Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
05/24/2009 - James WhiteI apologize for being less than blogorific or video-rific, etc. I am trying to get a lot done, but it isn't necessarily stuff that is easily "seen" very quickly. I made progress on a chapter in the Beckwith response today, however, and wanted to provide just a paragraph as an example. This is from a chapter where I am examining the simple fact that Frank Beckwith never actually crossed the Tiber River: he paddled around in the middle, always holding Rome's view of man, Rome's view of grace, Rome's view of natural law (just like a lot of other "non-Catholics" we could name, like Norman Geisler and William Lane Craig). In Return to Rome Beckwith narrates how he answered his niece's question as to why he wasn't a Roman Catholic. Upon quoting his response, I reply:
While this answer was being given to a young person, and hence would not be as full as might be given in another context, the fact is that the reply is telling all the same. I have often been asked the same question in various venues, and my response is, Lord willing, consistent. Why am I not a Roman Catholic? Because Roman Catholicism has a gospel that does not give peace, because it fundamentally violates the Scriptural teaching on how one is made right with God. Rome has a false gospel that cannot save, hence, I have no reason to abandon the peace I have with God through Christ's perfect atonement for the treadmill of Rome's sacramental system of salvation. One would think that anyone who has purposefully crossed the Tiber because they have encountered the gospel and been changed thereby would have a similar response. Beckwith's reply is a tepid statement of taste, a general "we are very much the same but I have a few disagreements on these side issues" type of thing that while reflecting a lot of modern evangelicalism is likewise far removed from the heartfelt motivations of the Reformation.
Having given this response, Beckwith then asked the question cited above. It likewise reflects that he was still very much in the middle of the Tiber River, for the person who has embraced the gospel of grace has not only landed his boat on the far side, but has torn the boat apart to use the wood as a pulpit from which to proclaim freedom in Christ to those trapped on the other shore. But Beckwith can speak of permanently abandoning Rome as something he could not yet actually justify! Surely this kind of statement demonstrates the thesis at hand, as no person who has found peace in the gospel of grace in contrast to Rome's sacramentalism will forget to mention that as the primary reason he or she does not submit to Rome's claims of authority.
"We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary #10
05/19/2009 - Tur8infanTo a certain extent I'm treading on Mr. James Swan's toes in posting this episode to the "We Have Apostolic Tradition" series. Mr. Swan had noticed that Roman Catholic apologists often let us know how crucial it is to have an infallible magisterium and church Tradition in order to interpret the Bible correctly. With so many Roman Catholic apologists now commenting on sacred scripture, Mr. Swan thought it would be interesting to provide their commentary on the Bible. Let's see how they've been able to rightly divide the word of truth.
One issue that comes up again and again is the issue of justification by faith alone. As most people know, this was an issue of great importance to Luther and is viewed as one of the dividing lines of the Reformation. Accordingly, many Roman Catholics have been quick to accuse Luther of adding the word "alone" to his translation of Romans. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
The White Man's Burden...AGAIN?
05/18/2009 - James WhiteI'll admit, I'm dumbfounded. I have often said that Rome's primary American apologists live in a land, far far away from reality. They simply do not care what their most serious critics provide in the way of rebuttal. Once they have produced an argument, they will repeat it, no matter how often it is refuted, shredded, and otherwise turned into apologetic confetti.
Patrick Madrid has suffered some very serious apologetic black eyes over the years. Yet, he seems proud of having produced some of the clearest examples of the "as long as it serves Mother Rome, I'll publish it" pieces of anyone I know. One would think that having produced material that resulted in such thorough and embarrassing refutation would result in someone hoping the evidence of their errors would just disappear with time. But for Madrid, the worse it was, the more he seems to want to promote it!
A few months ago we went through both debates I have done with Patrick Madrid point by point demonstrating the circularity and errors of both of his presentations. Of course, he can trust that most of his audience will never look very closely at the facts, but again, that just illustrates the difference between defending the truth as an apologist and defending a man-made system.
But Madrid was behind one of the most embarrassing published hit pieces I've ever seen put in print. Yet, he continues to promote the article despite the fact that any semi-unbiased person would be shocked at its impudence and dishonesty. If I had ever produced an entire article attacking someone based upon a footnote my conscience would not allow me to continue doing what I do. But, when you serve Mother Rome, evidently, it's OK.
Likewise, long ago Madrid wrote a hit-piece for This Rock seeking to do damage control after our first debate in San Diego. "The White Man's Burden" was a tremendous example of the character of apologetics practiced in defense of Rome. I thoroughly and completed reviewed and refuted the article here. Now, please realize, Madrid has never responded to what I wrote. He has had the opportunity for well over a decade. But given the very surface level character of his published works, I truly do not believe he can, in fact, provide any kind of further depth than the standard argumentation he has presented since his days with Catholic Answers.
So imagine my amazement to see Madrid's current blog entry, here. Patrick often posts old Envoy articles, or in this case, a This Rock article, even when those articles have, since that time, been refuted. But you see, he knows that only a very small percentage of his readers would ever be in danger of actually considering the other side, so, hey, it works. And just there you have the heart of what separates Christian apologetics from...everything else. You see, truth is not a pragmatic thing. It is not a matter of, "Well, that works." There are all sorts of bad arguments that "work" for this group or that. The Christian---at least, the consistent one---can't use such arguments. The enemies of the faith can take the low road, the easy road, all the time. As long as "it works," it's good. But that kind of path is not open for those who seek to follow the One who called Himself the truth.
