost, the Jesus Tomb controversy was yet another opportunity to proclaim God's Word and Christ's resurrection. It was also another opportunity to demonstrate the reliance of the Bible to an unbelieving world. By Dr. White's careful research, he once again equipped Christians to discuss current issues in an understandable way with those who are lost. He also helped demonstrate how recent anti-Biblical scholarship attempts to malign the Bible by its use of Gnostic and missing books. Shea shouldn't be so naïve. He should go down to his local big-chain-bookstore and note how many books on the Gnostic writings are being put forth as comparable to the Bible. He shouldn't be so naïve to think this is the end of such attacks on Christianity. Knowing how important it is for those against the faith to destroy it, the Jesus Tomb will probably be re-packaged again. For the next time, much of the work has already been done by Dr. White.
Shea though thinks a correct response to the Jesus Tomb is to laugh it off. This tells me that whatever Shea's apologetic pursuits are, they are not concerned with taking any fact or current situation and using it to proclaim God's truth. Perhaps this is simply the distinction between Catholic and Protestant apologetics. Catholic apologists work to get you to join their church, even though if you're a Protestant, you are only a separated brother anyway. Protestants see apologetics as a means of proclaiming the Gospel. It is the desire to honor God and proclaim His truth to a world enslaved to sin. For those who are interested in laughing off arguments, I simply must ask how much you actually care about the lost.
A Note from JRW:
I was going to write a brief note about Shea's article myself, so I will just tack a few thoughts on here. There is definitely a vast chasm between the attitude of Shea and his compatriots (check out the insightful, mature, relevant comments on the article) and myself. I can only conclude that Shea has never run into someone who had been influenced by the burgeoning body of "if the gnostics said it, it must be right" literature. That seems hard to believe, since this kind of material is ubiquitous in the hallways of academia today. But as James Swan has pointed out, the glory of God in the proclamation of His truth is not the goal for this kind of RC apologist anyway: submission to Mother Church is all that matters.
The head-in-the-sand mentality of Shea and those like him is nothing new. When Holy Blood, Holy Grail first came out, opening the flood of gnostic-inspired tales, many responded in the same way. "Oh, that's just silliness" may work in some contexts, but look what happened over the decades. That work, and those like it, led directly to The Da Vinci Code. Sure the entire theory was silly when it first appeared, and it remains silly today. In the ultimate scheme of things, any mechanism man uses to rebel against his Creator is "silly." But explaining why it is silly is the problem. Giving an answer that then opens the door to the proclamation of the Gospel, well, that takes a little more than a good guffaw.
It's been a little while since Shea bothered to bare his fangs my direction, but this is surely not the first time.
04/13/2007 - James SwanThe Envoy discussion board will not allow links to Alpha and Omega Ministries, yet they are fixated on this very blog. The following Envoy discussion threads from the last few weeks are specifically on James White or material posted on aomin.org. Some of these topics are posted to not move from the first page of the Envoy discussion board:
"Ancient Baptists" and Other Myths (Started by Patrick Madrid)
Madrid vs White Debate on Sola Scriptura (Started by Patrick Madrid)
My Response to White (Started by Jonathan Prejean)
Oral Traditions and Sola Scriptura (Started by Apolonio Latar)
Response to James White & Bill Webster on Esdras (Started by Gary Michuta)
James White and Me (Started by Shelia)
The Latest Protestant Anti-Envoy Barrage (Started by AugustineH354)
White attacks the development of the papacy (Started by AugustineH354)
These threads all mention either James White or material from aomin.org: Bridging the "Faith Alone" Divide; Dr. Hans Boersma does it again!; Former Dominican priest who became LDS.
