Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Look at the Response to this Article
10/25/2007 - James WhiteI was just directed to this article (ht: Plaidman!) alleging that Francesco Forgione, aka, "Padre Pio," a "saint" so popular in Italy that a recent survey said more people there pray to him than to Jesus or Mary (!), faked his "stigmata" using carbolic acid. While that is all very interesting, what I found most intriguing was the reaction of the legions of people dedicated to "Padre Pio." Now remember, they aren't worshipping the man, see, they are only praying to him and asking for his intercession and things like that. And Rome has assured us, infallibly even, that prayer is not worship and dulia is not worship and we don't need to worry about all this idolatry stuff because, as Patrick Madrid mentioned in our debate, folks back in the past have had problems with idolatry, but we don't have the same problems today, so that is why we do not have to worry about those texts in the Bible that prohibit such things. But anyway, note the response to even daring to suggest that Padre Pio might just have been faking his alleged godliness:
The new allegations were greeted with an instant dismissal from his supporters. The Catholic Anti-Defamation League said Mr Luzzatto was a liar and was "spreading anti-Catholic libels".That can't be how anyone would respond to such an allegation, is it? Surely not! I mean, we have documented repeatedly how fair and even handed Roman Catholic apologists are in responding to criticism and refutation, so this is truly amazing, isn't it?
Pietro Siffi, the president of the League, said: "We would like to remind Mr Luzzatto that according to Catholic doctrine, canonisation carries with it papal infallibility.
"We would like to suggest to Mr Luzzatto that he dedicates his energies to studying religion properly."
Excuse me while I extract my tongue from my cheek.
Madrid on the Assumption
10/16/2007 - James SwanIn a previous entry, I explored the alleged parallel in the development of the Roman Catholic Marian dogmas and the Trinity. Recall, Catholic apologist Steve Ray recently sought to validate the Marian dogmas as developing like the Trinity developed. To hear Ray's assertion, listen to this recent Dividing Line broadcast.
I pointed out the Marian dogmas are not mined from Scripture. For instance, the assumption was not the result of God's people delving deeper and deeper into God's Word. It was not the result of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. It was not the result of in-depth exegetical studies. It is an idea found outside of Biblical revelation, imported into the Bible in a ploy for validity.
This week I re-listened to Dr. White's 1993 sola scriptura debate with Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid. It has been some time since I've listened to this. One particular comment from Madrid really jumped out this time, and is relevant to the non-biblical nature of the assumption. Madrid affirmed material sufficiency in this debate. Those adhering to material sufficiency hold all the doctrines Catholics are to believe are found in the Bible. Those holding to the partim-partim view say that part of God's special revelation is contained in Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. The challenge for those like Madrid is to place things like the assumption somewhere into Scripture, whether it fits or not. By doing this, one avoids the necessity of defining the content, extent, and historical validation of extra-biblical Tradition that adherence to the partim partim view demands.
Note the following comment from the 1993 debate:
Patrick Madrid: "Mr. White brought up the assumption. He could bring up any doctrine he might like, none of which would be the topic of our debate, tonight, but at some future point perhaps, we could discuss where those doctrines are found. The assumption, for example, since he brought it up, I'll just refer to it. Revelation, chapter 12, Mr. White. It's a very commonly used passage for Catholic apologists. I don't know why you would have missed that. The woman clothed with the Sun was seen not only by modern Catholic apologists as Mary's assumption, but also the early Church Fathers, which Mr. White is so fond of bringing into the picture. I'd be more than happy, in some future point, to demonstrate, in a different debate, how the early Church Fathers viewed Revelation 12. They exegeted that passage to mean that Mary had been brought up into Heaven in a special way. But, that's another topic."
I grant Madrid's point that the assumption was not the topic of debate. However, simply placing the assumption in Revelation 12 does not prove it belongs there. One of the most ironic things about Revelation 12, is that the woman described "cried out in pain as she was about to give birth." Think back to what God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16 as the result of her fall into sin, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children." So, while proving the assumption, Revelation 12 gives Catholic apologists new problems (Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin solves it this way: "Mary did not experience literal pain when bringing forth the Messiah, but she suffered figuratively").