I think I know why that article appeared on Madrid's blog: we have not been shy about putting the spotlight on Patrick's problems with his followers, and especially with the always embarrassing Art Sippo. Patrick has never been able to control Sippo. Even in Toledo during our debate he allowed Art to get away with all sorts of antics. Then again, I don't believe Patrick would ever call down a Roman Catholic (which is why I'd never let him moderate a debate again), just as he allowed Gerry Matatics to meander about in our first debate without even mentioning the topic of the debate until 14 minutes into his 20 minute opening statement. (I note with some irony that the video of that first debate has never seen the light of day, either; it, like the first two debates with Mitch Pacwa, remains locked in the darkness of Scott Butler's video vault. May I once again encourage Mr. Butler to "do the right thing" and release those videos?). But in any case, I think he dug this old dud out of the closet just because he really doesn't have anything else to do in response to the exposure of the antics on his "Speak Our Mind" web board. I could be wrong---wouldn't be the first time---but I sorta doubt it.
The Obamination of Notre Dame
05/18/2009 - James WhiteYou can't help but think about the constant drum-beat of Roman Catholic apologists in attacking sola scriptura as you consider the speech given by Barak Obama at Notre Dame. Why? It's fairly obvious. We are told that Rome has this God-given unity found in "tradition," and a living head who can interpret doctrine and safeguard the faith. Yet, the fact is that a majority of US Catholics don't seem to be benefitting from this source of "unity," in that they voted for a man who stands inalterably opposed to key elements of their church's teaching, particularly in reference to the murder of unborn children. It seems a majority of elected Roman Catholics likewise care little about what the Pope says, or the Church teaches. But, at the same time, the Church of Rome does nothing about these things, allowing pro-abortion Catholics to remain in communion with her. Sure, a few maverick bishops have spoken out, but what about all the ones who don't, and who continue to allow these politicians who mock Rome's teachings to remain in their "care"?
For most of us, there's an obvious question to be answered here: why didn't the Pope call up the priest who runs Notre Dame and tell him to rescind the invitation to the most pro-abortion American President of all time? If you answer, "That would be politically damaging," you've just said a mouthful about the Bishop of Rome. If you say "He doesn't have that power" well, ditto. But if you consider what Obama said to the graduating students (to which they often applauded), in essence he said, "Truth? Divine revelation? Come on, that's just one viewpoint. Let's all just get along, OK?" And if the polls are accurate, a majority of those graduates were in full agreement with Obama, not with the Pope. At Notre Dame. In fact, I bet the majority of the teaching staff voted for Obama as well and agreed with his relativism in his speech.
So honestly, to all our Roman Catholic friends who love to berate the sufficiency of Scripture, attack sola scriptura, and in general exalt the wondrous "unity" that comes from having a Pope, pray tell: what good is having an infallible leader who doesn't lead? As the "shepherd" of the flock, he surely knew a ravenous wolf was going to be let loose in the flock of students at Notre Dame, did he not? Why did he do nothing? Indeed, why are the leftist liberal academics of Rome allowed to promote their unbelief under the banner of Rome day in and day out?
I'm not the only one wondering these things. Many a Roman Catholic today is wondering as well. That is honestly one of the reasons you see the sedevacantist movement growing. Many are giving up and looking for someone literally "more Catholic than the Pope." And while I would love to sit back and watch Gerry Matatics debate someone like Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Jimmy Akin, Steve Ray, etc., the fact is that both sides can make their case based upon the very same body of documents, since, obviously, there is no one consistent interpretation of the mountain of "stuff" Rome has produced. Rome's pronouncements do not clarify, they muddle.
So those of us out here watching the ever-changing saga of modern Rome have to wonder: if the Roman Church's teachings do not even carry the moral weight that should have produced embarrassment on the part of the hierarchy of Notre Dame, just what good are they, and how does this reflect upon Rome's claims of ecclesiastical supremacy?
Stop Telling the World What We Say Here!
05/18/2009 - James WhiteOver the past few years I, and others, have posted various claims, assertions, arguments, and especially, melt-downs, by participants in the "Speak Your Mind" forums on Patrick Madrid's Roman Catholic website. As the material was publicly accessible, it was a veritable gold mine of bad arguments, circularity, and, of course, with Art Sippo posting there, a treasure trove of wild-eyed Inquisition Era Roman Catholicism. We noted the obvious contradictions between Madrid's "This is how we should do apologetics" and Sippo's fire-breathing invective, and the sad job of the moderators to follow Art around, cleaning up his verbal messes. We noted that the moderators installed a filter that removes "aomin.org" from any URL posted there as well (a telling commentary on just how much, or what portions, of your mind you are actually allowed to speak).
Yesterday I posted something that was put up by one of the moderators which was directly in response to an argument I have made a number of times. I demonstrated the shallow nature of the argument and showed that it comprised a "non-response." Evidently, that was "the last straw." Not only did Algo get banned (based on some vague accusation of "copyrights" as if publicly posted messages are "copyrighted" and hence protected from fair use), but if you try to access the forums now, this is what you see (at least, as of the time of this posting):
Well, there you go! No more public access! That is the only appropriate way of handling the situation. I mean, we all know you can't really speak your mind in the Speak Your Mind forums; we all know Art Sippo is an embarrassment to any thinking Roman Catholic advocate, but, for some reason, Patrick Madrid and his cadre of assistants can't seem to get rid of him. So, this is wise: do as Tur8inFan has described it and "turtle." Shut the doors and the windows and chit chat with each other. Then you can spout all the really bad arguments you want, and hey, nobody will be the wiser! Sippo can flame all the "prots" on the planet and only you will know! Very wise indeed! Of course, my suggestion would be to change the forum name out of respect for honesty to "Speak Your Mind As Long As It is in Accordance With Our Understanding of the Roman Magisterium." That's a bit long, but hey, we all have wide monitors now anyway, right?