Commenting on one of the threads, Catholic apologist Art Sippo stated, "He's so vain, I bet he'll think this thread is about him. But in reality it is about how the truth will out despite the best (worst?) efforts of the obfuscators to cloud the issue." Contrarily, I think the Envoy crowd are fixated on Alpha and Omega Ministries because the materials and arguments put forth are effective, and they know it. This barrage of threads dedicated to Dr. White's work all started when video clips of Dr. White's cross examination debate sections were posted. I don't think this is coincidence. These clear presentations of arguments interacting show the shallowness of Roman Catholic claims. If you want true obfuscation, simply go over to Envoy and read through any of these threads, then compare them to the video clip content posted on aomin.org.
Dave Armstrong on Presuppositional Apologetics (Updated)
04/12/2007 - James WhiteOn Tuesday I noted in passing the importance of the relationship between theology and apologetics, and how a sub-biblical theology can only result in a sub-biblical apologetic. I have been a bit concerned about some of the replies I have seen. There is a lot of confusion about the relevant categories. One glowing example of completely missing my point (and I do mean completely), is provided by Roman Catholic Dave Armstrong. The entire post is a classic example of missing categories and utter epistemological confusion (let alone a glaring example of how someone can be the prisoner of their own bias when it comes to reading what I've written), but here is one portion that stands out:
White mocks the notions of "preponderance of the evidence" and "greater probability" as antithetical to biblical Christianity and the proclamation of the gospel, yet this is precisely what the early Christians did: they proclaimed eyewitness testimony of what they had seen and heard. If they presented "legal"-type testimony, then why cannot an apologist use the same sort of argument today? No one alive was an eyewitness of these events, so it is necessarily the case that we have to make legal-historical arguments in order to do an intelligent rational apologetics.Now, lay aside the normal Armstrongian loquaciousness and hand-waving and hear how completely he has missed what I said. I never once said a word against the presentation of eyewitness evidence. I never once "mocked" the direct proclamation of the resurrection of Christ by the eyewitnesses. In fact, that was my point. The apostles did not say, "Well, we are pretty certain Jesus rose. I mean, no one can be totally certain, of course, but we think that on the balance, the best data we can give you points to the greater probability that He rose than that He didn't." My point was that the apostles did not speak in such a fashion. They did not say that God might have raised Jesus from the dead, so you get to judge the facts for yourself as if you are some kind of neutral observer and "greater probabilities" will persuade you. No, God has spoken with clarity and force, and has rendered man avnapolo,ghtoj, without a defense. That does not mean, "with an argument that is less probable than the Christian one," but without any argument. The non-Christian worldview devolves down to absurdity, and it is our task to point this out.
Sadly, Armstrong truly has no concept of what he identifies as presuppositionalism. Anyone who has spent any time at all with Van Til or Bahnsen cannot help but shake their head at Armstrong's wild swings at a phantom far removed from the truth.
Dave Armstrong continues to beat himself in the head over his utter lack of understanding of the issues involved related to his very confident claims regarding presuppositionalism. To prove his great and in-depth study, he has now told us that RC Sproul is a critic of presuppositionalism! Shocking! I am so glad to learn of this! Oh...wait! I used Classical Apologetics as a text book in my Christian apologetics class I taught at Golden Gate Seminary at least six years ago! How could I have forgotten? Oh, I remember now! I was lecturing on the methods of apologetics and was providing my students with material from both sides! That's right! I even referred them to the Bahnsen/Sproul dialogue on apologetic methodology! So, Armstrong has a book I have assigned to my students! And what does this mean? That despite having such a book, he still couldn't understand what I was talking about and properly follow the categories!
Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on the 1 Esdras Problem
04/11/2007 - James SwanI mentioned a few days ago Catholic apologist Gary Michuta posted a response to William Webster's entries on the Esdras problem. Gary said,
"My assertion that the Council of Trent passed over the question of the canonicity of Esdras in silence is not a matter of my own or anyone else's interpretation of the decree. It is a historical fact."
