Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Review of Geisler's "Is Rome the True Church?"
03/21/2010 - Tur8infanIs Rome the True Church? - a consideration of the Roman Catholic claim, by Norman Geisler and Joshua Bettancourt, explores a series of questions related to Rome's exclusive claim to be the true church. The book explores this topic by taking out several links in the chain of alleged authority. First, the book addresses the alleged primacy of the Apostle Peter. Next, the book addresses the alleged infallibility of Peter. Finally, the book examines the idea of Apostolic Succession or inheritance of the supposed primacy and infallibility of Peter. In the following review I've attempted to identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of the work, as well as to supply some errata, in case a second edition of the book is printed. ...
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The Canon as Infallible Sacred Tradition
03/20/2010 - James Swan"How do you know that the Holy Scripture is all you need? What tells you that? Might you need a God-led authority (like the Roman Catholic Church) to tell you that?" This was a question I recently came across from the depths of cyberspace. It's a question sharply aimed against sola scriptura, but it's a false question attacking an incorrect understanding of sola scriptura. Underlying this question is the assumption that the Sacred Scriptures are not enough to function as the sole rule of faith for the church. There must be something else a believer needs, like an infallible magisterium.
One part of this question is indeed true: if God's voice of special revelation is found somewhere else besides the Bible, Christians are obligated to seek out that voice, and follow it with their entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. Protestants though argue the only extant record of God's infallible voice of special revelation is found in Sacred Scripture. The burden of proof then lies on those who claim God's infallible voice is somewhere else besides the Scriptures. If God's infallible voice is extant today somewhere else, sola scriptura is refuted. If God's voice is found in an infallible magisterium or unwritten traditions, sola scriptura is refuted.
This is why those of us defending sola scriptura constantly ask those attacking it to produce what they claim to have. If they have God's special revelation elsewhere, throw it on the table and let's get a good look at it. For those of you who've listened to Dr. White's debates on sola scriptura, this is his pen example. In his old debate with Patrick Madrid on sola scriptura, Dr. White held up his pen and said:
If our debate this evening was that I was going to stand here and say that this is the only pen of its kind in all the universe, how would I go about proving it? Well, the only way I could prove the statement "there is no other pen like this in all the universe," is if I looked in all of your purses, and all of your shirt pockets, and in all the stores in the world that carry pens, and look through all the houses, and all over the planet Earth, and the Moon, and the planets in the Solar System, and in the entire universe, looking for another pen like this. And, of course, I could not do that. But it would be very easy for Mr. Madrid to win that debate. All he needs to do is go out, get a Cross Medallist pen, walk up here, hold it right next to mine, and say, "See! Another pen, just like yours!" and he's won the debate.
In light of this, I would assert that Mr. Madrid must either recognize this reality, and not attempt to win this debate by doing nothing more than depending upon an illogical demand; or, he must demonstrate the existence of "the other pen." That is, he must prove to us what the Council of Trent said was true. I quote, "It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitted as it were, from hand to hand."
An argument like this is pointed directly at what Romanism claims to have: God's voice elsewhere besides the Sacred Scriptures. Most often those defending Romanism claim to have God's voice in Sacred Tradition. Getting them to throw this Tradition up on the table to take a look at is the problem. Typically only one thing is thrown up on the table as Sacred Tradition, the canon of Sacred Scripture. The canon is said to be an example of God's voice of special revelation outside the Bible.
The first problem with this argument is that it goes to battle alone. If I quote a verse from the Bible, I can also have that verse joined by the entire text from which the verse is found. When someone uses the canon as an example of God's voice in Sacred Tradition, the entire contents of Sacred Tradition still hides back up in the hills. Roman Catholics can't produce what they claim to have. They aren't even unified as to whether Sacred Tradition is simply the same material as found in the Bible, or if it's information of another kind. One bucket of water in a desert is not proof that a large lake is just over the mountain. ...
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Mitch Pacwa's Series on the Reformation
03/12/2010 - James SwanScheduled to be released on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 theses is Mitch Pacwa's The Reformation Project video series. Pacwa was recently on Catholic Answers to discuss the project. He's looking to do a ten part series on the Reformation from a Roman Catholic perspective.
The host of the interview introduced Pacwa by noting the topic of the Reformation "always lurks in the background of Catholic Answers live." Indeed he's correct. Catholic Answers exists to call Protestants back to the Roman church. What they're doing is trying to undo the Reformation.
Pacwa is concerned that the popular media will hype the upcoming Reformation anniversary by presenting a false view of the Roman Catholic Church. His ten part series will be an attempt to show that the Roman church of the Reformation isn't quite as bad as is popularly portrayed. They weren't a powerful juggernaut, nor was there "universal corruption among the clergy" (mp3 clip). "Universal" corruption is a strong description. I would settle for widespread corruption. That can't be denied.