Patrick Madrid Turtles
05/18/2009 - Tur8infanOne may recall that Patrick Madrid has a web forum called Speak your Mind Apologetics Forum. He uses the URL "SurprisedByTruth" for his web site. I noted with little surprise that he had recently decided to stop my friend who uses the nick "Algo" from speaking his mind and surprising the Roman Catholics in that forum with the truth of Scripture and truths about the Early Church Fathers. However, I did have to smile a bit when I noticed that the entire forum has now been encased in a protective shell of registration, lest outsiders shine any more light on the deception routinely attempted there.
That's right, they've turtled: gone into their shells so that when they speak their own mind no one outside their tightly limited group will be able easily to correct them. One is truly reminded of the child who stuffs his fingers in his ears and shouts a bit louder so as to plausibly deny that he has heard what is being told him.
Is this what Roman Catholic Apologetics (or at least Patrick Madrid's variety thereof) has been reduced to? What's next? Will Patrick's next debate (assuming he debates again) be "recording prohibited" so that no one can respond to it? Will his blog be hidden too? Who knows.
Sola Ecclesia Produces Amazing Historical Anachronism
05/16/2009 - James WhiteYears ago in a written debate on the claims of Roman Catholicism I pointed out the bankruptcy of the constantly repeated slogan that states that Rome is the church of the past 2,000 years. The fact that Newman had to create his development hypothesis proves that the claim is empty: the early centuries did not embrace, as part of their faith, so much that defines modern Roman Catholic dogma. I have often pointed to Nicea as a convenient and important date in church history and asked which of the bishops there embraced, as part of the Christian faith, such concepts as transubstantiation, purgatory, the thesaurus meritorum, Papal Infallibility, the Marian dogmas, etc. and etc. Now, we do not have an exhaustive record of every sermon preached by every bishop who was at the Council of Nicea. In fact, we don't even have an exhaustive list of their names, for that matter. But remember, it is Rome's claim that she is the church, the same church, that has existed since Pentecost. She, uniquely, bears Christ's authority. Is this not the claim? So, if it is, then it should follow that this claim could garner positive documentation, correct? We should be able to discern these beliefs in the surviving sermons and records of that period, should we not?
Recently one of our channel regulars posted this argument in the Envoy forums. Quickly Patti "Scissor Hands" replied to it. Now, I am very impressed with Patti's zeal. What a life it must be to sit next to your computer day and night, just waiting for someone to post something so you can quickly either attempt to refute it, or, if it was written by Art "Mad Dog" Sippo, edit it or delete it (and quickly before it can be added to the long, long list of embarrassing flaming posts written under Art's name). It did not take long for Patti to respond, and she did so by posting from this website the following words:
Let’s start with the first. Transubstantiation. Would the Bishops at Nicea recognize the word? No. If the concept was explained, would they agree? Absolutely. Purgatory? No. The concept, once explained? Most likely. And so on. Explaining some of the positions (i.e., thesaurus meritorum) might take some time, but I don’t think there’d be any real hang-ups. A chunk all go together (Purgatory/indulgences/thesaurus meritorum…without Purgatory, there’s no need for indulgences, nor a treasury of merit.)Now, before reviewing this attempted response, I note two things: 1) evidently, for Patti, any commentary, no matter how accurate or useful, is "sufficient" as long as it has sought to defend Mother Rome, and 2) bland assertions, without even an attempt at documentation, are sufficient in defense of Rome. Surely the reader immediately asked the question, "Wait a minute--how can you possibly know that those bishops would have agreed with these later formulations? Is that not arguing in a circle?" Of course it is, but remember, Patti, and all of those like her, are caught in the circle of sola ecclesia, the Roman Church as the final authority in all things. So when you ask how they can possibly know what the bishops at Nicea would have accepted, "had it been explained to them," they say they know because the Roman Church teaches it, and it has existed for 2000 years. Now at this point, if you are experiencing nausea due to the spinning of the tight circles of bad logic, please stop reading, sit down, focus on the horizon, and breathe deeply for a few moments before continuing.
But there’s a greater underlying problem in White’s argument. White is relying on Sola Scriptura, without recognizing that sola scriptura itself wouldn’t be recognized by the Bishops at Nicea. White has left himself in a bad position, because in trying to argue that the Bishops wouldn’t agree with something like Papal Infallibility (which, again, they would agree with once the concept was explained), he makes them the judges, the authorities. Ask the judges if absolutely everything that a Christian should believe is contained in the Scriptures. Explain the concept to them, and watch them reject the idea. “You think we were able to put everything needed to be a Christian into the Bible? You think everything we believe is contained in 2000 pages of text, and that by writing it down we’ve done away with Oral Tradition? HA!”
Obviously, replying to this basic observation (that the definitional elements of modern Roman Catholic dogma were not propounded or held by the bishops at Nicea, a fact that would not even be disputed in the vast majority of Roman Catholic universities today--indeed, one wonders what percentage of modern Roman Catholic scholarship would even think that Nicea got the answer to the question right!) by saying that we may not have any positive evidence to cite (for surely, if there was such evidence, they would have been producing it!) but that we can be sure that they would have agreed with us had anyone explained the concepts to them is the kind of argumentation that can be used to defend anything. It isn't even argumentation, really. It is wishful thinking hiding behind empty assertions. And notice how fast the writer abandons this very unpleasant area (one in which the Roman Catholic apologist's every move will only throw more light upon the absence of evidence in support of his central assertions) and moves on to an attack upon...sola scriptura of course! It is a common ploy for Roman Catholics, when they are on shakey ground, to toss some dust in the air of the argument by means of "Hey, we all know sola scriptura is wrong!" Sadly, for most of their compatriots, that's pretty much all it takes.