Well, I guess it depends on which Catholic apologist you talk to. In the same discussion started by Michuta, Catholic apologist Art Sippo grants Gary's point, but ventures off into a different resolution. Sippo replied:
"As Gary mentioned, Trent specifically discussed the status of 1 Esdras and decided to pass over the question of its canonicity. But anyone who is familiar with the state of the Biblical Canon in the late 4th Century knows that the term '2 books of Esdras' had been used for over 100 years by Origen and others to refer to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And St. Jerome was well aware of the difference between 1Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah in the 390's. In the Vulgate translation he made, St. Jerome used the title 1Esdras to refer to Ezra, 2Esdras to refer to Nehemiah, and 3Esdras to refer to the apocryphal 1Esdras from the Septuagint."
Sippo agrees Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence, but then argues early usage of 1 Esdras shows Hippo and Carthage understood 1 and 2 Esdras to be Ezra and Nehemiah. I'm questioning exactly where Michuta stands with Sippo's answer. These two Catholic apologists appear to be giving different answers. Michuta did not venture into historical usage in his brief response. Perhaps Gary's new book will provide similar argumentation to that put forth by Sippo. As it stands, these two men appear to be giving different answers.
Sippo's proof for his view holds Origen, Jerome, and others held to a strict Ezra / Nehemiah distinction, and were not fooled by the apocryphal book of 1 Esdras. William Webster though notes Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ephrem Syrus, Basil the Great, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Ambrose, Theophilus of Antioch, Dionysius of Alexandria, Augustine and Prosper of Aquaitaine all quote 1 Esdras. So, some were fooled by this apocryphal book. If Sippo is right, one would think Christendom was certain on the Ezra / Nehemiah distinction. Rather, what we find is what one would expect if 1 Esdras was in the Septuagint: widespread usage by the Church fathers.
But more troubling for Sippo's Esdras resolution is the open canon question. Why would Trent even bother to discuss 1 Esdras, if in fact these earlier councils ruled on the canon? Here was a book the earlier councils supposedly didn't even consider; yet Trent is still wondering about it. Now for Sippo, is the implication Carthage and Hippo remained silent on the Septuagint 1 Esdras as well? So much for canon certainty provided by these earlier councils! The Infallible councils keep passing over this book, and the Roman Church doesn't seem to be in any hurry to resolve its status. Now, if there really is a chance that God inspired a book currently not in the Roman Catholic canon, shouldn't this be a top priority to resolve? Wouldn't the very words of almighty God be something worthy of the intimate attention of both pope and council?
Sippo concludes by commenting on Websters argument:
"IMHO the whole thesis is DOA. But White, Webster, Svendsen and the rest of the Kampus Krusade for Kthulhu keep beating this dead horse, so we need to keep dealing with it."
Indeed, Art, do tell. You either have a blaring contradiction between councils, or a possible missing book from the Bible. I think Sippo, Michuta, and the rest of the zealous defenders of Rome have a lot of explaining to do.
Silence and the Problem of Catholic Canon Certainty
04/09/2007 - James SwanCatholic Apologist Gary Michuta asserts the Council of Trent chose to pass over in silence the status of the Septuagint book of 1 Esdras (or what Trent called, 3 Esdras). Michuta says,
"Both White and Webster take the position that the absence of a book called Esdras in the Council of Trent's definition of the canon constitutes, not mere silence on the issue, but a clear and explicit rejection of the book without the slightest ambiguity.This is a big deal for them because, if it is true, then a case could be made that Trent contradicted the Councils of Carthage and Hippo which they understand to have explicitly included Esdras (no doubt without the slightest possible ambiguity there either). My position is that, whatever we want to make of the status of Esdras, the question of a contradiction between Trent and Carthage cannot arise because the bishops at Trent explicitly avoided answering the question. White and Webster seem to be under the impression that this idea is my own 'novel' interpretation of the decree of the Fourth Session. It is nothing of the kind."
"Let me be perfectly clear. My assertion that the Council of Trent passed over the question of the canonicity of Esdras in silence is not a matter of my own or anyone else's interpretation of the decree. It is a historical fact."