The most fascinating part of the interview was when a caller asked "In a nutshell, what did cause the Reformation?" (mp3 clip). Pacwa began his response by addressing Luther "the person" as a factor. Every time I've thought I've heard every calumny against Luther, all I have to do is listen to a Roman Catholic discuss Luther. Pacwa notes "Luther was racked with guilt." That's true enough. What was this guilt from? Pacwa explains "he apparently had killed somebody in a duel." To deal with the guilt of murder and "a legalism within his own personality" caused him to begin "looking at doctrine differently than it had been under the various Catholics prior." This lead to justification by faith alone by grace alone.
I've read many charges against Luther, but that he killed someone in a duel is one I don't recall, at all. Perhaps it's a new Reformation factoid I'm not aware of? For instance, a few months ago I read a news report that Luther didn't enter the monastery after a thunderstorm vow made to Saint Anne. Rather, he was trying to escape an arranged marriage (I've looked around for further information on this, and came up with nothing). But as to murder in a duel, that's news to me. It has been alleged that Luther's father was a murderer. It's also been asserted that a reason Luther entered the monastery was grief experienced by the sudden loss of a close friend. This friend was either stabbed in a quarrel or duel. Perhaps Pacwa meant this, or perhaps he'll argue Luther killed this friend. Well, Pacwa's got a few years to work all this out. If anyone can verify Pacwa's claim, please write me.
The other fascinating part of Pacwa's answer was that the Reformation was also caused by Luther's denial of free will. For those of us who are Reformed, this answer comes as no shock. Here, Pacwa has hit the nail on the head. If one begins with notion of total depravity, the means of grace will be far different from the system devised by Romanism. I'm hopeful that Pacwa will bring this point out with force. This is the reason why those who typically have the best answers to Roman Catholic claims are the Reformed.
I'm not sure if Pacwa's Reformation series will have any impact on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Typically, the media doesn't go looking for documentaries produced from a religious perspective. His series will probably only impact Roman Catholics. My hope is that Mitch Pacwa doesn't repeat charges against Luther and the Reformation from hundred year old sources. He's an educated person, so the possibility of accuracy is well within his means.
Benedict XVI Agreeing (in part) with Luther and Pastor David King
03/04/2010 - Tur8infanBenedict XVI (B16) has written a book called "Principles of Catholic Theology." It is something he published while a Cardinal and prefect of the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (the modern name of the Inquisition). This book raises several points of interest as to B16's view of Luther and his view of the church fathers. The following post combines some thoughts of James Swan with a few derivative thoughts of my own. The surprising conclusion is that B16 comes out remarkably in favor of things that both Luther and Pastor David King have said. ...
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Mortal and Venial Sins?
03/04/2010 - James WhitePastor David King, co-author of the three-volume set titled Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith, has been spending a great deal of time in the years since the publication of that work continuing his work of cataloging patristic citations that are relevant to Rome's claims and dogmas. He just posted the following in our chat channel:
Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379): How are we to deal with those who avoid greater sins but commit small sins regarding them as venial sins? First of all we must know that in the New Testament it is impossible to observe this distinction. For one sentence is passed against all sins, that of the Lord Who said: Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin.
----W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Question & Answer #293 (CCXCIII), pp. 342-343.
The question immediately rises, how could Basil have held to the Roman concept of purgatory if this was his view of sin, a view quite contrary to that expressed by Tim Staples in our recent on-air debate on purgatory.
I hope our readers will note that there have been some excellent discussions of claims made by leading Roman Catholic apologists of late on this blog (and those of our contributors). And I need to point out that the other side has been deafeningly silent in response. The "big names" simply ignore counter-documentation, seemingly leaving that effort, if it takes place at all, to their "smaller brothers." The post refuting Steve Ray's statements on purgatory, for example, is devastatingly full. Do you think you will hear a single word from Ray in counter-argumentation? If you do, it will be filled with bluster and ad-hominem, not documentation. It is a fair and honest statement that when it comes to these topics, the Roman side seems downright defenseless. You will not hear that from their media outlets and the like, but the public persona they seek to create is truly a shallow facade.
I might add to my observation that I have twice asked Tim Staples whether Catholic Answers will be making the recording of our debate on purgatory available to their listeners and supporters. Both e-mails have been ignored. No response at all. If you listen to CA Live, you know they heavily promoted his exchange with Steve Gregg, and they continue to promote the Bible Answer Man show (which they continue to call a "debate") with Jimmy Akin as well. But, so far, no one has said a word about hearing any advertising about the purgatory debate with Tim Staples. We can continue to hope, but at the moment, it is not looking very good.
Present with the Lord ... in Purgatory?
03/02/2010 - Tur8infanOver at Catholic Convert, pilgrimage peddler Steve Ray has a post arguing that a certain frequently cited Scripture does not dictate against Purgatory, that other Scripture does teach Purgatory, and that Purgatory involves being in the presence of the Lord (link to post). In the following analysis, we'll consider his arguments piece by piece: ...
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