The first paragraph of the response, then, is irrelevant. It is a non-response. The second is even worse, if that is possible. The objection is not, in fact, based upon sola scriptura at all. How can a challenge that notes the evolutionary nature of Roman dogma over time, which stands at complete odds with the claim that Rome is the same church over 2000 years of history, be based upon sola scriptura? We are not told. But we are told that those bishops would have rejected sola scriptura! Really? So when I quote Athanasius not only asserting the sufficiency of Scripture, but demonstrate that he consistently argued for the deity of Christ upon that bedrock of truth, and point out that his actions in opposing the entire ecclesiastical structure of his day (including the bishop of Rome) are utterly incompatible with the modern Roman understanding of scripture and tradition and magisterium, what will be the response? "He's just one theologian" possibly, as Gerry Matatics was want to do in such situations? It is hard to say. But compare the shallow sounding mockery of the sufficiency of the Scriptures found in the last lines with the words of Psalm 119. Compare such Roman-inspired error with Jesus' own view of Scripture. Such empty mockery rings very hollow when compared with the biblical testimonies to the Word's sufficiency.
But let us allow Athanasius, himself at Nicea (though not yet a bishop), to refute this cavil against divine truth. I am grateful to announce that the work on scriptural sufficiency that originally came out in 1995 is coming out again! This work, with chapters by R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Sinclair Ferguson, addresses many facets of this vitally important topic. I contributed a lengthy chapter on the early church's view, and I focused a good bit on Athanasius, starting with the best Rome has to offer in citations from him, then, having provided the relevant context, moving to the positive testimonies he provided. In celebration of the re-release of that book in the near future, I provide that material. Let the reader compare the shallow triumphalism of Rome with a sober discussion of what this early writer actually said, and what he actually meant.
What then of the positive testimony from Athanasius? We note first and foremost the plain words from his work against the heathen:
For indeed the holy and God-breathed Scriptures are self-sufficient for the preaching of the truth.In this passage Athanasius begins with a fundamental tenet of his faith: the full sufficiency of Scripture for the proclamation of the truth. He immediately goes on to note that God uses other sources to teach truth as well, including godly men with an insight into Scripture. But he begins where Protestants and Roman Catholics part company: with the sufficiency of Scripture. He had learned such things from those who came before him. He even mentions the words of Antony, "The Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words."
When writing to the Egyptian bishops he asserted:
But since holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us, therefore recommending to those who desire to know more of these matters, to read the Divine word, I now hasten to set before you that which most claims attention, and for the sake of which principally I have written these things.The high view of Scripture is continued in this passage from Athanasius work on the Incarnation of the Word of God:
Let this, then, Christ-loving man, be our offering to you, just for a rudimentary sketch and outline, in a short compass, of the faith of Christ and of His Divine appearing usward. But you, taking occasion by this, if you light upon the text of the Scriptures, by genuinely applying your mind to them, will learn from them more completely and clearly the exact detail of what we have said. For they were spoken and written by God, through men who spoke for God.
One will search in vain for a reference wherein this Father describes oral tradition in such a way, and yet Trent did not fear to so speak of tradition. Rather than finding OBrien's idea that Scripture is not a safe guide as to what we are to believe, Athanasius said: ". . . for the tokens of truth are more exact as drawn from Scripture, than from other sources." These other sources included church councils, such as that of Nicea, which Athanasius defended so strongly. Yet he realized that his sufficiency was not based upon the alleged authority of a council, but that the power of that council came from its fidelity to Scripture. Note his words with reference to the Arians:
Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faiths sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.
By now the phrase "for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things" should be familiar, as it is a constant thread in Athanasius writings. And it is vital to note that the weight of the Nicene Council is described in terms of the consistency of the Councils teachings with the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.
 Translation of the author. Greek text found in Robert Thomson, editor, Athanasius: Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 2. Or Migne, PG, 25:4. With reference to the term sufficiency, we note the definition provided by Bauer, sufficiency, a competence and contentment, self-sufficiency. See Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago: The 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 Domains (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 Cor. 9:8 may be always having all that you need or, stated negatively, not lacking in anything."
 Athanasius, Vita S. Antoni, 16, NPNF, Series II, IV:200.
 Athanasius, Ad Episcopos Ægyptiæ, NPNF, Series II, IV:225. The Greek text is found in Migne, PG, 25:548.
 Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, 56, NPNF Series II, IV:66. Text in Meijering, p. 10, and Migne, PG, 25:196.
 Athanasius, De Decretis, 32, NPNF, Series II, IV:172, Migne, PG, 25:476.
 Athanasius, De Synodis, 6, NPNF, II, IV:453, Migne, PG, 26:689.
[The original notes provide the Greek, as will the new edition; I don't have time to convert the font files however for this blog entry, which forced me to remove even more discussion based upon the Greek text in the notes.]
Art Sippo on 1 Corinthians 3 and Purgatory
05/13/2009 - James WhiteI noted today another fascinating post from Art Sippo, the Catholic lay apologist (and writer of odd pulp fiction stories). Algo had posted a few quotes that demonstrate, as all rational historians recognize, that dogmas like purgatory developed over time, and hence, are not apostolic in origin. Sippo's response is, once again, classic:
Ah yes, Algo. Spoken like someone who cannot read the Bible himself and must defer to the opinions of others.Let's consider Sippo's claims, especially his attempt to interact with 1 Corinthians 3. But before we do, let's note an interaction I had with an actual Catholic apologist who has standing as a priest:
Sorry, Charlie. I stand on the words of Scripture. i will quote them for you here so that the readers in this forum may judge for themselves what they mean.
1Cr 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.
1Cr 3:11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Cr 3:12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--
1Cr 3:13 each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
1Cr 3:14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
1Cr 3:15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Now I know that Protestants are truly sycophants to any one who has a degree (whether the degree is phony of not). That is because your false religions are based on human pride and arrogance.