What are the the implications of such a view? I think Gary Michuta may have cornered himself by his own argumentation. While he solved one problem, he created another. Let's grant Michuta's assertion that Trent passed over in silence on the book of Esdras in question. This means in the Roman system, as interpreted by Michuta, the possibility exists that the book in question is canonical, but not currently in the canon. Therefore, it is possible that the Bible is missing a book, in which case, Roman Catholics cannot be certain they have an infallible list of all the infallible books. In which case, their arguments stating they have canon certainty crumbles. It would also possibly mean, the canon is still open. Michuta notes that 42 people at Trent voted to pass over the book in silence. If Michuta is correct on his interpretation of Trent, these 42 people solved the problem of the contradiction between Hippo, Carthage, and Trent, but created the problem of an unclosed canon, and thrust Catholics into uncertainty.
Even more troubling for Michuta's position are the statements put forth on the closed canon from the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Catechism states, "It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New." Notice the words, complete list. If a book is passed over in silence, and may in fact be canonical, the list is not complete.
Or consider this statement from the Council of Trent:
"...(the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testamentseeing that one God is the author of both as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession."
How is it possible to know with certainty one is venerating with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books of the Old and New Testament, if one was passed over in silence?
Michuta notes 3 people at Trent voted to reject the book of Esdras in question. These three people uphold Catholic argumentation on Canon certainty: yes, the book of Esdras in question is not canonical. The canon is closed. Catholics have a complete infallible list of infallible books. In this answer, the earlier councils of Hippo and Carthage deemed Esdras canonical, but these three men at Trent say it's not. In other words, if these men were followed, it would prove councils are not infallible. The councils contradicted themselves.
Go ahead, argue Trent passed over in silence. It proves again Catholic arguments for canon certainty are empty. The argument shows clearly that sophistry is at work. The argument is like trying to scotch tape together a structure that needs to be demolished. The epistemological foundation of Roman Catholicism is top heavy from its weak foundation, one that is built on sand.
Ah, There It Is
04/07/2007 - James WhiteI had wanted to use this picture in my blog article last night, but could not locate it. With a little help this afternoon I was able to find it. Since Dave Armstrong posted this one of himself, I figure he likes it, and I would not want to be one to use a photo of him that he would not like. So this is Dave Armstrong, Catholic apologist. In a tree. I am fighting madly to avoid making the obvious commentary that begs to be made at this point. Really. I am. I'm biting my lip. Or my fingers. Or something. Dave Armstrong in a tree. There you go. No distortions, color fades, or anything else required. Just, Dave, in a tree.
If this just isn't enough for you, there are more. And more. And more.
The Dave Armstrong Shuffle
04/06/2007 - James WhiteThose who monitor the comings and goings of Roman Catholic apologists on the Internet know of Dave Armstrong. I have not interacted with the man in quite some time on this blog. I took the time a while back to examine one of his books directly, demonstrate its utter lack of meaningful argumentation, and challenge him to defend himself. He collapsed into a puddle of goo, ran for the hills, vowing to never again have anything to do with "anti-Catholics." That lasted for a while, but, before long, he was back. Recently DA has been acting like his old self again, even offering to debate me and give me all sorts of extra time (because, obviously, against someone of his apologetic prowess, I'd need it...unlike the rest of his compatriots). He's become downright nasty and demeaning, but again, this is nothing new for DA. Some will remember the cartoon disaster of a while back, and if you have ever been on his massive site, you will find lots of pictures of me with distortions, color changes, and the like. He truly strikes me as a kind of stalker. Anyway, I explained to him that arranging a debate with him would be problematic for the obvious reason that he can't be trusted. He is not stable. He swings from pillar to post, and if we did, in fact, arrange a formal debate today, how could anyone trust that next week he won't have yet another change of heart, make another vow to avoid anti-Catholics, and bag out?