But then Madrid appeals to the early church fathers as proof Revelation 12 is about the assumption. Fortunately for Madrid, very few actually read the early church fathers! If they did, they would discover the same thing Giovanni Miegge did. The earliest reference to Mary in Revelation 12 does not appear until the fourth century:
"The modern Mariologists like to turn to [Revelation 12], seeing in it an allegory of the Virgin Mary. But whatever can be thought of their interpretation, it is a fact that none of the early interpreters before the end of the fourth century see the Virgin Mary in the woman of the Revelation. They all understand her to be the Church and so they continue to make most of their interpretations in the following centuries. Ticonius is the first to suggest the Marian interpretation" [Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955, pp.101-102)].
So, the earliest church fathers see "the woman" as "the Church," yet somehow, this earlier interpretation must be wrong, and the post-fourth century interpretation must be correct. Why? Because Mary's assumption needs to be in the Bible. Or, perhaps, it is both Mary and the Church. Without Rome telling us, anything goes. For instance, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin says the woman is "a four-way symbol": Mary, the Church, Israel, and Eve. That covers all bases!
Well, it was 1993 when Madrid said this, and he appears to have himself "developed." In his booklet, A Pocket Guide To Catholic Apologetics (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006), Madrid states on page 27:
Mary's Bodily Assumption into Heaven
Not mentioned in Scripture. However, other bodily 'assumptions' are mentioned- Enoch (Gen 5:24; Heb. 11:5), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1, 11-12), and those alive at the second coming (1 Thess 4:13-18).
But then, without any explanation, he simply puts: "Rev 12:1-8," and it is not a proof-text intended to be part of those just mentioned. It stands alone by itself. So perhaps, Madrid is simply saying the words "Mary's Bodily Assumption into Heaven" is not mentioned in Scripture. Whatever the case, Revelation 12 stands as a desperate attempt to place the assumption in Scripture. It certainly does not have any exegetical merit for demanding it be the interpretation of Revelation 12, nor are the early church fathers, the alleged keepers of sacred Tradition, unanimous in interpreting the passage as Madrid suggests.
Followup: Steve Ray's 'World Premier'
10/09/2007 - James SwanAfter this past Thursday's Dividing Line, I've been looking around for any type of response from Steve Ray or his supporters. One person on Ray's discussion board at the "world premier" quipped, "There was also some guy named J. White on the guest list, but he never showed." Well, at least this may indicate some of his Ray's supporters at least seem to be aware of Dr. White's review.
One person on Steve Ray's blog commented,
"I’m not Roman Catholic, but I have more freedom to enjoy the riches the RC church has to offer than Dr. White would urge. I thought on his podcast he overstated the 'perspicuity' of the doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture alone and minimized the creedal and theological development that the doctrine went through."
It doesn't appear this person listened closely, as one of the main points was that the evidence for the Trinity is mined from the Scriptures, as the outcome of God's people examining God's revealed inscripturated truth. The guiding factor for the development of the Trinity is the Bible. As Dr. White pointed out in his book Scripture Alone, "The text of Scripture provides the grounds and, most important, the limits for this development over time." And also, "Real development of Christian doctrine is simply our ever-increasing understanding of the Word" (p.185).
Contrarily, the Roman Catholic Marian dogmas are not mined from Scripture. The assumption and the immaculate conception are not the result of God's people delving deeper and deeper into God's Word. They are not the result of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. They are not the result of in-depth exegetical studies. They are ideas found outside of Biblical revelation. As Dr. White notes, "Many doctrinal formulations that Rome claims 'developed' over time are not only non-biblical but downright anti-biblical. These came about as a result of a process; however, it was not development of Christian doctrine but slowly departing from Christian doctrine" (p.185).
For the defenders of Rome to make their parallel between the Trinity and the Marian dogmas, they would have to demonstrate the Marian dogmas are the result of God's people dealing with, and only with, God's Word. Recall a few days ago I mentioned The New Catholic Answer Bible stated, "Is Mary's assumption described in the Bible? No, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen." Here is as blatant a denial of true Biblical doctrinal development as one can find.
Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott states, "The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not explicitly revealed in Scripture" (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p.200). He also admits that the first monograph on this subject was written in the twelfth century (p.201). Because of this, I would argue Roman Catholics are forced to begin with the immaculate conception, and then secondarily seek to refer back to Scripture for support or implicit proofs. So if there is any development here, it is backward development. It is taking a developed concept and seeking to read it back into Scripture. This is exactly what Pius XII said to do in the papal encyclical Humani generis:
"It is also true that theologians must always have recourse to the sources of divine revelation; for it is their duty to indicate how what is taught by the living magisterium is found, either explicitly or implicitly, in Sacred Scripture and in divine 'tradition'. "
David King rightfully stated of this,
"This language of Pius XII amounts to a prescription, not for exegesis, but for eisegesis, i.e. reading into Scripture and/or tradition the doctrinal pronouncements of the Roman magisterium. Scripture, not to mention tradition, is regarded as an afterthought. It is the Roman magisterium that becomes the norma normans non normata, and as such, acts as the norma normans (the norm that norms) for both Scripture and tradition. Rome makes herself the final standard for the adjudication of all doctrine. To paraphrase Pius XII above, the magisterium defines, then the theologians find. Rome's position is de facto that of sola Ecclesia, a law unto herself" (Holy Scripture Vol. 1, p. 244).
This backward development expressed by Pius XII can be mistaken as Biblical study. For instance, In seeking out implicit scriptural proofs, appeals to the phrase "full of grace" as a translation of Luke 1:28 are offered. This text is a favorite of the New Catholic E-pologists, but is not warranted, being rejected in many modern translations and scholarship. Even the translation used by the New Catholic Answer Bible (NAB) translates the phrase "Hail favored one!" This of course, does not stop the insert writers (Dave Armstrong and Paul Thigpen) from translating the phrase "full of grace"in one of their inserts and using it as a proof text. Nor does "full of grace" make any sense in the context. As Eric Svendsen pointed out, "Contextually, the reason Mary is 'highly favored' is because she 'has been elected by God to conceive the Messiah', not because of some intrinsic and permanent quality of grace within Mary" (Who Is My Mother?, p. 129).
Roman Catholic apologists have to be called out on the Marian dogma / Trinity parallel. By doing so, it's an opportunity to direct them solely to the Biblical text, and also exposes faulty argumentation. Primarily, it exposes that what determines truth in Roman Catholicism is not the Bible. The guiding principle for Roman Catholic doctrinal development is none other than the Roman Catholic Church. That which sets the boundaries for Romanism is Rome. The Bible functions as it does in all sola Ecclesia groups, as a vehicle to promote what it wants God to say, rather than what God has said.
Today on the Dividing Line: the World Premiere of Steve Ray's New DVD! Excitement is an Understatement!
10/04/2007 - James WhiteI almost lost consciousness this morning when I saw this announcement appear on my screen:
World Premier of Apostolic Fathers!
Friday night I will be giving an introductory talk on the Apostolic Fathers before showing our new DVD for the first time!! The title is Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith.
Anyone who buys a copy at this event will also receive a free copy of my audio CD From Baptist to Catholic: the Unintended Journey.
Oh man, if I could just get a flight to Troy, Michigan, for the World Premiere of this...DVD! I wonder who will be there? Mel? Britney? Denzel? This would be big enough to break out the kilt! But alas, I probably won't be able to make it. But I sure would like a copy of From Baptist to Catholic: the Unintended Journey. Even the title reminds me of such great works of cinema and literature like...Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
However, just recently Steve Ray was on Catholic Answers Live talking about the very same topic, so today on the DL, to help Steve celebrate the World Premiere of this DVD, we will be playing some clips from his appearance on the program. We really need to do this since, as we will hear, Ray is an "expert" on the early church. And one thing we have all learned from watching The Journey Home is that all you have to do is pop open a single book of the early church fathers and bang you will be praying to Saint Bellarmine by the time the book hits the desktop. No one has ever read the early church writers without converting to Rome, and surely this new DVD will have folks clamoring to join up as well! Of course...I might have a few facts from the history of that period to bring to bear that might have missed the "cut" and didn't make it onto the DVD...maybe. We will see! But don't miss all the excitement of the World Premiere show today on the DL, 7pm Eastern Snob Time, 4pm Pacific Laid Back Time, 4pm Mountain Honoring of Time...Time.
Oh, btw...for those interested, the final from last night was...D'Backs 3, Cubs 1. :-) For some odd reason, my friend back East is not replying to my text messages. Isn't that odd?
The New Catholic Answer Bible (Part One)
10/04/2007 - James Swan
After about a year of stopping myself, I finally picked up The New Catholic Answer Bible (Wichita: Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005). The work appears to be some sort of collaboration between Dr. Paul Thigpen, editor of The Catholic Answer magazine and My Daily Catholic Bible (Our Sunday Visitor) and Dave Armstrong (a self-proclaimed Catholic apologist). Thigpen left the charismatic movement to swim the Tiber, and holds a PH.D in historical theology. Armstrong, also a convert, calls his swim across the Tiber "Confessions of a 1980s' Jesus Freak." To my knowledge, he has no theological training.