But I think that you and your ilk need a reality check here. We are told by St. Paul that on "the DAY" (which is the day of judgment) God will confront us with fire and reward the good that we have done in the light of it while the flames burn away anything not founded in Jesus and his teaching. This is PRECISELY what Catholic teaching says about Purgatory.
The following is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Purgatory and this includes the references in the CCC to Scripture and Tradition.
Please note that the Catechism -- a document produced by consensus of the Bishops for the Catholic Church as a whole - affirms that 1Cor 3:15 refers to Purgatory.
I stand with the Church. You are wrong.
So let's consider Sippo's claims.
Ah yes, Algo. Spoken like someone who cannot read the Bible himself and must defer to the opinions of others.Remember, this is the same man who will close his post by citing the Universal Catholic Catechism. I don't know, seems very inconsistent to me.
Now I know that Protestants are truly sycophants to any one who has a degree (whether the degree is phony of not). That is because your false religions are based on human pride and arrogance.This is called ad hominem argumentation and is irrelevant to the point at hand. But it is classic Sippo anyway.
But I think that you and your ilk need a reality check here. We are told by St. Paul that on "the DAY" (which is the day of judgment) God will confront us with fire and reward the good that we have done in the light of it while the flames burn away anything not founded in Jesus and his teaching. This is PRECISELY what Catholic teaching says about Purgatory.Now, as I asked Father Stravinskas, where do you get the idea that this "fire" is in any way related to something that could be called "satispassio," as Rome does? Purgatory is for those who are headed to heaven: they died in a state of grace. The fire of purgatory (whether taken literally over time, as Rome obviously indicated for centuries on end, or now metaphorically, as the kinder, gentler Rome seems to indicate) is meant to cleanse away the temporal punishments of sins. But this testing in the day of judgment is about the motivations of the works done by Christian leaders. There is nothing here about temporal punishments. Besides, there is only one result of the testing in purgatory: everyone ends up in heaven. But there are two results of this testing: there are those whose works remain, and they receive a reward. And there are those who works are burned up, but they are saved anyway. So could someone tell me how there is anyone in purgatory whose works, upon being tested, are shown to be gold, silver, and precious stones? Aren't those the godly, the righteous, who receive a reward? But purgatory is for those who have in fact been judged, but, they are judged to have more temporal punishment for sin upon their souls than they have positive merit, so they must be cleansed and prepared through purgatory. So how does one get from a fire that tests works of Christian leaders, demonstrating who did what they did in life for the glory of Christ, to the fire of purgatory that should only be applied to those having temporal punishments of sin? You sure don't get there by exegesis. Instead, the only way to get this text to teach that kind of theology is by doing what Sippo himself accused Algo of:
Spoken like someone who cannot read the Bible himself and must defer to the opinions of others.Physician, heal thyself!
05/08/2009 - James WhiteI have a 2 hour interview that I really need to have accurately transcribed for use in a current book project. If someone with transcriptional skills would like to transcribe a 2 hour mp3, please let us know. We have received transcriptions from folks in the past, for which I am very grateful, but I never wish to presume upon those who have done so before. Thanks!
Update: Thanks to everyone who volunteered. Fairly early on the same kind believers who had transcribed the Ehrman debate contacted me to take on the project.
Avoiding Landmines in Roman Catholic Apologetics
05/06/2009 - Tur8infanIntroduction
One branch of Apologetics deals with responses to the challenges to the faith brought by Catholicism. Since one apologist for Catholicism has recently posted a list of unsound arguments that are sometimes used by those defending Catholicism, I thought I'd post a similar list that at least identifies some areas of caution for Reformed apologists addressing Rome.
1. Eschatological Identifications
Yes, it may well be that Rome should be identified with the Whore of Babylon and that the Pope is the Antichrist. Our doctrinal standards (at least those of us that hold to the same 17th century standards as they were drafted) do identify the Pope as the Antichrist, and there are good reasons for adopting this view.
Nevertheless, these arguments don't really deal with the central issue of the gospel itself. Any argument that the Pope is the Antichrist or that Rome is the Whore require one to address the issue of whether Pope preaches the gospel or not. If he does, then clearly he is not the Antichrist nor is Rome the Whore.
Furthermore, of course, outwardly at least John Paul II and the Benedict XVI (the two most prominent popes in the minds of folks these days) were relatively decent human beings. They were not like the late medieval popes. Therefore, people have a harder emotional time dealing with arguments that seem almost ad hominem (though, of course, the argument is about the office), when the popes are outwardly moral.
Also, people have tons of trouble with the fact that "anti" in "Antichrist" is a Greek root, not a Latin root, and means "substitute" or "vicar" not "opponent" as such. That, coupled with the general difficulty associated with divining the sense of prophecy caution against using the antichristian nature of the papacy (or similar eschatological issues) as a primary argument against Catholicism. It is something better left for situations where a belligerent Romanist insists on hashing it out.
2. Sexual Abuse Allegations
Yes, sexual abuse may be a real problem in Catholicism. It may even be the necessary and natural outworking of the celibate priesthood that Rome imposes. Nevertheless, again, it is not the central issue. There are occasionally good, Christian men who fall into sin. Recall David's terrible sin with Bathsheba.
There may even be a place for noting the widespread nature of the sexual abuse problem when Roman Catholics place the character of their bishopric into issue. Nevertheless, in general, the fact that there is sexual abuse in Catholicism is simply a reason not to make your son an altar boy or your daughter a nun, not a reason to repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation.
It's not a central issue, and it shouldn't be your primary argument against Catholicism. It should be something you should bring up with reluctance, and something that you should place in perspective.