I was looking through some old files tonight and I ran across the following, posted by DA on March 14, 2001. It is just one of many such examples of the instability of Dave Armstrong. Here it is, and remember, anything that could be said in 100 words can be said by Dave Armstrong in only 10,000:
I, DAVE ARMSTRONG, DO HEREBY RESOLVE TO CEASE AND DESIST EVEN FROM *MENTION* OF DR. JAMES WHITE AND TIM ENLOE (and strongly urge other Catholics to do the same)
Posted by Dave Armstrong on March 14, 2001 at 19:32:43:
Thanks for reminding me of, and provoking me to my own actual preference, down deep. You have done me a great service indeed, and I appreciate it. One can get caught up in all the controversies with anti-Catholics, and thus cite the "king" and most supposedly "respectable" of the anti-Catholics too much.
The better part of my judgment agrees that this is excessive, for I have been urging Catholic apologists to not engage White in *public* (oratorical) debate for many years now. I turned him down in 1995 and twice in our recent exchanges. Funny, though, how he keeps challenging *me* to debate him, since he considers me an absolutely unworthy and unqualified opponent, a pompous, foul-mouthed, dishonest and devious blowhard, etc. - things he has verbally expressed in one way or another many times. Yes, quite odd. But I don't think it is all that hard to figure out, without too much effort. ...
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Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented Final
04/06/2007 - James WhiteHere is the final clip I've recorded from the 1997 sola scriptura debate with Gerry Matatics on Long Island. This comes directly after the cross-ex I posted Monday, so they go together. I picked up the same theme and pressed forward with it here. Hopefully these clips have illustrated, in a way that only video can, the less than useful gamesmanship and circular argumentation favored by many of the most popular, less popular, and formerly popular, Roman Catholic apologists today.
Gary Michuta Says: Read My Book
04/04/2007 - James SwanRecently, Catholic apologist Gary Michuta began posting on the Catholic Answers forum. In his posts, he commented on his apocrypha debate versus Dr. White, presenting his novel way of reconciling the canon discrepancy between Hippo, Carthage, and Trent. Michuta also mentioned the work of William Webster, prompting these responses from Webster:
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta Part I
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part II
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part III
I had been having some interaction with Gary over on Catholic Answers, and I knew he was aware of these links. There was nothing though from Gary on the recent entries from Webster. I had wondered if he disagreed with them, or if he was passing over them in silence. One thing you can say about Catholic Answers is they do allow for opposing points of view. There are numerous discussions between Protestants and Catholics going on. It would've been interesting to interact with Gary on this subject.
On the other hand, the Envoy forum has "bunker" mentality. They protect themselves from those who would offer a different opinion. It appears Gary Michuta has traveled from Catholic Answers over to Envoy. He is now a moderator on Envoy. One of his first posts was a response to William Webster. I find this interesting, because he chose to post this response in a forum that doesn't like to allow Protestants to respond. Michuta couldn't even link to Webster's articles because aomin links are not allowed on Envoy.
What of Michuta's response? He simply reaffirmed the stance he took in his debate with Dr. White. He notes the vote at Trent to pass over in silence was 42 to 3. So much for canon certainty from Rome: 42 said you can't be certain you've got all the Biblical books, 3 said you can. Michuta concludes by pointing people to his new book: "If anyone is interested in a fuller discussion of the many questions surrounding the disputed books of the Old Testament canon, my newest book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger, will be available later this month." Ah, another read my book.
Quick Addition from JRW: OK, does this mean Trent did, or did not, provide a dogmatic, infallible canon? Haven't we had the Keating/Madrid/Akin/Matatics/etc. crowd telling us for years now that we need Trent's canon to even know what Scripture is? So, what do we call this? Dogmatic silence? Infallible uncertainty? "By Our Apostolic authority, standing in the line of Blessed Peter and Paul, We hereby grit our teeth." If they knew of the differences, does it not follow that we have here an ecumenical "We are clueless, don't ask"?
Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented #4
04/04/2007 - James WhiteHere is Gerry's cross-ex portion, including the 18 seconds of silliness Porvaznik has turned into an "admission of defeat" on my part. To do this, of course, he has to seriously argue that for sola scriptura to be true, it must have been true at all times and in all places and in all situations. Hence, Jesus and the Apostles, though living in a time of enscripturation, would have to have operated on the principle for it to be true. Evidently, I guess everyone who ever lived would have had to have done so. So, Adam, would have to have believed in sola scriptura for it to be true. Of course, there was no scriptura at that point, so that's obviously silly, but, given the presupposition of the Roman Catholic "question" here, doesn't that prove the point? If sola scriptura speaks to today, and both sides agree today is different than the days of the Apostles (revelation was being given then, it is not today), then how can the question even be asked in all honesty? The circularity of the Roman position of self-proclaimed infallibility and outright ownership of "Sacred Tradition," including the "written traditions" of Scripture, blinds their apologists to the emptiness of their claims. As I have pointed out in the past, it is an empty claim to assert that a belief must be believed at all times. There was no Papacy to believe in even from the Roman Catholic position before Peter (and in the historical context, long after). Applying the same circular logic to that concept would lead to self-refutation of the belief. Indeed, the only folks who believed in oral, extra-scriptural divine revelation in the days of Jesus were...his opponents in the Jewish leadership. I'm sure my RC apologist opponents do not wish to embrace that as their paradigm---or do they? All depends, I guess.
In any case, just a few comments: it is so sad to see a former student at Westminster Seminary starting off with a classic Jehovah's Witness style question, "There is no verse that says the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith." When the same man will have to admit there is no verses referring to the Papacy, transubstantiation, Bodily Assumption, purgatory, etc., and that he will then have to attempt to demonstrate these things not from specific texts, but from constituent teachings from different texts brought together, you again wonder how the question can be asked honestly. What is more, this kind of argument likewise could be used in the form, "You would agree there is no text that says specifically that the Book of Mormon is not divine Scripture" or the like. This kind of argument is supposed to be compelling?
You will note that as soon as I finish citing 2 Tim. 3:16 Gerry says he wants me to quote Scripture. I thought that was Scripture. Then note he asks, "does that say every doctrine?" It says doctrine (teaching). It does not say every doctrine, but that would be included in the work of teaching, would it not? Any sober-minded exegete of the Pauline letters to Timothy and Titus would have to say yes. Then he accuses me of "reinterpreting" the term "good work," yet, again, he well knows, or, at least, at one point in his life, knew, that "good work" in Paul's exhortation to Timothy did include the entire list of exhortation, teaching, rebuking, training, etc. This is not even a question in any serious context. His wandering off into the Roman Catholic addition of "good works" to justification is, of course, not only not a question (and hence a violation of the cross-ex rules) but a red herring as well.
The applause of the Roman Catholics in the audience at the grand admission that the word "only" is not in 2 Timothy 3:16 is as gratuitous and empty as the glee of a Jehovah's Witness at the admission the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, or that of the Mormon when you "admit" the Bible does not say Joseph Smith was not a prophet. The Bible does not speak, by direct verbiage, to the term "Islam" either, but that is hardly relevant, is it?
Next, Gerry's "last year you used Greek to confuse this audience" rhetoric was simply reprehensible and, on any meaningful level, sufficient grounds for his disqualification. He is referring to the discussion of "until" and e[wj ou- "hews hou" in reference to Matthew 1:25. Even raising the topic in this context was an egregious violation of the rules. He spends 45 seconds wandering all over the landscape and then has the temerity to insult the audience by saying "it's a simple yes or no question." This is the standard Matatics methodology of using what can only be called cheap debating tricks. For the person who seeks to follow the issues closely, this kind of thing is maddening. The circularity of Matatic's attack upon the sufficiency of Scripture, all to make room for Rome's dogmas of Papal Infallibility, or the Bodily Assumption, etc., is clear to all with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Is William Webster Telling The Truth?