So far I haven't been able to locate any information within the book as to who wrote either the notes or the plentiful information inserts. Amazon.com indicates Armstrong and Thigpen wrote the inserts (the Amazon link features a picture of Armstrong, so I think it's safe to say Armstrong is involved, he also links to this book from his blog). But, I haven't found either Thigpen's or Armstrong's names anywhere in the book. Well, it is around 1400 pages, so perhaps I'll come across this information yet. I wrote the publisher a few days ago asking for this information, and so far, no response. This reminds me a little bit of the old who wrote the New World Translation? Add to this, the frequent Watchtower-like drawings throughout this book, giving one that "I'm reading something a bit slippery" feel.
The book is set up like a typical study Bible with commentary notes at the bottom of each page. Whoever wrote these notes though, is still a mystery. Throughout the book are "inserts." These are one page topical overviews of Roman Catholic doctrine, basic theological, and apologetic issues. I'm going to guess these are primarily Armstrong's and Thigpen's, and there is indeed a difference in content between the inserts and commentary. The commentary appears to be written by someone with at least some exegetical training. The inserts have more of the typical current trend of Catholic pop-apologetics.
As I've skimmed through the book, one thing I immediately looked for was what particular body of doctrine was this Bible going to attempt to give "answers" to. That is, is this Bible going to defend the growing popular Catholic understanding of material sufficiency, or will it use vague language, giving it a partim-partim slant? Those adhering to material sufficiency would hold all the doctrines Catholics are to believe are found in the Bible. Those holding to the Partim-Partim view say that part of God's special revelation is contained in the Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. I think this is a crucial question, because it will determine exactly how particular answers will be given. For instance, will non-biblical key Catholic dogmas like the assumption, papal infallibility, or indulgences be defended and proof-texted in the commentary, or will these been seen as elements of Tradition?
Perhaps this quote from Insert U1 (after page 1314) provides the answer:
"Some Christians insist that only Scripture is authoritative for Christian faith and life. They deny the Catholic teaching (and the historical reality) that Scripture is actually a written portion of a much wider sacred and authoritative Tradition, which includes other elements passed down orally and by patterns of behavior. They fail to realize that if Scripture were the only legitimate source of Christian belief and practice, the early Christians who lived before the New Testament was written and circulated could not have lived the faith. St. Paul alludes to this reality. He tells the Thessalonians how to discern the truth from error: 'Brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement [oral tradition] or by a letter of ours [Scripture]' (2 Thes 2:15). "
Insert N-2 states the following:
"St. Paul, for example, commands Christians to 'hold fast' to the traditions he has passed on to them, both those that were written down (and were later recognized as Scripture) and those that were not written down (see 2 Thes 2:15)."
This seems to be a partim-partim leaning. Interestingly, the commentary note on 2 Thes. 2:15 doesn't even address this particular issue. I was a bit shocked to find that The Catholic Answer Bible didn't have this bolded with a two-page section of commentary, as it has been a key proof-text for Roman apologists. I think this points out the difference in scholarship between the writers of the inserts and the writers of the notes. The insert writers present your standard Catholic pop-apologetics.
So, as far as I can tell, this answer-Bible will not be helpful on one of the most important issues facing Roman Catholics, that is, are Catholics defending more material than is found in the Bible? Perhaps Armstrong and Thigpen plan on doing The New Catholic Answer Tradition Book sometime in the future. For instance, in their note on the assumption, they state,
"Is Mary's assumption described in the Bible? No, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. The death of St. Joseph isn't described in Scripture, either, though it's certain that this important event took place within the years chronicled by the gospels. In fact, many events even in the life of our Lord himself were not recorded in Scripture (see jn 21:25). The assumption of Mary is only one of the many significant events in the life of the early Church that have been remembered and witnessed to by ancient Tradition."
So, this "answer Bible" is not limited to giving Biblical answers! Non-biblical answers are included in the inserts written by Thigpen and Armstrong. In the next few weeks, I'm going to post more of the answers I've found in The New Catholic Answer Bible. Perhaps the next edition should include the disclaimer: "not all answers will be Biblical."