3. Dates on Doctrines
Yes, doctrines within Roman Catholicism are not static and modern Catholicism's beliefs do not much resemble the beliefs taught in the Bible or believed in the early church. Nevertheless, be careful about trying to assign dates to particular doctrines.
For example, it is frequent to see on various websites a list of doctrines and dates. The dates are when the doctrine was supposedly invented. The idea is to press home to the Roman Catholic the fact that his church has made up a lot of stuff as it went along.
There are usually a few problems with these lists. Sometimes the lists are actually not what you think they are. For example, sometimes the lists are when the doctrines were defined not when they were innovated. That's an important difference. For example, in the case of transubstantiation, we may have a doctrine that is innovated in perhaps the 11th century and then defined in the 12th century (don't rely on those dates, please - they are very approximate and just intended to illustrate the general point).
A more dramatic example is the Apocrypha. The dogmatic definition that requires Roman Catholics to accept the Apocrypha comes from Trent in the 16th century, but one can find many older writers (perhaps even a millennium before) who seemingly accept the Apocrypha as inspired.
It's important to remember that a lot of things in Catholicism were the result of a gradual development over a long period of time. As such, pinning specific dates on doctrines is liable to error and can place one in an embarrassing position.
4. "The" Roman Catholic Position
Yes, there is sometimes a single Roman Catholic position on something. For example, in theory the canons of the council of Trent are "the" Roman Catholic position on Justification (and several other topics). Very often, however, there are a myriad of positions on a particular topic within Roman Catholicism. Despite all of their myths and propaganda regarding the need for unity, Roman Catholicism has an amazing amount of diversity of views on subjects that would cause denominational splits within typical "Protestant" denominations.
So be careful. Just because you yourself were a Roman Catholic doesn't guarantee that what you were taught is going to match what a Roman Catholic from Timbuktu was taught. Just because your friend who is a Roman Catholic said that Roman Catholics believe "x" doesn't make that the only view.
As a result, either deal with the declarations of the specific person you're talking to, or qualify your statements with references to sources. For example, if you want to address liberal Catholicism, identify who your source for "the Roman Catholic view" is. Likewise, if you want to go with the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (a fairly official document) cite it as your source.
Be careful, recognizing that your Roman Catholic friend or acquaintance may be more or less familiar with his religion than you are. There are many times that I encounter Roman Catholics who either were badly catechized or simply not good learners, who have no idea what the official positions of Roman Catholicism (as expressed through the various available mechanisms) are. Other times you may discover that your friend is a canon lawyer who can explain the ins and outs of very arcane matters of church law that would be beyond the ken of the typical parish priest.
And if you got "the Roman Catholic Position" from one of Jack Chick's tracts, double-check it. Maybe he got it right, maybe he got it wrong, but quoting him as your source is not going to be very compelling for the Roman Catholic to whom you are speaking. Do a little more research and find a more detailed explanation of the issue.
Yes, everyone that is involved in apologetics with Roman Catholicism should obtain and carefully read Foxe's Book of Martyrs (link) and there may be other similarly edifying histories. However, again, the fact that Rome has slain Christians is not the primary argument against Rome. The Reformers themselves executed folks for religious crimes (such as blasphemy) and so did those Jews who followed the Mosaic law.
The question largely is whether Rome teaches the gospel or not. If Rome does, then many of those whom she persecuted in the middle ages were not Christians. More importantly, perhaps, Rome's inquisition did not target only Christians but also blasphemers, witches, Muslims, and Jews. The fact that Christians were persecuted by Rome is not in itself a primary argument for someone to become a Christian since Rome also persecuted witches.
6. Arguments You Don't Understand
There are lots of good, Scriptural arguments against Roman Catholicism. If you don't understand them, though, you have no business using them. I'll list a few:
a) "One Mediator"
If you cannot answer the objection that Christians ask each other to pray for another, you shouldn't be using the "One Mediator" argument. The argument itself is perfectly fine, and it is clear that Catholicism is against Scripture on this matter. You, however, need to carefully understand what it means to be a mediator as well as how the Roman Catholic appeals to Mary, Angels, and the Saints violate the Scriptures.
b) "Call No Man Father"
If you cannot answer the objection that Christians call their birth fathers "father," you shouldn't be using the "Call No Man Father" argument. The argument itself is a perfectly fine one against the use of the title "Father" for every priest, but only if you understand the relationship between the injunction and the Roman Catholic usage of the term "Father" as a title.
c) "Petra not Petros"
If you cannot answer the objection that the Aramaic would not have any distinction between the two terms, you shouldn't be using the "Petra not Petros" argument. The argument itself is an acceptable argument, particularly if it is reinforced with more direct grammatical arguments (for example, Petra not se). Furthermore, the objection from a speculative Aramaic source (whether from a claim that conversation was in Aramaic, or from a claim that the evangelic text was originally written in that tongue) can be easily identified as nothing more than baseless speculation. However, one has to be aware of the typical counter-arguments and why those counter-arguments miss the point.
7. Scriptures You Don't Understand
This is perhaps a variation on (6). The point here is that you need to know the Scriptures yourself before you can instruct someone else. You need to be familiar with the Word of God if you want to lead someone else to Christ by it.
I don't say this to discourage young or immature believers, but to encourage you to grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord. The Bible describes the Christian apologist as being armed for battle with the "whole armour of God." In that armour, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.
If you were going to go to battle these days, you'd hit the target range and make sure you could hit the target from at least point-blank range. In the days of swords, you'd want to hone your skills whether with stylized sports like fencing or with more practical and direct martial training.
The same is true of the spiritual warfare that we fight. Christian apologists against every false gospel must be prepared and thoroughly.