04/03/2007 - James SwanI received a private message over on the Catholic Answers forum informing me William Webster was being accused of lying about the edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia which contains a statement from Ximenes, Archbishop of Toledo, against the canonicity of the apocrypha. This Bible was published by the authority and consent of Pope Leo X. The assertion of Webster's lack of truthfulness reads:
"I hate to admit this but I think Webster's assertions are wrong. I found a book about Cardinal Ximenes, Pope Leo X and the Complutensian Polygot. It was on Questia com. From what I read there is no preface condemning the Apocrypha books. What Pope Leo does condemn are pseudo-Apocrypha books. But who really knows... perhaps the Vatican isn't telling the truth (maybe they fudged the real documents). After all the Vatican has all of these secret documents (I tried to check some of them out on the Vatican web-site) that the average person isn't permitted to read."This was the first time I've come across such as assertion. If this is indeed the case, I would have to ask this person to explain this statement from the preface of Ximenes:
"The books which are without the Canon, which the Canon receives rather for the edification of the people than for the establishment of ecclesiastical doctrines, are given only, in Greek, but with a double translation."
If pseudo-Apocryphal books are meant, this is equally as awful for the Roman Catholic dealing with the historical record. Well, this is not what is meant. Ximenes meant the apocryphal books.
Six Points On Luther's "Epistle of Straw"
04/03/2007 - James SwanAlmost five hundred years after the fact, Roman Catholics still scrutinize Martin Luther. One the most popular quotations from Luther is the infamous "epistle of straw" remark, directed at the canonicity of the book of James. It really is amazing how frequently this citation appears. It is usually brought forth as proof one must believe an infallible church authored an infallible list of infallible books. Without this, one subjectively decides which books are canonical, like Martin Luther supposedly did in the sixteenth century.If you find yourself in dialog facing this quote, there are a few facts and arguments you should know.
First, this quote only appears in Luther's original 1522 Preface to the New Testament. After 1522, all the editions of Luther's Bible dropped the "epistle of straw" comment, along with the entire paragraph that placed value judgments on particular biblical books. It was Luther himself who edited these comments out. For anyone to continue to cite Luther's "epistle of straw" comment against him is to do him an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind.
Second, detractors are keen on selectively quoting Luther's preface to James. Most often cited are only those comments that express negativity. If one takes the times to actually read Luther's comments about James, he praises it and considers it a "good book" "because it sets up no doctrine of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God." Rarely have I seen Luther detractors inform a reader Luther praises James, or respects God's law. On the other hand, I have seen many Catholics insist Luther was either morally corrupt or an antinomian. Luther though insists James is worthy of praise because it puts forth Gods law.
Third, Luther does appear to have held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James, but it wasn't because he was purely subjective as Roman Catholics claim. He did not whimsically dismiss Biblical books simply because he did not like their content. Luther was aware of the disputed authenticity of the book. Eusebius and Jerome both recorded doubts to the apostolicity and canonicity of James. Luther did not consider James to be James the Apostle. He wasn't alone in this. The great humanist Scholar Erasmus likewise questioned the authenticity of James, as did Cardinal Cajetan, one of the leading 16th Century Roman Catholic scholars.
Fourth, it is true Luther had a contextual problem with the content on James. He saw a contradiction between Paul and James on faith and works. Some conclude Luther missed the harmonization between these two Biblical writers, but this isn't true either. Luther's great biographer Roland Bainton pointed out, "Once Luther remarked that he would give his doctor's beret to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul. Yet he did not venture to reject James from the canon of Scripture, and on occasion earned his own beret by effecting reconciliation. 'Faith,' he wrote, 'is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith' " [Here I Stand, 259]. In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther answered this spurious proposition: Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead [Jas. 2:17, 26]. Therefore, dead faith justifies. Luther responded:
"The argument is sophistical and the refutation is resolved grammatically. In the major premise, 'faith' ought to be placed with the word 'justifies' and the portion of the sentence 'without works justifies' is placed in a predicate periphrase and must refer to the word 'justifies,' not to 'faith.' In the minor premise, 'without works' is truly in the subject periphrase and refers to faith. We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but a feigned faith. 'Without works' is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works. [LW 34: 175-176].Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution, it is probably the case that the question of James' apostleship out-weighed it. One cannot argue Luther was never presented with a harmonization between Paul and James. He seems to have granted the validity of it, yet still questioned the canonicity of the book.
Fifth, its important to point out the double standard at play when Catholics bring up Luther's opinion on James. If it comes up, hypothetically grant the validity of the Roman Catholic Church declaring the contents of the canon. Then point out Erasmus, Luther, and Cajetan formed their opinions and debated these issues previous to the Council of Trent's declaration. The New Catholic Encyclopedia points out,
"According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon."Erasmus, Cajetan, and Luther had every right within the Catholic system to engage in Biblical criticism and debate over the extent of the Canon. All expressed some doubt.Their's was not a radical higher criticism. The books they questioned were books that had been questioned by previous generations. None were so extreme as to engage in Marcion-like canon-destruction. Both Erasmus and Luther translated the entirety of Bible, and published it.
Finally, Luther says he cannot include James among his chief books "though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him." These are hardly the words of one claiming to be an infallible authority or a "super-pope" (as one Catholic apologist used to claim). This points out an important flaw in Catholic argumentation. Some actually argue as if we think Luther was an infallible authority. Luther didn't think he was, and I've yet to meet a Protestant who considers him anything more than a sinner saved by grace, imperfect, yet used by God during a crucial period in history.
Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented #3
04/02/2007 - James WhiteHere is the final portion of my cross examination of Gerry Matatics in 1997 on the topic of sola scriptura. In the next section I will present his turn, which will include the 18 second clip Porvaznik has posted. This portion ends with my giving Gerry a copy of the Soli Deo Gloria book on sola scriptura. Footnote 41 in my chapter on sola scriptura and the early church (pages 60-61) provides the following information, directly relevant to his question of me at the end:
Greek text found in Robert Thomson, edtior, Athanasius: Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 2. Or Migne, PG, 25:4. The Greek reads, auvta,rkeij me.n ga,r eivsin ai` a[giai kai. qeo,pneustoi grafai. pro.j th.n th/j avlhqei,aj avpaggeli,an. With reference to the term auvta,rkeij, we note the definition provided by Bauer, "sufficiency, a comptence" and "contentment, self-sufficiency." See Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 122. The most helpful work of Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domans (United Bible Societies: 1988), p. 680, says of the term, "a state of adequacy or sufficiency---'what is adequate, what is sufficient, what is needed, adequacy....' In a number of languages the equivalent of this expression in 2 Corinthians 9:8 may be 'always having all that you need' or, stated negatively, 'not lacking in anything.'"
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part III
04/01/2007 - James WhiteThe Teaching of Major Western Theologians of the Middle Ages
The perspective of the Glossa ordinaria is reflected in the views of the most influential theologians of the Church throughout the Middle Ages. They separated the Apocrypha from the canon, consistently citing the Hebrew canon and Jerome as authorities. Bruce Metzger affirms this reality:
Subsequent to Jeromes time and down to the period of the reformation a continuous succession of the more learned Fathers and theologians in the West maintained the distinctive and unique authority of the books of the Hebrew canon (Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford, 1957), p. 180).
A thorough documentation of the views of the Western theologians of the Church from Jerome to the time of the Reformation can be found here.
The majority view is that expressed by Cardinal Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan), the great opponent of Luther in the sixteenth century. Cajetan wrote a commentary on all the canonical books of the Old Testament which he dedicated to the pope. He stated that the books of the Apocrypha were not canonical in the strict sense, explaining that there were two concepts of the term canonical as it applied to the Old Testament. He gave the following counsel on how to properly interpret the decrees of the Councils of Hippo and Carthage under Augustine:
Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage (Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, In ult. Cap., Esther. Taken from A Disputation on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker (Cambridge: University, 1849), p. 48. See also B.F. Westcott A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Cambridge: MacMillan, 1889), p. 475.
This is a fair summary of the overall view of the Western Church from the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century. Jerome's opinion dominated. ...
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