Be scrupulously honest. Not all our opponents are honest opponents. Still, we are called to be truthful in all our dealings. The fact that the other side is not (or we think they are not) does not justify untruthful or inaccurate claims from us.
Avoid arrogance. If you make a mistake, don't be afraid to admit that you erred and to correct your mistake. This will, of course, damage the patina of perfection that you had going for you, but it is the better course of action.
I'm not saying you have to grovel, but simply admit your mistakes and move on. Learn from the experience, and remember that you are merely a human being who can and does err. Maybe your honesty will win over your opponent, maybe it will lead him to mock you. You cannot control that, but you can maintain your own integrity by correcting your mistakes.
10. Church History
The history of Christianity is not simple. Roman Catholicism certainly sometimes tries to portray it as simple. Sometimes apologists who deal with Roman Catholics try to portray it in simple but opposite terms. Don't fall into that error.
I'm not suggesting we cannot argue from church history. Rather, I am suggesting that one should approach church history with caution, as well as with a mind that church history is not our rule of faith: scripture is.
There are certain general statements that can be made about church history. As with most ares of history, however, there are numerous complexities. This is illustrated by several points:
a) Diversity Amongst the Church Fathers
On a lot of topics there was immense diversity both among the early Christian writers in general and even among those that are viewed as "church fathers." If you say, "No one ever believed 'x'" - you may quickly find yourself facing some obscure quotation from a "saint" that you never heard of before.
b) Development of Individual Fathers
Like all Christians should, many of the church fathers grew in their knowledge of God throughout their life. Accordingly, one sees some fathers (Augustine is a notable example) retracting explicitly or implicitly positions that they had held earlier in life.
As with many of us, the battles they faced inform and alter their perspective. We are much more cautious talking about the atonement in view of the Remonstrant controversy now than the Reformers were before then. The same is true of the caution that various major controversies provoked during church history.
c) Paucity of Data
There is a scarcity of patristic data, even though the works of the Greek and Latin fathers can fill almost 400 volumes in Migne's patrology. Many fathers have left only a few works behind. Other fathers have left many works behind, but have also been subjected to forgery by pseudonymous urchins, which have attempted to promote their own works under the name of a more famous writer.
Furthermore, even where the works are genuine there is often suspicion or even proof that the works have been subject to interpolation by later authors. Ignatius' works are famous in this regard, but others are not immune from this problem.
Oftentimes as well, there is a gigantic gap in the textual transmission of these early Christian writers with the earliest copy of a given work sometimes being a full millennium after the death of the author. These gaps in the transmission make tracking down the original text much more difficult.
Finally, of course, there are numerous writers whose works have been lost for a variety of reasons. For example, works that spoke out against the idolatry of icons were intentionally destroyed in the 8th century. Likewise, most of Nestorius' works have been similar lost. We also see Jerome's opponents on a variety of topics represented only in the extant works of Jerome, with their own works being lost in time.
11. False Ecumenism
For whatever reason, some folks seem to think that they will be in a better position to witness to Roman Catholics if they tell the Roman Catholics that they accept them as Christian brethren. This is just bad thinking.
If you think Roman Catholics are your Christian brethren, why are you witnessing to them? Why are you bringing them the gospel if you think they already have it? I understand that such an ecumenical statement may help lower defenses, but it really is inconsistent with your evangelical purpose.
After all, the only folks that need a physician are those who are sick. If you go around telling people that they are well, they're not going to be offended by you, but they're also not going to seek a doctor.
That's not to say that everyone who is currently affiliated with the Roman Catholic church is consequently unsaved. After all, as I've noted above, there is great diversity within Catholicism, and it is possible for those within Catholicism to read the Scripture and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
That gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, however, is not the message of Catholicism. It should not, therefore, be one's default position that those within Catholicism have the gospel, and it is foolish (on our part) and dangerous (to their souls) for us to treat Roman Catholic apologists as though they were our brethren: in defending the gospel of Rome against the gospel of Christ they are giving strong contrary evidence of grace in their heart.
A friend of mine put it this way, with which I agree:
Our regard, generally speaking, of the lost condition of Romanists is (contrary to their complaints) a judgment of charity, because it exhibits a concern for their never-dying souls, and should always be kept in mind in dealing with them. This regard for their lost condition is not because we bear them animosity, but because we care for their souls.
We must be ready always to give an answer (to every man that asks us) a reason of the hope that is in us. We must do so with meekness and fear, having a good conscience. We must arm ourselves with truth, with righteousness, with the gospel of peace, with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit: the Word of God.
We must always pray, both for the salvation of the lost and for strength in the battle for ourselves. Pray also for us, brethren, who are actively engaged in boldly proclaiming the gospel to those who need to hear it. If Paul needed prayer to boldly proclaim the gospel, we certainly need it as well.
The Roman Catholic Quandry
05/05/2009 - James WhiteI wanted to follow up on James Swan's observations regarding the state of popular Roman Catholic apologetics. I was reminded of an incident from 1999 as I read the thread on the Catholic Answers web boards. I debated Hamza Abdul Malik that year after having debated Robert Sungenis. As the crowd came into the building, I noticed some ladies sitting down front who had been at the previous debate. I believe it was Chris Arnzen who spoke to them. He told me that they had indicated that they are Roman Catholics, "but we just love James White and enjoy hearing him defend the faith against those who deny the Trinity" or something along those lines. It struck me then how difficult it must be for most conservative, believing Roman Catholics in these days. They know, in their heart of hearts, that the majority of the Magisterium is significantly less conservative than they are---a Magisterium they must believe to be God-guided and, in matter of faith and morals, infallible. Yet they know many of their priests, bishops, and Cardinals are at the very least inclusivists, and more probably universalists. Most pay at the very best a lip-service to inerrancy, limiting it to a merely accurate communication of the basics of the faith, nothing more.
The result is not surprising: when you have open, aggressive attacks upon the faith by the new Atheists, or by Bart Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar, etc., who provides the clearest, most compelling responses? Rome's scholars? We all know better, and the conservative Roman Catholic knows it, too. It plainly bothers the consistent Roman Catholic that he or she knows that the strongest replies come from allegedly "defective" churches or even "non-churches," vaguely identified as containing "separated brethren." Why wouldn't the Infallible Church be the first ones on the battle-line, drawing from this allegedly "living tradition" to provide cutting-edge defenses of the inspiration and trustworthiness of the Bible? In reality, only a small portion of Rome's educational system contains men or women who would not break out laughing if asked if they believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Just go visit Boston College sometime and survey the range of viewpoints expressed by Roman Catholic scholarship.
I know there are very sincere folks manning the fort over on the far side of the Tiber. I noted Ben Douglass' article on bad arguments that are heard with the drumbeat of regularity coming from Steve Ray, Tim Staples, John Martignoni, Patrick Madrid, Art Sippo and the rest of the pop Roman Catholic crowd. I appreciate that a small minority of those defenders actually listen to what we are saying and can set aside enough of their bias to actually hear a sound argument when it is presented. But those folks are in an even smaller minority in the Roman camp. I noted Art Sippo's always predictable response to the Douglass et al article:
You know, I wish that alleged "Catholics" would stop doing the work of the enemies of the Church and telling us what we should not do. I find the list puerile and frankly ludicrous.Ah, you gotta love Sippo! Consistent as the morning star with his flaming rhetoric. I note in passing that he also recently explained Irenaeus' odd interpretation of Jesus being in his six decade (part of his recapitulation concept) by saying that "30" was like "50" back then due to life expectancy. There you go! I guess "50" is the new "30" has meaning---in the fascinating world of Art Sippo.
White likes the list because it absolves him of having to deal with some arguments that he doesn't like.
Protestantism is false religion. Every bit of it. None of it is valid. Even the parts where they try to emulate Historic Christianity are done so tritely and with poor results. What is the use of declaring that Jesus was really God and really man when you refuse to believe it when he said "This is my body...This is my blood?"
I have no need of any such list and I advise the person who put it up to take it down and mind his own business.
Catholics Need Catholic Answers, But Will Settle for Protestant Answers
05/05/2009 - James Swan
A person over on the Catholic Answers forums is looking for help refuting Bart Ehrman: "will somebody who is an authority on textual criticism answer dr. bart ehrman's thesis. or please recommend sites where i can find intelligent refutations agains [sic] his writings."
One would think, the alleged "true" church would have her top scholars working on such a project, or perhaps the Pope could say something infallible to help out. If Rome has done a detailed response to Ehrman, I'm not aware of it. However, what I found interesting was the authorities listed in the thread for a response to Ehrman were Protestant. It is ironic that the only authorities suggested on Catholic Answers were Protestant. Catholic Answers continually makes new resources available. Perhaps Mr. Staples could put out a new CD series, or now after Mr. Akin has finished his detailed work on Jack Chick, these gentlemen could focus their attention on an actual Catholic answer to Bart Ehrman.
On a similar note, Catholic apologists have been fond of arguing that without church tradition, one could not know the authors of particular biblical books. For instance, Scott Hahn argued long ago that we need oral church tradition to know with certainty that Matthew wrote Matthew. Other Catholic apologists argue Matthew was originally written in Aramaic so as to prove the papacy in Matthew 16.
Has Rome stated anything definitive on these issues? Well, if they have, Catholic apologist Art Sippo seems to have missed it. Like the bewildered folks looking for Catholic answers over on Catholic Answers, Dr. Sippo likewise relies on Protestants:
"I follow the opinion of Lutheran J.J. Griesbach from the late 18th Century. IMHO Matthew was written first in Hebrew for Jewish Chirstians[sic] @40 AD. Luke wrote his Gospel in Greek for Gentiles after that. He translated some passages verbatim from the Hebrew Matthew and added some additional material of his own. After that someone translated Hebrew Matthew into Greek with some of his own editorial additions. A problem arose because of the apparent discrepencies [sic] between the two Gospels. St. Peter in Rome dictated to St. Mark what he considered to be a harmonization of Matthew and Luke to demonstrate their essential unity. It is interesting that Mark's Gospel can be recited in about 2-3 hours with a natural "intermission" in the very middle of it. Fr. Walter Ong SJ has made the point that Greek Matthew was designed to be read silently while the language in Mark is more like that of something designed to be recited out loud."
Well, so much for Matthew being written first in Aramaic! Thanks Art!
I don't think Rome is going to help out with anything infallible in the area of textual criticism any time soon. Perhaps though there is a way such answers could come forth from the Catholic apologetics community. What they need is a conversion story of a textual critic. That is, perhaps they could work on converting a textual critic, and then have him write his story on why he became Catholic. Other than that, I don't expect any detailed work from Catholic Answers responding to Bart Ehrman any time soon.
A Refreshing Roman Catholic Blog Post
05/02/2009 - James WhiteBenjamin Douglass and others have put together a list of common Roman Catholic arguments that, well, shouldn't be common at all. Now, posting something like this, given that it would decimate the arsenal of the most popular Roman Catholic apologists on the web and on radio today, can't make Mr. Douglass and his associates the most popular Roman Catholics around, but you have to give them a lot of credit for honestly recognizing these issues (issues I have been raising for many years). So kudos to Mr. Douglass and his associates! And a word of advice to Mr. Douglass: put on your asbestos booties and gloves before opening the resultant e-mails from the likes of Dave Armstrong and all the others who are so dependent upon these very arguments.